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West Sussex County Council (21 005 766)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 09 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the actions of a social worker. Investigation is unlikely to lead to a worthwhile outcome.

The complaint

  1. Miss X said a social worker failed to report a failure by a student social worker to close a stairgate that led to her child falling downstairs. She wanted the Council to end the child protection plan it put in place.

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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:
  • there is not enough evidence of fault to justify investigating, or
  • any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • further investigation would not lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.

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

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. The social work student whose alleged action is the subject of the complaint no longer works for the Council. Miss X has not claimed her child suffered any lasting injury from the fall or any other injustice following it. These matters are not connected to her desired outcome, which is the removal of the child protection plan for her child. A child’s wishes cannot be met if a council decides it would place the child at risk to do so. Ultimately, courts decide the contact and residence arrangements for children.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Miss X’s complaint because no worthwhile outcome would be likely from an investigation. It is unlikely we would find sufficient fault and injustice to warrant investigation, and we could not recommend the outcome Miss X wants.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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