BACKDATED payments should be made to foster carers who missed out on support after an ombudsman ruled against BCP Council's claim it did not have financial responsibility.

In a report published on Tuesday, the Local Government Ombudsman said the council had inappropriately considered people caring for the children of relatives had done so under a private arrangement.

It said council social workers were “actively involved” with the children and that their carers should be formally recognised as fosterers who would then be eligible for financial support.

Relatives took in the two children in 2017 after concerns were raised about their parents’ ability to properly care for them.

These concerns had prompted the former Bournemouth council to issue child protection plans with social workers and Dorset Police involved.

Despite this, it considered their care a “private arrangement” meaning their carers were not eligible for financial support from the council.

This – and more general concerns about the quality of the council’s social services work – prompted a complaint to be lodged against the council.

A complaints panel considered this in 2019 and acknowledged some of its work had been “poor” and agreed to pay the family £20,000 to include therapy for the children and a “token payment” for the financial impact of their care.

But the council refused to recognise them as foster carers which, the family said, made the financial offer was insufficient.

Their complaint was escalated to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman which backed their position in a report published on Tuesday.

“Children cared for by friends and family foster carers are often some of the most vulnerable in society: so, it is vital that those looking after them receive the full support to which they are entitled,” ombudsman Michael King said.

“In this case it is quite clear that had the relatives not taken the children under their wings, they would have needed state care, so the council should have treated their relatives as friends and family foster carers.”

The report recommends that BCP Council, which was formed in 2019 from a merger including Bournemouth council, issue a formal apology, and provided further financial support to the family.

It has also called on the council to provide carers with clearer information on care options and the implications of each and to investigate whether other family carers in the area have been left in the same situation.

Responding to the ombudsman’s report, the council’s corporate director for children’s services, Elaine Redding, said its judgements will be acted on.

“We accept the conclusions of the investigation undertaken by the ombudsman and had already undertaken many of the actions set out in the report,” she said. “On behalf of BCP Council I offer an unreserved apology to the family in this case and we have written to them making clear we will be addressing the issues as outlined in the report.”