Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 27 Apr 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s implementation of child protection procedures in relation to the complainant’s children. This is because the complaint is made late and there are no good reasons to exercise the Ombudsman’s discretion to investigate it now.
- The complainant, who I refer to here as Ms B, says that:
- The Council unjustly decided to initiate child protection measures in respect of the PA’s children, in 2014;
- The measures were not properly evidenced or carried out; and
- The Council has refused support for one of Ms B’s children, who, she says, suffers from a disability.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- 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)
- We cannot investigate complaints about what happens in schools. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5, paragraph 5(b), as amended)
- 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 there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information provided by Ms B’s representative and I have sent her a draft decision for her comments.
What I found
- In 2014 the Council initiated child protection procedures in respect of Ms B’s children. Ms B was not happy with the decision, or with the way in which the procedures and conferences were carried out. She complained to the Council.
- The Council took the complaint through its statutory Children’s Complaints Procedures, and provided a final response in 2015. It referred Ms B to the Ombudsman if she remained dissatisfied with the outcome of her complaint.
- Ms B has now brought the complaint to the Ombudsman, via her legal representative. We will not investigate it as it is made late.
- The Ombudsman cannot generally consider complaints about matters known to the complainant more than 12 months previously, but we can exercise discretion to look at a late complaint if there are good reasons to do so.
- Ms B’s representative says that Ms B did not come to the Ombudsman in 2015 because she did not have sufficient funds to continue to pay for legal representation. As a laywer, Ms B’s representative would have been able to advise her that parliament set up the complaints processes to be accessible to complainants without the need for legal representation. Consequently there was nothing to prevent Ms B from approaching the LGSCO at the time.
- I can appreciate Ms B’s desire for a fresh start in a new school in a new area for her children. However, that is not a reason for us to investigate a complaint now, when it could have been made at the time of the disputed events.
- Ms B does have the right to ask the Council to put her comments onto the file records. Additionally if she feels that the records are inaccurate she can make a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which is the body set up by parliament to consider such complaints.
- Ms B is also unhappy with the School’s refusal to agree to her request to withhold part of the record files from the new school. This is not a matter that we can consider, as the LGSCO cannot look at complaints about school management.
- Ms B has a further complaint about the Council’s continuing refusal to recognise that one of her children has a disability requiring support. This complaint needs to be made to the Council in the first instance. Ms B can then bring this matter back to the LGSCO if the Council is not able to resolve it.
- Subject to any comments Ms B might make, my view is that the Ombudsman should not investigate this complaint. This is because the substantive matter is made late and there are no reasons to exercise the Ombudsman’s discretion to consider it now. The issue of support for one of Ms B’s children needs to be made as a complaint first to the Council.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman