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London Borough of Tower Hamlets (21 001 901)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 16 Jul 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s children services teams actions in 2017 and 2018. There are no good reasons why the late complaint rule should not apply.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Ms X, complains about the Council’s children services actions between March 2017 and September 2018.

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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 extensive correspondence provided by Ms X’s legal representatives. I considered Ms X’s comments by her legal representatives on this draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. In March 2017, the Council applied to Court for an interim Care Order for Ms X’s child. The Court granted it. The Court made a final Care Order in February 2018. This ordered Ms X’s child to live with their grandparents in another country. The Council was involved in transition contact before the child moved.
  2. Ms X complains about the Council’s children services actions between March 2017 and September 2018.
  3. Ms X complained to the Council in February 2021. The Council replied in April 2021. It said the events were too old for its complaints’ procedure.
  4. Ms X says this is unfair. She says her health meant it was difficult to discuss the issues and she was involved in a Court case within the other country for a while after the child moved there. Her solicitors argue that officers no longer working for the Council, and the passage of time, are not strong enough reasons not to investigate this complaint.
  5. Her solicitors in response to a draft version of this decision say the Council delayed in replying to a request for Ms X’s information and this delay should be taken into account. The documents supplied by Ms X’s solicitors show the Council replied to the request for information in April 2019.
  6. Ms X’s solicitors say she was represented by Turkish Family Law specialists who could not have been expected to pursue a complaint in public law. The documents supplied by Ms X's solicitors show she was represented in 2018 by a London based firm of solicitors who carry out a range of legal work including public law.
  7. Ms X solicitors say Ms X’s health has not allowed her to pursue her complaint. The medical evidence Ms X’s solicitors have provided only covers 2018.

Analysis

  1. We will not investigate a complaint about events which have been known to Ms X for more than 12 months without good reasons. Here the reasons Ms X gives for complaining late are not strong enough. This is because:
    • It is two and half years between the end of the period complained about and Ms X complaining to the Council. There is no evidence she pursued in the interim.
    • Ms X was legally represented during the period of time she complains about.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because there are no good reasons for Ms X not having complained sooner.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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