Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 27 Aug 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s failure to take action in 1997 and 1998 when concerns were raised about Ms X self-harming and being abused. The complaint is historic and lies outside our jurisdiction because it is late and there are not good grounds to exercise discretion to consider it now.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Ms X, complains about the Council’s lack of action when, in 1997 and 1998, a teacher and later a work placement supervisor, took her to social services due to concerns she was self-harming and was being abused. Ms X was 16 years old at the time.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse effect on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start an investigation if the tests set out in our Assessment Code are not met. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by the complainant.
- I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
- I sent the complainant a draft of my decision and invited her comments on it.
- In June 2021, Ms X complained to the Council about a lack of action by social services in 1997 and 1998 when concerns were raised about her self-harming and being abused at home.
- Ms X made a subject access request to the Council for her records, but none were held.
- The Council told Ms X it was unable to consider this historic complaint via the complaints process because it is difficult to investigate complaints fully and fairly where they are about matters that happened more than 12 months ago.
- We will not investigate this complaint. The complaint lies outside our jurisdiction because it is late, as per the restriction set out in paragraph 4, above. The matters complained about are historic and there is no good reason to exercise discretion to consider it now. Also, given the significant passage of time and lack of any records I cannot see there would be any realistic prospect of us being able to carry out a meaningful investigation and reach a fair and sound view on the matters complained about now over 20 years later.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman