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London Borough of Barnet (21 008 239)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 07 Apr 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about how the Council responded to a children’s safeguarding referral. That is because there is insufficient evidence of fault to justify our investigation.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complained the Council failed to take safeguarding action after she raised concerns that her child had been subject to two violent incidents whilst at school. She said how the Council had dealt with the matter had caused her distress.
  2. Mrs X also complained the Council failed to include her concerns about safeguarding practices at her children’s school when it completed safeguarding enquiries about a different matter. She said it failed to access support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for her child, and that the Council’s Social Worker advised her not to take her child to an appointment for their mental health.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. 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, and
  • any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
  1. We cannot investigate complaints about what happens in schools. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5, paragraph 5(b), as amended)

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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

How the Council considered Mrs X’s safeguarding concerns about her children’s school.

  1. Mrs X contacted the Council in March 2021, stating her child, Y had experienced a violent incident at school. The Council’s case records show it considered the information provided and directed Mrs X to report the issue to Ofsted. The Council also contacted Y’s school. The Council emailed Mrs X and confirmed the school’s management committee was following up her complaint. It did not take further action.
  2. Mrs X contacted the Council further in July 2021. She confirmed the school had considered the mater but had not found that staffing at the school had contributed to the incidents. The Council decided there was no role for children’s services as it had been dealt with by the school.
  3. Mrs X subsequently complained to the Council about its decision not to investigate her safeguarding concerns about the school. She said four incidents involving her children had occurred. She questioned the outcome of the school’s findings.
  4. The Council said if she was unhappy with the outcome of the school’s findings, she could ask it to consider her complaint further. The Council said it had completed a safeguarding review of the school and was satisfied that the school had dealt with all incidents appropriately following the school’s policies.
  5. We can’t question the merits of the Council’s decision where there is no fault in how it was made. The Council considered the information Mrs X provided and decided that Y’s school was best placed to deal with the safeguarding concern as it was a school matter. The Council also completed a safeguarding review of the school. It was satisfied that the school was operating in line with its policies.
  6. Although Mrs X is unhappy with the Council’s decision, there is insufficient evidence of fault in how the Council dealt with Mrs X’s safeguarding referral to justify our investigating.

How the Council completed safeguarding enquiries and assessment

  1. The Council started safeguarding enquiries in relation to a different matter mid- September. Following that, Mrs X made several complaints to the Council. This included her dissatisfaction the Council would not include her safeguarding concerns about the school as part of its enquiries and that the allocated Social Worker had failed to access support from CAMHS.
  2. In the Council’s complaint response, it said Mrs X’s concerns about the school was not the focus of its safeguarding enquiries. It stated Mrs X withdrew her consent to work with the Council therefore it did not complete its Child and Family assessment. The Council said it would have considerred any impact that education was having on the children as part of that assessment.
  3. As the Council had considered these concerns separately, there is insufficient evidence of fault in the Council’s decision not to include these concerns as part of its enquiries. Therefore, we will not investigate this complaint further.
  4. Mrs X is unhappy the Council did not help her access support from CAMHS. Emails provided by Mrs X indicate the allocated Social Worker did contact CAMHs as part of the assessment process. Mrs X withdrew from this process. Therefore, there is insufficient evidence of fault to justify our investigating.
  5. Mrs X is also unhappy about advice a Social Worker gave her about taking her child to an appointment. I do not consider that has caused a significant enough injustice to justify our involvement. It was Mrs X’s decision to take her child to a specialist appointment, the Social Workers advice did not prevent her from doing this.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint because there is insufficient evidence of fault in the Council’s actions.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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