Liverpool City Council faces a substantial bill of backpayments to 340 foster carers after a watchdog found it had shortchanged just one to the tune of £11,000.
The underpayments were uncovered during an investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman, which was triggered by a single complaint.
This investigation found that Liverpool had wrongly refused to classify a woman’s nephew as a ‘looked after child’ when she was caring for him. This meant she missed out on support and financial payments.
The ombudsman’s wider investigation pinpointed a further 340 carers who were also underpaid by the city authority.
Nigel Ellis, executive director of investigations at the LGO, urged other local authorities to examine their own payment procedures. “It is only fair that these people, who do such a good job of giving children the chance of family life, get the benefits and allowances they rightly deserve. These allowances are not ‘pay’ – they are used to clothe and feed the children being looked after.”
Liverpool has embarked ona ‘thorough review’ of its policies.
Councillor Jane Corbett (Lab), its cabinet member for children’s services, said; “I would like to apologise to the special guardian in this case who was not paid at the correct rate. This is something we have remedied very quickly. “I have called for an investigation to find out how this situation came about and to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.
“Despite the cost implications, balanced against the financial challenges the authority is facing, we recognise that the Ombudsman’s ruling is absolutely fair.”