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London Borough of Newham (19 019 086)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 30 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X complained the Council did not take child protection concerns seriously when she and others raised them in 2016 and 2017. We will not investigate this late complaint because Mrs X could reasonably have raised it with us sooner. We could not now carry out a fair investigation.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complained the Council did not take her child protection concerns, and those raised by professionals, seriously in 2016 and 2017. She says this led to her children being physically, sexually and emotionally abused.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mrs X provided when she complained to us.
  2. I considered Mrs X’s comments on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mrs X and professionals raised concerns in 2016 and 2017 relating to Mrs X’s children’s father. The Council says it considered the concerns, but there was no indication of significant harm or risk of significant harm.
  2. The children were removed from their father in late 2017 when allegations of physical harm to the children were made. The children returned to live with Mrs X.
  3. Mrs X first complained to the Council in 2017. It responded at the first stage of its procedure but told Mrs X she could not escalate her complaint. Mrs X complained again in 2019, and then to the Ombudsman in 2020.
  4. I have accounted for the information the Council gave to Mrs X, when considering the length of time between events and Mrs X complaining to us. The Council’s incorrect advice is responsible for some of the delay, so I have not applied the 12 month time limit rigidly. However, I cannot say the Council is solely responsible for it taking more than two years after events for Mrs X to complain to us. I have also considered health issues Mrs X told me about, however these affected her recently and do not affect her ability to have brought her complaint to us in 2018 or early 2019.
  5. Even though the Council gave Mrs X the wrong information, she could have found out how to escalate her complaint sooner. We expect councils to be given the opportunity to consider complaints before they are brought to us. Mrs X gave the Council the opportunity to consider her complaint in late 2017. Had she then complained to us in early 2018, we could have intervened sooner and either considered the complaint then, or told the Council to complete its complaints process first. Given the time that has now passed, we could not carry out as fair an investigation.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this late complaint. This is because Mrs X could reasonably have complained to us sooner and we could not now carry out as fair an investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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