Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 02 Sep 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X complains about the way the Council responded to safeguarding concerns she raised regarding her daughter’s school. There is no fault in the way the Council responded to her concerns or the way the Council reviewed the action it had taken.
- Mrs X complains the Council failed to provide her with support when she experienced difficulties with the school her daughter was attending. Mrs X says she raised safeguarding concerns with the Council but it told her to raise these directly with the school and did not offer her any support in raising her concerns.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- 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)
What I found
- Every council must have a Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO). The LADO is responsible for co-ordinating the response to concerns that an adult who works with children may have caused them or could cause them harm.
- Mrs X’s daughter, whom I shall call Y, has a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and a Sensory Processing Disorder. Between September 2013 and June 2017 Y was attending School A. Mrs X has made a number of complaints to School A alleging a teaching assistant has been verbally and physically abusive towards Y. Mrs X says she has raised safeguarding concerns with the Council about this over a number of years but these have not been dealt with.
- Y is now attending School B. Mrs X reports Y is happier in School B.
Events since June 2017
- Mrs X contacted the Council’s Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) in August 2017. This was after Y’s social worker reported an allegation of an incident at School A involving Y and a teaching assistant.
- The LADO reviewed details of the allegations and decided the matter should be dealt with through the school’s complaints process. In reaching his decision the LADO considered information from Mrs X and spoke to the School and Y’s social workers. Y’s social worker said she had no concerns about members of staff in the School.
- In September 2017 Mrs X complained to the Council about the LADO’s decision as well as the actions of School A and the Council’s Special Educational Needs (SEN) team.
- In November 2017 the Council responded to Mrs X. The Council said concerns about the School were being dealt with as part of the School’s complaints procedure. It said the SEN team had provided Y with appropriate support and found alternative education at School B within 6 weeks. The Council also said the LADO had acted appropriately in referring allegations against staff members back to the School.
- The Council accepted the LADO could have responded sooner to Mrs X with his decision and apologised for this.
- Mrs X took School A to First Tier Tribunal Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal alleging that the School had discriminated against Y and failed to make reasonable adjustments for her education.
- The Tribunal issued a decision on 8 May 2018 finding that the School did not discriminate against Y.
- Mrs X wrote to the Council on 8 October 2018. The Council agreed to appoint an external professional to carry out a review of her case. The review would include meeting with Mrs X to agree the scope of the investigation, a review of the School’s involvement and the actions of the Council.
- In March 2018 the independent investigating officer issued a report on Mrs X’s concerns. This considered events dating back to 2014 regarding safeguarding concerns and support provided to the family.
- The independent investigating officer spoke to Mrs X, Council officers, School staff and a parent who Mrs X claimed had witnessed a member of School staff verbally abusing Y. The independent investigating officer also took account of the Tribunal’s decision.
- The independent investigating officer found no evidence of fault in the way the Council or the School had dealt with Y.
- We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached.
- There is no fault in the way the Council has considered the issues raised by
Mrs X. The Council has produced a comprehensive review of the way it dealt with Mrs X’s concerns including speaking with a member of the public. The review was carried out by someone who is not a Council employee.
- The review found there was no fault in the actions of the Council. I have considered some of the evidence the review looked at and the review report itself. The review considered evidence from Mrs X, the Council and interviewed a range of people involved. I cannot see there is anything further the review could have done in investigating Mrs X’s concerns. Therefore, there is no fault in the way the Council reached its decision.
- I have completed my investigation as I have found no fault.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman