The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Council delayed taking agreed action on upheld complaints relating to Mr X’s adoption of two children from 2014. The Council has agreed to take this action now and will apologise and make payment to recognise the avoidable delay.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, says the Council failed to properly complete work related to his adopted children. Specifically he says it delayed in:
- providing an accurate and complete Lifestory Book for the children;
- providing an accurate “later in life letter” for the children; and
- taking agreed actions to remedy a) and b) above following an upheld complaint in 2014.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. She 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, she may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1))
How I considered this complaint
- I discussed the complaint with Mr X and considered the written information he provided with his complaint. I made written enquiries of the Council. I carefully considered all the information before reaching a draft decision. I took account of Mr X’s and the Council’s comments on the draft decision before reaching a final decision on the complaint.
What I found
- Councils complete a Lifestory Book for children who it places for adoption. The completed book provides details of the child’s history and background so that they may understand this and have a written record of their background before they were adopted. The Book should be provided within 10 working days of the adoption ceremony.
- A social worker who knows the children prepares “later in life” letters for them. The letter explains the child’s history from birth and provides factual details about their birth family and their life before adoption so they can better understand why they could not live with their birth family and why they were adopted. This letter should be given to the adopter within 10 working days of the adoption ceremony.
- Mr X and his wife adopted two children in the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council area in 2014.
- In August 2014 Mr X complained about a number of the Council’s actions related to the adoption. The Council replied in October 2014 and upheld a number of their complaints about its handling of the adoption process. Specifically it upheld that there were errors in the Lifestory Book provided in June 2014 including spelling mistakes and unlabelled photographs. The Council apologised for this. It also upheld a complaint that the later in life letters had not yet been provided and agreed the letters would be completed by late October 2014. I understand these letters were then completed but there were errors in them.
- The Council states that a senior manager met Mr X in November 2014 shortly after his complaints about the Lifestory Book and the later in life letters were upheld and agreed to take action to resolve these. The Council says this manager left the Council’s employment in Spring of 2015 and the complaints team were unaware that the agreed action had not been completed until Autumn 2015. Mr X disputes the Council was unaware the action had not been completed and says he was contacting the Council about this regularly.
- In response to enquiries by this office the Council has agreed it will carry out the outstanding tasks relating to the Lifestory Book and the later in life letters now. A manager in the Adoption team wrote to Mr X in January arranging a meeting to agree the outstanding work and says this will be completed in March.
Was there fault and did this cause injustice?
- The Council delayed from November 2014 to February 2016 to take action on the complaints upheld in October 2014. The action agreed in November 2014 did not materialise.
- The delay caused injustice to Mr X as he has had to continue to pursue the Council about this and had to complain to this office in order to have the matter resolved.
- The Council will ensure that the agreed timetable for completion of the outstanding work is tightly adhered to and confirms the completed and corrected documents will be handed to Mr X by 31 March.
- The Council will apologise and pay Mr X £250 to recognise the avoidable time and trouble he was caused in having to pursue this matter for a year after the complaint was upheld and eventually come to this office in order to progress it.
- The Council wrongly delayed in taking action to remedy complaints that were upheld in 2014. This delay was avoidable and the Council will apologise and make payment to recognise this.
Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman