Manchester City Council has been told to pay compensation to the adoptive parents of a teenage boy who absconded from one of the city's residential home 70 times. The council is being held responsible for distress caused by delays in finding him a suitable school.
The report by Patricia Thomas, the local government ombudsman, on a complaint made by the boy's mother, berated the social services department for responding with insufficient urgency when told by a psychiatrist and educational psychologist that he needed special schooling. Generally, she criticised the council for an inflexible and blundering approach to a pupil whose "needs were very great".
Despite the council's policy of finding children with special needs a place within six months of an assessment, the report said there was more than a year's delay.
The 16-year-old, referred to as "Jack" had been sexually abused as a child.
He was excluded from school in March 1992 for disruptive behaviour and was assessed by the LEA as having "extremely serious social, emotional and educational needs" .
He was placed temporarily in Wyedale, a residential social services home in Manchester. A conflict of opinion on the selection of a permanent school between the education and social services departments, and confusion over funding arrangements, meant he was not admitted to a school until October 1993.
Jack is now reported to be improving "tremendously" but during the waiting period he suffered from bullying and lost interest in school work, and his relationship with his father deteriorated, said the ombudsman. In May 1993 he was reported as having absconded from Wyedale 70 times over four months "staying with anyone who would harbour him or with the homeless in squats and indulging in drugs and alcohol". Both his parents have had to undergo counselling.
Some "differences in philosophy" between the two departments involved was admitted by the council, which is acting on a review and recommendations by the National Children's Bureau.
The report concludes that the council should make a "substantial compensatory payment" to Jack's parents and should act on the recommendations "to ensure that the maladministration . . . is not repeated".