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Cheshire East Council (21 004 831)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 27 Apr 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s child protection investigation in 2019 and subsequent complaint handling. Mr X complains late about the child protection and complaint handling in 2019 and 2020. There is no reason to exercise discretion to investigate because he could have complained sooner. There is no ongoing injustice.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains the Council failed to deal properly with his complaints from 2019. Mr X says the Council failed to investigate all his complaints including failing to keep to complaint procedure timescales; forced him to change part of his stage 2 complaint; and failed to appropriately remedy complaints it upheld. Mr X says the Council failed to communicate in a way that enabled him to understand the complaint process given he has literacy difficulties. It was only from November 2020 he had his peer advocate/representative.
  2. Mr X complains the Council’s child protection investigation in 2019 was not conducted properly. He says a social worker saw his child against his wishes and without authority to do so.
  3. Mr X says the Council’s actions caused him distress, time, and trouble. He wants the Council to offer an appropriate remedy including financial compensation. Mr X says the Council needs to improve its complaint handling especially for those with literacy difficulties. He would like a discussion about how the Council responded to his suggestion that a remedy could include help starting a business.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure,’ which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide:
  • any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • it is not a good use of limited resources to investigate.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  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/care has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered Mr X’s information and comments and have discussed the complaint with his representative Ms Y. I have considered the reply to my draft decision statement. The Council has provided the complaint correspondence. This includes emails, October-November 2020, about going to a stage 3 complaint panel.

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My assessment

  1. I will not investigate Mr X’s complaint for the following reasons:
  2. Mr X first complained to the Ombudsman on 2 July 2021. Events which Mr X knew about before July 2020 are outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. Mr X complains late and outside the ‘permitted period’ of 12 months (see paragraph 5 and 6 above). This includes complaints about the child protection and social worker actions which led to his stage 1 complaint in April 2019. The complaints considered at stage 1 and following the stage 2 request on 30 September 2019, which the stage 2 report says was agreed on 1 July 2020, are all outside jurisdiction.
  3. I will not exercise discretion to investigate because:
      1. Mr X could have complained sooner. He dropped his complaints for three months after the stage 1 reply dated 24 June 2019. On 9 November 2020 Mr X asked the Council not to proceed with his stage 3 complaint because he was considering, with his ‘peer advocate’ whether to proceed to stage 3, end his complaint, or go to the Ombudsman. Mr X delayed eight months coming to the Ombudsman and a further eight months before returning to us on 24 March 2022. I appreciate Mr X has health and communication difficulties, but he was able to email the Council and had access to his peer advocate, Ms Y. The reply to my draft decision confirms Ms Y was involved from November 2020. Mr X’s communication difficulties do not explain the delay after that date.
      2. It is not a good use of limited resources to investigate what happened in 2019/20. Many of the child protection actions referred to are expected as part of an assessment - interviewing Mr X’s child, consideration of Mr X’s parenting and home conditions, and consideration of the risks presented by other parties. I appreciate Mr X objected to how the Council conducted its assessment, including sharing sensitive information with his child, but this is insufficient to exercise discretion to investigate.
  4. The child protection case/earlier events are outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction and therefore we cannot comment on the Council’s findings on the related complaints.
  5. The Council sent Mr X its reply to the stage 2 complaints in October 2020. Mr X has not pursued a stage 3 complaint. There is no injustice following Mr X’s decision to end his complaint with the Council in November 2020. Ms Y says Mr X remains distressed by the complaint handling in 2019 and 2020. I have explained above why we will not investigate the complaint handling.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s child protection investigation in 2019 and subsequent complaint handling. Mr X complains late about the child protection and complaint handling in 2019 and 2020. There is no reason to exercise discretion to investigate because he could have complained sooner. There is no ongoing injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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