Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 21 Mar 2022
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Council is at fault for delaying consideration of this complaint at stage two of the children’s statutory complaints procedure. The Council will issue its stage two response in the coming days. It has also agreed to offer to make a payment to the complainant to remedy the time and trouble its delay has caused him.
- The complainant, who I will call Mr X, complained to the Council about how it managed his transition from children’s to adult social services. However, he has not yet received a stage two response to his complaint.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- Under our information sharing agreement, we will share the final decision with the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted).
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
- I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
- The complainant now has an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I will consider their comments before making a final decision.
The statutory complains procedure
- The law sets out a three-stage procedure for councils to follow when looking at complaints about children’s social care services. The accompanying statutory guidance, Getting the Best from Complaints, explains councils’ responsibilities in more detail.
- The first stage of the procedure is local resolution. Councils have up to 20 working days to respond.
- If a complainant is not happy with a council’s stage one response, they can ask that it is considered at stage two. At this stage of the procedure, councils appoint an investigator and an independent person who is responsible for overseeing the investigation. Councils have up to 13 weeks to complete stage two of the process from the date of request.
- If a complainant is unhappy with the outcome of the stage two investigation, they can ask for a stage three review by an independent panel. The Council must hold the panel within 30 days of the date of request, and then issue a final response within 20 days of the panel hearing.
- Mr X complained to the Council about how it managed his transition from children’s to adult social services, and it was escalated to stage two of the statutory complaints process. Mr X did not receive a response so complained to the Ombudsman.
- There was a short delay in the Council completing its stage two investigation. It then offered to meet with Mr X to discuss the findings before issuing its response. Mr X agreed, but the Council delayed arranging the meeting due to staff resourcing issues. The Council has now held the meeting and has issued its stage two response.
- The Council should have completed a stage two investigation into Mr X’s complaint within 13 weeks. It did not and this is fault. Mr X has not received answers to questions he raised and has been caused frustration by the delay.
- The Council has agreed to apologise to Mr X and to offer to make a payment of £100 to remedy the time and trouble he has gone to in pursuing his complaint, and to reflect the Council’s delay in dealing with them.
- Subject to any comments Mr X might make, my view is we should uphold this complaint with a finding of fault causing an injustice.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman