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.
- 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.
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. 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)
How I considered this complaint
- 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.
What I found
- 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.
- 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.
- The Council also had to respond to concerns for Mrs M’s daughter who, Mrs M says, was being groomed by an older man.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ofsted suspended Mrs M’s registration as a childminder.
- 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).
- 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.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman