Judge criticises Barking and Dagenham Council for failing to monitor teenager’s care at specialist unit

The East London Family Court. Picture: Ken Mears

The East London Family Court. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Social services bosses at Barking and Dagenham Council have come under fire from a family court judge over their handling of a case involving a teenage boy with complex special needs.

Judge Kate Purkiss has criticised managers for their failure to monitor the care the teenager was given at a specialist unit and she said his parents were treated in an “appalling way” by some professionals.

The boy had been placed in a unit which “manifestly” failed to meet his needs and had suffered “significant harm”, the judge said.

His parents had raised concerns but they had been ignored, she said.

She said “every aspect” of a system which should have resulted in “positive decision-making” appeared to have failed.

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The judge has aired her criticisms in a written ruling after analysing the boy’s case at a private hearing at the East London Family Court in Canary Wharf.

She said the teenager could not be identified but she has named the council and said bosses had placed the youngster at a specialist unit called Island Lodge in Canvey Island, Essex.

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Island Lodge staff had not been trained to look after a child with the teenager’s disabilities, did not know how to communicate with him and had exercised “unnecessary and probably unlawful restraint”, the judge said.

She said bosses at Island Lodge had written to the council indicating that they did not agree with some of her findings.

Judge Purkiss said the boy’s parents had asked the council for help because they were having difficulties managing his behaviour.

They had agreed to him going into council care and being placed at Island Lodge.

The judge ruled that he should stay in council care but move to another unit.

“Island Lodge was never the right place for (the boy),” said Judge Purkiss.

“Staff at the unit did not know how to communicate with (him) and were hyper vigilant he would become aggressive.

“This led them to exercise unnecessary and probably unlawful restraint.”

She added: “Every aspect of the system which should have resulted in positive decision making by professionals for (the boy) appears to have failed.

“The local authority, however it characterises the failings of Island Lodge now, secured a placement for (the boy) which manifestly, and from the outset, failed to meet his needs and keep him safe and then ignored his parents’ concerns.

“It failed adequately to monitor the care which was being provided to (him).”

The judge went on: “This has resulted in (him) suffering significant harm.”

She said the boy’s parents had been “marginalised” and treated in an “appalling way” by some professionals.

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