Derbyshire County Council (20 002 198)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 07 Dec 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X complained about the way the Council handled a child protection case relating to her child. We have stopped the investigation because the matters Mrs X raises are closely related to a current court case.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complained about the way the Council handled a child protection case relating to her child from July 2018. She said the social worker included inaccurate information in their report and failed to take into consideration her health condition, which caused her considerable distress. She further complains about the lack of involvement from the Special Educational Needs Department in supporting her and her child’s educational needs.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint unless we are satisfied the Council knows about the complaint and has had an opportunity to investigate and reply. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to notify the Council of the complaint and give it an opportunity to investigate and reply (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(5))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. We considered the information provided by Mrs X and the Council for the period from July 2018 to October 2020 when the Council decided to start court proceedings related to its concerns about the child. Mrs X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
  2. We also considered relevant law and guidance, as set out below.

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What we found

Relevant law and guidance

  1. The law says where a council has reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm it should make enquiries to enable it to decide whether it should take action to protect the child’s welfare. The action could be the use of a child protection plan or court action. (Children Act 1989, section 47)

What happened

  1. Mr and Mrs X are foster carers and they live with their two children Y and Z who are under 18, and an adult son S.
  2. The Council says it has been involved with the family since July 2018 when Mr and Mrs X expressed their difficulties in managing Y’s special needs.
  3. Over the years, there have been many incidents reported and, on occasion, the Council arranged alternative accommodation for Y in link care with Mr and Mrs X’s consent.
  4. In December 2019, Y made a report of sexual abuse involving S to her social worker.
  5. The Council held an Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC) and it placed both Y and Z on a child protection plan (CPP).
  6. Mr and Mrs X say the allegation of sexual abuse is not true, the Council is discriminating against S, and this is having a damaging effect on his mental health.
  7. In May 2020 the Council wrote to Mr and Mrs X and invited them to a meeting about Y’s and Z’s care, as it was concerned and considering legal proceedings.
  8. Following the ICPC Mrs X complained about the content of the social worker’s report and about the category of concern under which the Council made the CPPs. She says that Y and Z should not have been on CPPs. Mrs X also complained about the lack of involvement from the Special Educational Needs Department (SEND) in meeting Y’s educational needs.
  9. The Council responded to Mrs X in July 2020 and did not uphold her complaint.
  10. Mrs X was not happy with the Council’s response and she complained to the Ombudsman.

What we found

  1. During our enquiries to Mrs X she confirmed that the Council has started legal proceedings regarding Y.
  2. Mrs X also confirmed that she had a stage 1 response from the Council about the SEND’s involvement in Y’s education. Because this aspect of the complaint is still going through the Council’s complaints procedures, it is too early for the Ombudsman to investigate it.
  3. We cannot comment on the decision to start legal proceedings. However, the complaint Mrs X made to the Ombudsman is inextricably linked to the issues the court may consider and for that reason we have ended our investigation.
  4. Mrs X can come back to us after the Court has made its decision and after her complaint about the SEND has completed the Council’s complaint procedure. At that point we will be able to properly assess which areas of complaint we can investigate and decide if a full investigation is warranted.

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Final decision

  1. We have stopped investigating Mrs X’s complaint because the issues Mrs X raises are closely linked to ongoing court proceedings.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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