The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Miss B complained to the Council about issues relating to the adoption of her daughter C. The Council has agreed to put the complaint through the statutory children’s complaint procedure within the recommended timescale.
- Miss B complains that the London Borough of Bromley (the Council) has:
- failed to properly investigate and respond to her complaint made in March 2018;
- failed to put the complaint through all three stages of the statutory children’s complaints procedure;
- delayed in responding to her;
- failed to give her accurate or sufficient information both pre- and post- adoption about her daughter’s birth family (particularly their places of residence) and her daughter’s history; and
- failed to guarantee financial support until her daughter is 18 making it impossible for Miss B to relocate, as she has been advised to do.
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. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the complaint and the documents provided by the complainant, made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council provided.
- Under the information sharing agreement between the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), we will share this decision with Ofsted.
What I found
- The law sets out a three-stage procedure for councils to follow when looking at complaints about children’s social care services. At stage 2 of this procedure, a council appoints an Independent Investigator and an Independent Person (who is responsible for overseeing the investigation). If a complainant is unhappy with the outcome of the stage 2 investigation, they can ask for a stage 3 review. If a council has investigated something under this procedure, the Ombudsman would not normally re-investigate it unless he considers that investigation was flawed. However, he may look at whether a council properly considered the findings and recommendations of the independent investigation.
- The statutory guidance lists people who can make a complaint under the procedure. It includes:
- any child or young person who may be adopted, their parents and guardians;
- persons wishing to adopt a child;
- any other person whom arrangements for the provision of adoption services extend;
- adopted persons, their parents, natural parents and former guardians; and such other person as the local authority consider has sufficient interest in the child or young person’s welfare to warrant his representations being considered by them.
- The guidance also provides the following timescales (in working days):
- 10 days at Stage 1 (with a further 10 days for more complex complaints or additional time if an advocate is required);
- 25 days at Stage 2 (with maximum extension to 65 days);
- 20 days for the complainant to request a Review Panel;
- 30 days to convene and hold the Review Panel at Stage 3;
- 5 days for the Panel to issue its findings; and
- 15 days for the local authority to respond to the findings.
- Miss B adopted her daughter C in January 2018. She complained to the Council in March 2018 about a number of issues relating to the adoption. One of the main elements of her complaint was that the Council had failed to properly review her address in relation to the addresses of members of C’s birth family. This had resulted in significant repercussions for Miss B and C and the Council considered they should relocate to a different town.
- The Council has offered Miss B a financial relocation package but Miss B is unhappy with elements of it and wishes the Council to guarantee part of it until C reaches 18.
- Miss B’s complaint was 146 pages long and contained other matters relating to the adoption process. The Council replied in May 2018 with a six-page letter. It restated the financial package and directed Miss B to the Ombudsman if she was unhappy.
- Miss B complained to us in July 2018. She said the Council had not answered her questions and she was still unhappy with the proposed financial package.
- I can see no reason why the Council has not considered this complaint through all three stages of the statutory complaints procedure. It is a procedure set up in law to deal with complaints about children’s services. Miss B is eligible to complain and her complaint is detailed and substantiated with evidence. The Council appears to accept some fault in the lack of consideration of the address issues and this has caused Miss B significant injustice. It has offered her a financial package to relocate but she is unhappy with the detail of the offer.
- An independent investigation of the issues at stage two and if necessary, a review at stage three of the procedure, can consider these issues in more detail and hopefully reach a satisfactory conclusion. If Miss B remains unhappy at the end of the process she can complain again to us.
- I asked the Council to put the complaint back into the statutory procedure at stage two. It has agreed to do so.
- Given the delay caused by the premature referral to our office, I asked the Council to start the investigation within two weeks of the date of the decision and make every effort to complete the investigation within 25 working days, as recommended by the guidance. The Council has agreed to this timescale
- I consider this is a fair and reasonable way of resolving the complaint and I have completed my investigation on this basis.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman