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Shropshire Council (19 000 796)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 20 Jan 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr and Mrs X’s complaint about the Council’s children services involvement with their grandchildren. It is unlikely we could significantly add to the Council’s responses and the Court approved the children’s care arrangements.

The complaint

  1. The complainants, whom I shall call Mr and Mrs X, disagree with care decisions the Council made about their grandchildren and are unhappy at contact arrangements for them.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate a complaint about the start of court action or what happened in court. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5/5A, paragraph 1/3, as amended)
  2. 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 we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
    • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  3. It is not a good use of public resources to investigate complaints about complaint procedures, if we are unable to deal with the substantive issue.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mr and Mrs X provided with their complaint. I considered Mr and Mrs X’s comments on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

Background information

  1. This complaint concerns Mr and Mrs X’s paternal grandchildren D and B aged 15 and 12. Mr and Mrs X live 400 miles away from D and B. In 2018 D and B’s parents suddenly could not look after them. The Council’s children services team say it asked the parents if there were any relatives they would agree to D and B living with. The Council say they did not offer Mr and Mrs X as an option.
  2. D and B moved to live with foster carers. The parents consented to this. This is a Children Act Section 20 agreement. Afterwards the Council decided it should ask the Court to make a Care Order. This would mean it could decide where the children lived. The Council say the Court considered and agreed its care plans for D and B.
  3. Mr and Mrs X complained to the Council. They said:
      1. The Council should have considered them as carers;
      2. The foster carers have not acted appropriately;
      3. The foster cares have influenced D and B against them;
      4. The Council has not been fair in its dealings or views on the mother and father and
      5. Contact arrangements have not been adequate or met Mr and Mrs X’s expectations.
  4. The Council replied in December, February and March. Those replies:
      1. showed the Council had considered Mr and Mrs X’s allegations covered by b) to d) above.
      2. explained it could not consider them as carers at the start as the parents did not consent to Mr and Mrs X. The Court has approved the carers since.
      3. Explained it arranged grandparent contact in addition to the expectation D and B would see extended family members during contact with their father. Normally extended family members do not have this additional contact. It also explained that D and B are of an age where they have some choice in whether to have contact with family and do have their own activities which it is reasonable to accept they will not miss for this.
  5. Mr and Mrs X remained unhappy with the Council’s replies and complained to us. In addition, they say the Council failed to reply to their complaint in accordance with their complaints’ procedure.

Analysis

  1. We cannot change the decision on who should care for D and B as the Court approved this. The effect of the Council’s child protection investigation and case work, is the care arrangements for the children. The Court agreed those care arrangements. The Council’s child protection investigation is inextricably linked to the Court proceedings.
  2. It is unlikely our investigation could significantly add to the explanation the Council provided. It is clear it considered the allegations Mr and Mrs X make about the foster carers’ actions.
  3. We cannot order the Council to arrange more contact. It is usual practice for extended family members to have contact with parents and not separately. If Mr and Mrs X believe they should have more they can consider asking the Court to provide for this.
  4. We will not investigate the process the Council used to reply to a complaint when we are not investigating the complaint itself.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman should not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we could significantly add to the Council’s reply.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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