Medway Council (18 002 387)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 01 Oct 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: the Council acknowledged that it confused Mrs M’s husband with another man with the same name who was also involved in child protection proceedings. The Council has apologised and offered £1,000 for the distress caused. I consider this a suitable remedy. The Council is not responsible for Mrs M’s deregistration as a childminder or the collapse of her childminding business. The Council responded appropriately to the allegations against her son.

The complaint

  1. Mrs M complains about her dealings with the Council in connection with allegations made against her son by children she childminded. In particular, Mrs M complains:
    • the allegations are false;
    • although she does not believe her son needs support in connection with the allegations he engaged in sexual activity with children, the Council has not arranged support;
    • the Council confused her husband with somebody else with the same name and mistakenly accused him of having a sexual relationship with his daughter from a previous marriage;
    • the Council wrongly said that her daughter had sent explicit photographs of herself to an adult in America;
    • the Council’s handling of the allegations contributed to the suspension of her registration as a childminder and ultimately to the closure of her childminding business.
  2. Mrs M seeks to clear her son’s name and wants compensation for the distress the Council has caused her family and the loss of her income following the closure of her childminding business.

Back to top

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. 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)

Back to top

How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered:
    • information provided by Mrs M;
    • information provided by the Council, including its response to Mrs M’s complaint at all three stages of the Children Act complaints process;
    • two decisions from the First Tier Tribunal following Mrs M’s unsuccessful appeals against the suspension of her registration as a childminder.
  2. I invited Mrs M and the Council to comment on my draft decision.

Back to top

What I found

  1. The Council’s involvement with Mrs M and her family is the result of allegations by children she childminded. Three children have alleged that Mrs M’s son, B, engaged in sexual activity with them. Mrs M notified Ofsted, the body that regulates childminders, and Ofsted informed the Council.
  2. During the course of its investigations, the Council confused Mrs M’s husband with a man with the same name who was also the subject of a child protection investigation.
  3. The Council also had to respond to concerns for Mrs M’s daughter who, Mrs M says, was being groomed by an older man.
  4. Two separate process followed: the Council has followed child protection procedures, and Ofsted followed enforcement procedures. Mrs M is unhappy with the outcome of both. She alleges that incorrect information provided by the Council resulted in her deregistration as a childminder by Ofsted.
  5. The Council’s child protection procedures resulted in Mrs M’s children being subject to child in need plans for approximately six months. The plans were then discharged and Mrs M declined any further support from the Council.
  6. Ofsted suspended Mrs M’s registration as a childminder.
  7. Mrs M complained to the Council. The Council has considered her complaint at all three stages of the Children Act complaints process. This is a formal procedure, set out in law, which councils must follow to investigate certain types of complaint. It involves:
    • a written response from the Council (Stage 1);
    • the appointment of an independent investigator to prepare a report (Stage 2); and, if the person making the complaint requests
    • an independent panel to consider their representations (Stage 3).
  8. When a council has investigated a complaint under the Children Act complaints process, the Ombudsman would not normally re-investigate it. We may consider whether a council has properly considered the findings and recommendations of the independent investigator and review panel, and any remedy offered.
  9. An independent investigator completed a report in October 2016. The investigator upheld some of Mrs M’s complaints but did not uphold most of them. The most significant complaint the investigator upheld was that the Council had confused Mrs M’s husband with a man with the same name who was also the subject of a child protection investigation. The investigator found that although the Council provided incorrect information to Ofsted, the Council corrected the information promptly when Ofsted asked for clarification. A review panel considered Mrs M’s complaint in April 2017 and largely agreed with the independent investigator’s findings. The Council accepted the Panel’s findings. The Council has offered Mrs M and her husband £1,000 for the distress caused by confusing Mrs M’s husband with another man. Mrs M remained dissatisfied with the Council’s response and complained to the Ombudsman in May 2018.
  10. I am satisfied the Council has properly considered Mrs M’s complaint and I do not intend to investigate it further. I do not consider there is anything I could add to the Council’s response by further investigation.
  11. Mrs M is unhappy with the Council’s child protection investigation which she says has labelled her son as a sex offender. She wants to clear his name. Neither the Council nor the Ombudsman decides whether Mrs M’s son committed the acts he is accused of. Three children accused him of engaging in sexual activity with them. The Council had a duty to respond. I am satisfied the Council’s response was appropriate and proportionate. The Council identified Mrs M’s son’s need for support. It is a matter of regret that the Council was not able to arrange support more quickly, although I note that Mrs M has been reluctant to engage.
  12. I consider the Council’s offer of £1,000 is a suitable remedy for the distress caused when the Council confused Mrs M’s husband with a man with the same name who was also subject to a child protection investigation.
  13. Mrs M believes that inaccurate information the Council gave Ofsted is responsible for her deregistration as a childminder. It is true the Council gave incorrect information to Ofsted. The Council referred to the man it confused with Mrs M’s husband and also said her daughter had sent explicit photographs of herself to a man in America. This was not true. However, the Council corrected these errors promptly when Ofsted asked for clarification.
  14. Mrs M appealed Ofsted’s decisions to deregister her as a childminder. Her appeals were considered by the First Tier Tribunal. They were unsuccessful. I have read the judgements of the Tribunal. Mrs M was deregistered as a childminder because of her failure to respond appropriately to allegations by children she childminded. Her deregistration was not the result of the allegations, the incorrect information about her husband or her daughter’s grooming by a man in America. I am satisfied the incorrect information provided by the Council had no role in Mrs M’s deregistration as a childminder. I do not, therefore, consider the Council should compensate Mrs M for the failure of her childminding business.

Back to top

Final decision

  1. I am satisfied the Council has properly considered Mrs M’s complaint. The Council acknowledged that it confused Mrs M’s husband with another man with the same name who was also involved in child protection proceedings. The Council has apologised and offered £1,000 for the distress caused. I consider this a suitable remedy. The Council is not responsible for Mrs M’s deregistration as a childminder or the collapse of her childminding business. The Council responded appropriately to allegations against her son. I have ended my investigation.

Back to top

Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

Print this page

;