Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 19 Jul 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate Mr C’s complaint that the Council was at fault in its involvement with him and his children. His complaint is late, and it is unlikely we could add anything significant to the investigation already carried out.
- The complainant, who I will refer to as Mr C, complains that the Council was at fault in its involvement with him and with his children.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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)
- 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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered what Mr C has said in support of his complaint and the complaint documents and correspondence provided by the Council. I have offered Mr C the opportunity to comment on a draft of this decision.
What I found
- Mr C’s children live with their mother. Mr C says the children’s mother, supported by the Council, has prevented him from having contact with them. In 2017 the children were subject to child protection action and a Section 47 child protection enquiry prompted by allegations against Mr C.
- Mr C complained about the actions of Children’s Services officers. He argued that they were at fault in how they dealt with him and how they managed his children’s case. The complaint, which was dealt with under the statutory Children’s Services complaint procedure concluded in June 2019. It was upheld in part. The Council apologised where it had been found to be at fault and offered to make a payment of £750 in recognition of this. It advised Mr C of his right to come to the Ombudsman at that point.
- When the complaint procedure ended, Mr C continued to correspond with the Council. He asked for a significant financial settlement in recognition of the effect of its failings. The Council has declined to make further payments and repeated its advice to Mr C to come to the Ombudsman. Mr C contends that the Council has failed to accept responsibility for its actions.
- We will not investigate Mr C’s complaint because it is late. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. Mr C has been aware of his right to come to the Ombudsman since June 2019. I note that he continued to correspond with the Council after this date and can see nothing to lead me to conclude that he could not have come to us in time.
- Even if we were to investigate despite the fact that the complaint is late, it is unlikely we could add anything significant to the investigation the Council has already carried out. It is not the Ombudsman’s role to reconsider complaints which have already been upheld. On the face of it, it is not true to say that the Council has not accepted responsibility for its actions. It has apologised where it has been found to be at fault and the financial settlement it has offered is in line with what the Ombudsman would be likely to propose in the circumstances.
- There is no evidence of fault in the way the Council investigated Mr C’s complaint and the findings are reasonable in the circumstances of the case. It is not for the Ombudsman to intervene to substitute alternative findings. There are therefore no grounds for us to investigate the complaint
- We will not investigate this complaint. This is because the complaint is late, and it is unlikely we could add anything significant to the investigation the Council has already carried out.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman