NORTH Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) has been told to apologise to a family member who was denied access to their sibling after they were placed into foster care.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) upheld a complaint by two people, referred to in a report as C and their partner B.

A decision report published by the SPSO detailed the concerns of the complainants and included recommendations to the HSCP to resolve the situation.

The report said: "C and their partner (B) complained about the actions of the partnership’s social work department.

"B’s sibling (A) had been removed from their parents’ care. B and C wished to be considered as carers for A, and also requested contact with A.

"However, they did not have contact with A for several months.

"C complained that the partnership failed to take appropriate action to facilitate and support contact between A and B during this period.

"Following contact being initiated, kinship care assessments were carried out and A was placed to reside with B and C."

The SPSO report stated that the Ombudsman took independent social work advice when investigating the complaint and found that it "would have been reasonable to support some contact" between the siblings during this period.

The report added: "We noted the partnership’s explanation regarding the challenges contact with B potentially posed and the need for A to settle into their placement with foster carers.

"We found that the partnership had not provided a reasonable explanation as to why contact did not take place.

"We also noted that contact should not have been contingent solely on B’s capacity to provide kinship care of A, and we found it unreasonable that contact was only pursued when it was required to progress the kinship assessment. Therefore, we upheld C’s complaint."

The HSCP was asked to apologise for the failure to facilitate and support contact between the siblings.

It was also issued with guidance to change its practices and help put things right in the future.

The SPSO said: "Contact between care-experienced children and their siblings should be promoted where possible, even if this is not straightforward.

"If there are concerns about potential emotional distress, there should be a focus on how to help children manage this rather than seeking to avoid the contact in the first place.

"We have asked the organisation to provide us with evidence that they have implemented the recommendations we have made on this case by the deadline we set."

A spokesperson for the North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership said they were unable to comment on individual circumstances or cases.

They said: “In all cases where we receive complaints in relation to our services or recommendations from the Ombudsman we will always endeavour to take learning and improvement forward positively; any recommendations are taken forward pro-actively and progress is reported back to the SPSO.”