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Medway Council (17 018 745)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

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.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complains about the actions and inactions of children’s social services, who have been involved with her family since 2014.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. 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.

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What I found

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman should not investigate Mrs X’s complaint, because we cannot achieve the outcome she seeks.

Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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