Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 28 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about the actions of children’s social services, because we cannot achieve the outcome she is seeking.
- Mrs X complains about the actions and inactions of children’s social services, who have been involved with her family since 2014.
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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information Mrs X provided with her complaint, and discussed her complaint with her on the phone. I have considered the complaint paperwork provided by the Council.
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, the Council appoints an investigating officer 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, we would not normally re-investigate it unless we consider the investigation was flawed. I have seen no evidence to suggest the stage 2 investigation in Mrs X’s case was flawed. Most parts of her complaint were upheld at both stage 2 and stage 3, and the stage 3 panel hearing was thorough and fair. There is nothing that we could add to this.
- The investigation established that the Council did get some things wrong in its work with Mrs X and her family, and the Council has apologised for this and accepted where it can make improvements for the future. But what Mrs X really wants, as a result of the investigation, is the return of her children to her care.
- Mrs X’s children are in the Council’s care, following a court order. We cannot change the court’s decision, so further investigation by the Ombudsman cannot achieve what Mrs X is seeking.
- The Ombudsman should not investigate Mrs X’s complaint, because we cannot achieve the outcome she seeks.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman