Laura Sharman 23 January 2020

Council made ‘serious unsubstantiated’ allegations about asylum seeker

An investigation has found Sandwell Council made ‘serious and unsubstantiated’ allegations about a vulnerable woman seeking asylum.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman conducted an investigation following complaints from the woman. She had complained about the support received from the council and was being represented by a not-for-profit organisation.

However, she said the council had barred her representative from meetings with the council, even threatening to call the police if the representative did not leave on one occasion.

During the investigation, the council made ‘serious’ allegations about the mother and her representative’s conduct. However, it found the council could not provide back up or provide evidence about the claims.

Ombudsman Michael King said: ‘This investigation has been characterised throughout by inconsistent evidence presented by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council. It has made serious and distressing claims it cannot substantiate, and yet we have seen no evidence to call into question the behaviour of either this mother or her representatives.

‘Although the council now acknowledges the views expressed were those of an individual officer, throughout my investigation it presented those views as its own. I am particularly concerned the actions of the officer involved were supervised by managers and no interventions were made.’

A joint statement on behalf of Sandwell Council and Sandwell Children's Trust: ‘We fully take on board the feedback from the report and have worked swiftly to implement all the recommendations from the Ombudsman.

’We have apologised to the person who made the complaint and have measures in place to prevent a similar situation occurring in the future.’

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