A council has been forced to apologise and pay back £1,000 after losing the file of a woman who had been in its care as a child.
In a damning report investigators found that Devon County Council had also lost a letter from the woman’s birth mother, who had since died.
The body was told to apologise and pay back £1,000 after a decision by the Local Government Ombudsman [LGO].
In its investigation the LGO found that the unidentified woman had been taken into care in the early 1990s as her mum couldn’t look after her.
A letter was said to have been written by the woman’s mum to be passed on to her when she was older.
In December 2019 the woman contacted the council to trace the letter but the council admitted it had lost it.
The council said that despite an ‘extensive search’ no records about her time as a child could be found.
In its findings the LGO said that the council had taken ‘too long to respond to her request and deal with her complaint.’
Their report added: “The Council accepts that it took over three months to respond formally to Ms X’s complaint in December 2019.
“It says it was conducting extensive searches to look for the file. The Council’s response to my enquiries shows that this is the case.
“However, the Council could have been more proactive in keeping Ms X informed about its actions and when she could expect a response. Its failure to do so caused Ms X unnecessary added anxiety.”
The Children Act 1980, in force when the woman left care, states councils must keep records for at least 50 years.
The Ombudsman added: “The Council accepts that it has lost Ms X’s children’s services file. This is fault.
“As a result, Ms X will never know what was in the letter her mother wrote to her. This is a significant injustice to Ms X.”
The council agreed to pay the woman £1,000 and apologise to her in writing, as well as take the action within four weeks.
According to the BBC a spokesperson for the council said: “For young people and children in care it’s both important for them, and in their best interests, to keep connections with their birth families.
“In this case however, a link with Ms X’s birth mother had been lost. We apologise unreservedly for that, and have reviewed our practice to ensure that mistakes like this are not repeated in future.”