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Birmingham City Council (20 000 990)

Category : Children's care services > Adoption

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 05 Jan 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complains the Council has not properly apologised for fault with how the Council dealt with an adoption process. The Council is at fault because it has not completed the actions agreed to in a mediation meeting. Mr X has not received a full apology. The Council has agreed to write a letter of apology to Mr X as detailed in the mediation outcome.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr X, complains the Council has not properly dealt with an adoption process because it hasn’t apologised to him properly. Mr X says he hasn’t received a full sincere apology from the Council.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this report, we 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. We 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)
  2. We investigate complaints about councils and certain other bodies. Where an individual, organisation or private company is providing services on behalf of a council, we can investigate complaints about the actions of these providers. (Local Government Act 1974, section 25(7), as amended)
  3. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I spoke to Mr X and considered the details of his complaint. I reviewed documents sent by Mr X and documents provided by the Council.
  2. Mr X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.

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What I found

  1. Birmingham Children’s Trust (BCT) is an independent trust providing services to children and young people in Birmingham. BCT provides adoption and fostering services and used be run by Birmingham City Council as Children’s Services.

What happened

  1. Mr X and his partner applied to BCT as prospective adoptive parents. Mr X and his partner were not permitted to complete the process.
  2. Mr X complained that BCT had acted in a low level homophobic manner, comments at a training session were insulting, after new issues came to light BCT told him they could return to the process in six months time, the final visit by a social worker was conducted poorly, his pets were not considered properly and the final decision was weak.
  3. The Council replied to Mr X’s complaint. Mr X asked for his complaint to be considered at stage two of the Council’s corporate complaints procedure because the Council’s response was insufficient and in places inaccurate.
  4. A mediation meeting was held between the Council and Mr X and his partner. The outcome of the mediation meeting was recorded. The Council sent an apology letter to Mr X. Mr X says the apology letter was in bullet points, did not address specific issues raised, did not provide reassurance, contained errors and the style was confusing.

Analysis

  1. The letter to Mr X after the mediation meeting says BCT should, “provide a heartfelt apology which addresses all the issues that [Mr X and his partner] raised.”
  2. There is no evidence the apology provided is not genuine. The way Mr X and his partner were addressed in the letter was not fault. The apology letter subsequently sent to Mr X does not address the specific issues raised in his complaint and at the mediation meeting. This is fault by the Council. Mr X has not received an appropriate apology as detailed in mediation.

Agreed action

  1. When a council commissions another organisation to provide services on its behalf it remains responsible for those services and for the actions of the organisation providing them. So, although we found fault with the service of the BCT, we have made recommendations to the Council.
  2. To remedy the injustice caused by the fault I have identified, the Council has agreed to take the following action within 4 weeks of my final decision:
    • Re-write the apology to Mr X, making clear its position in respect of the specific issues he raised in the mediation meeting.

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Final decision

  1. I have found that there was fault by the Council causing injustice to Mr X. I have now completed my investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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