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West Northamptonshire Council (21 012 411)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 07 Jan 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the actions of the Council’s children’s services. This is because it would be reasonable for Mrs X to proceed with a stage 3 review of her complaint.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complains the Council failed to take action to keep her daughter safe.
    Mrs X says the Council has delayed dealing with her complaints and had failed to take action recommended during the complaint investigation.
  2. Mrs X says the Council has put her to unnecessary time and trouble and caused her family significant distress.

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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 it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal. (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 law sets out a three stage procedure for councils to follow when looking at complaints about children’s social care services. At stage 2 of this procedure, the Council appoints an Independent Investigator and an Independent Person (who is responsible for overseeing the investigation). If a complainant is unhappy with the outcome of the stage 2 investigation, they can ask for a stage 3 review. If a council has investigated something under this procedure, the Ombudsman would not normally re-investigate it unless he considers the investigation was flawed. However, he may look at whether a council properly considered the findings and recommendations of the independent investigation.
  2. Mrs X declined to proceed with the stage 3 panel and told the Council she was seeking legal advice. The Council cancelled the stage 3 panel.
  3. We would expect complainants to complete the statutory complaints process before coming to the Ombudsman. The legislation and statutory guidance for children’s service complaints says stage 3 panels are independent of the Council. The members of the panel cannot be officers or members of the Council nor the spouse or civil partner of such a person.
  4. It would be reasonable to expect Mrs X to proceed with the stage 3 panel review before coming to the Ombudsman. Therefore we will not investigate this complaint at this time.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint because it would be reasonable to expect Mrs X to proceed with a stage 3 panel review of her complaint.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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