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Northamptonshire County Council (19 012 376)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 30 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Ms M complained to both the local Safeguarding Children Partnership and the Council following a child protection conference. She is unhappy with the Partnership’s response. The Council has not yet completed its investigation. The Ombudsman will consider the matter as a whole if Ms M remains dissatisfied once the Council has completed its investigation.

The complaint

  1. Ms M complains about a Child Protection Conference on 12 March 2019. In particular, Ms M complains:
      1. the Chair of the Conference was changed without notice;
      2. the Chair referred to her contributions as ‘self-reporting’, which Ms M feels devalued what she had to say;
      3. the Chair accused her of ‘selective hearing’ when she was, in fact, concentrating;
      4. the Chair did not follow the published procedure or refer to published thresholds when considering whether Ms M’s children should be subject to a child protection plan;
      5. the Conference failed to consider racial bullying reported by her eldest child;
      6. the Chair read the Social Worker’s case summary, but omitted to read the Social Worker’s view that Ms M’s children were not at risk of significant harm;
      7. the Conference did not refer to the report of Ms M’s Autism Support Worker;
      8. the Conference did not refer to a signs of safety report Ms M produced;
      9. the Child Protection Plan was not written in a suitable format;
      10. the Chair said a specialist parenting assessment was not available without a diagnosis, but this is not the case;
      11. the Chair did not allow her breaks to process information at the end of the meeting because the meeting had overrun;
      12. the Chair gave her decision before asking the other people present whether they thought the threshold for a child protection plan was met.
  2. Ms M complains the Child Protection Conference failed to make adjustments for her disability. She says this has had a detrimental impact on her mental health. She believes her children have been subject to a child protection plan for longer than necessary.
  3. In addition, Ms M complains the recommendations of a Stage 3 complaint review panel were not followed at a subsequent Review Child Protection Conference.

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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. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
  2. We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered:
    • information provided by Ms M’s representative; and
    • information provided by the Council.
  2. I invited Ms M and the Council to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Ms M complained to the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership about the Child Protection Conference.
  2. The Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership complaints process is for people who are dissatisfied with the conduct or outcome of a child protection conference. It is for complaints about the way a conference was run, the conference decision children should have a Child Protection Plan, and the category of concern.
  3. If a complaint is upheld, the conference may be re-convened with a different Chair, or a review conference may be brought forward.
  4. Anyone who is unhappy with the outcome of their complaint may complain to the Ombudsman. Our role in complaints about child protection conferences is limited. The Ombudsman may consider whether the Partnership has followed its complaints process, and where the process has identified fault, whether the Partnership has taken appropriate action to put matters right. The Ombudsman cannot change the Conference decision.
  5. In addition to a complaint to the Safeguarding Children Partnership about the conference, a parent may also complain about the individuals involved using their organisation’s complaints process. Parents may complain to the Council about the actions of social workers. If they are unhappy with the Council’s response, they may complain to the Ombudsman.
  6. Ms M and her representative made a comprehensive and detailed complaint to the Council about the actions of council employees at the child protection conference and the Council’s subsequent handling of the case. The Council is currently investigating her complaint and would like to complete its investigation.

Consideration

  1. Ms M has two separate complaints to two different organisations: Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership and the Council. Her complaint to the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership has completed the Partnership’s complaints process. Ms M is dissatisfied with the outcome and has asked the Ombudsman to consider the matter. Her complaint to the Council has not yet completed the Council’s complaints process. The complaints are closely related.
  2. I think it would make most sense to wait for the Council to complete its investigation and respose to Ms M’s complaint. If Ms M is still unhappy, she can then ask the Ombudsman to consider the matter – her complaints to the Partnership and the Council – as a whole.

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Final decision

  1. I have discontinued my investigation and invited Ms M to contact the Ombudsman again if she is still unhappy once the Council has completed its investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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