London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (20 004 960)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 09 Dec 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s late complaint about how the Council handled his children’s case. There is not a good reason Mr X did not bring his complaint to the Ombudsman sooner.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complained the Council:
    • Allowed his child to get into a relationship with a paedophile, only later changing its approach when the court identified they were a paedophile.
    • Lied and falsified paperwork and hid the fact the child was raped.
    • Told the police he and the children’s mother were lying about the paedophile so they could not get legal help.
    • Tried to take their children away without evidence of the emotional abuse it alleged was present.
    • Ignored their stage 2 complaint.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We may investigate complaints made on behalf of someone else if they have given their consent. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26A(1), as amended)
  2. 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 Mr X provided when he complained to us.
  2. I considered information the Council provided.
  3. I gave Mr X the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr X’s children, who are now adults, have not provided consent for us to consider the parts of this complaint made on their behalf. I have therefore only considered the complaint insofar as it is Mr X’s own complaint.
  2. The complaint, in any event, relates to events that Mr X was aware of before February 2019, which is when the last court involvement was. We cannot investigate complaints brought to us more than 12 months after events unless we decide there are good reasons.
  3. In March 2019, the Council appointed independent people to consider Mr X’s complaint at stage two, skipping stage one due to the nature of the complaint. The independent people met with Mr X and summarised his complaint into 15 headings. Mr X believed the Council was wrongly trying to reduce the scope of its complaint investigation. He told the Council and the independent people he would respond with an amended complaint statement, but that it would take him time as he wished to collate evidence, and this would be “done when it’s done”.
  4. In mid-April, and again in June 2019, the Council and the independent people clarified to Mr X they did not require him to collate evidence, and they simply needed to agree a complaint statement at that time. At the end of June, Mr X sent a document with 128 proposed complaint headers and 23 desired outcomes. The Council explained this was too extensive and could not be the basis of a complaint investigation. Mr X said it was so extensive because of all the errors the Council had made.
  5. We would not expect a Council to agree to 128 headings for a complaint. The independent people were prepared to consider Mr X’s concerns in their entirety but under more concise general headings, which they had written based on the representations Mr X provided. This was appropriate and reflects the approach the Ombudsman also takes. However, they could not ultimately reach agreement with Mr X. The Council therefore signposted Mr X to the Ombudsman in July 2019. However, it was a further 14 months before Mr X approached us.
  6. I do not know exactly when Mr X became aware of the issues he complains about. Aside from his complaint about the complaint process, he knew of the issues at least as early as February 2019. This was 19 months before he complained to us. He could have brought his complaint to us by February 2020, and he has provided no good reason why he did not do so. We should not exercise our discretion to consider this complaint.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this late complaint. This is because there is not a good reason Mr X did not bring it to us sooner.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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