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London Borough of Richmond upon Thames (20 003 695)

Category : Children's care services > Adoption

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 28 Oct 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about children services actions. Either the complaints have been previously considered and decided by us, or they are too old and there are no good reasons the late complaint rule should not apply.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Ms X, complains about various actions by the Council’s children services team in its involvement with her family.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate a complaint about the start of court action or what happened in court. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5/5A, paragraph 1/3, as amended)
  2. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
  3. We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Ms X gave to us and her previous complaints. I considered Ms X’s comments on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Ms X took on responsibility for the care of her grandchildren, B and G, in November 2015 when their mother, M, was admitted to hospital.
  2. The Council began care proceedings in January 2016 when M was discharged from hospital. Ms X opposed the Council’s application. The Court decided the children should live with Ms X while it considered their welfare. The Court considered Ms X’s suitability as a Special Guardian for the children in March 2017 at a final hearing. The Court made a Care Order in favour of the Council and freed the children for adoption.
  3. In November 2017, Ms X complained to us about the lack of support she had received to care for her grandchildren. That complaint was decided and closed in May 2018. We cannot now consider any issues covered in that complaint.
  4. Ms X’s current complaint includes:
    • Education help and support for one child in 2016.
    • Paying nursery fees in 2016.
    • Failure to agree to assess for an Education Health and Care Plan in 2016/17.
    • Mistakes in an adoption medical.
    • The Council’s decision on timing on when to tell adopters about health issues.
    • Conduct of staff and returning of telephone calls in 2016.
    • How complaints about the child protection conferences were handled.
    • The lack of financial support in 2016.
  5. Ms X says she has been caused “Financial hardship, emotion, physical and psychological distress and harm. Outrage.”

Analysis

  1. We cannot consider issues which we have previously considered and decided. As explained above we considered the lack of support complaint in 2017. Many of the issues listed in paragraph nine above fall into that category.
  2. Of any that are not, they are caught by the 12 months rule. We should not investigate a complaint about events known to Ms X for more than 12 months unless we have very clear reasons for doing so. I am not satisfied that we have because:
      1. I am not confident there is a realistic prospect of reaching a sound, fair, and meaningful decision, because Court proceedings supersede the events and Ms X no longer cares for the children involved, and
      2. I am not satisfied that Ms X could not reasonably be expected to have complained sooner. This is particularly so because she complained to us in 2017 and has since made other adult social care complaints about her personal care.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because they have either been previously considered and decided or there are no good reasons the late complaint rule should not apply.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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