Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 07 Sep 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Ms X complains the Council failed to provide adequate help when her children were on a child protection plan and did not deal with her complaints correctly. I have discontinued my investigation on the basis that X’s complaints are premature as they are still being investigated by the Council.
- Ms X tells us that she is disabled and that when her children were on a child protection plan the Council provided her with insufficient help. She says she has suffered mentally, physically and financially as a result and that there has been injustice to her children. She also complains about the Council’s management of her complaints and about the actions of individual social workers.
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)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by Ms X and the Council. I also sent a draft version of this complaint to the Council and Ms X, and have considered the Council’s response.
What I found
- Ms X made a total of five complaints to the Council, all of which were investigated at Stage 1 of the Council’s procedures. Ms X asked in September 2019 for some of these complaints to be escalated to Stage 2. She approached us with a complaint that the Council was refusing to do so. The Council responded that Ms X had not made her request for escalation clear.
- In January 2020, the Council emailed us to say it had agreed with Ms X to progress her complaints to Stage 2. It sent a further email in July 2020 to say the case had been on hold since February 2020 due to Covid-19 but that a staff member would be re-starting the investigation.
- In response to my draft decision, the Council said it hoped to provide a final response to Ms X’s complaint by end of September 2020.
- While it would be premature for the Ombudsman to investigate this case while the Council’s complaints process is continuing, I am concerned at the significant delay to the Stage 2 process, although some of this delay is clearly due to Covid-19.
- I will discontinue my investigation as the complaint is premature. The investigation may be re-opened by the complainant if she is not satisfied with the Council’s final response to her complaint or the Council’s deadline is not adhered to.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman