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Birmingham City Council (21 013 618)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 03 Apr 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X complains about child protection intervention completed by the Council. She is unhappy with how the Council dealt with its Section 17 and Section 47 assessments. We propose to discontinue our investigation. This is because further investigation would not lead to a different outcome and we cannot achieve the outcome Mrs X wants.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complains about child protection intervention completed by the Council. She is unhappy with how the Council dealt with the Section 17 and Section 47 assessments in January and February 2021.

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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:
  • we could not add to any previous investigation by the organisation, or
  • further investigation would not lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or

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

  1. We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I spoke with Mrs X and considered the information she provided.
  2. I considered the information provided by the Council.
  3. I sent a draft decision to Mrs X and the Council for their comments.

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What I found

Statutory children’s complaints procedure

  1. The government sets out a three-stage procedure for councils to follow when looking at complaints about statutory social services functions. The handling and consideration of complaints consists of three stages:
    • Stage 1 - Local Resolution
    • Stage 2 – Investigation
    • Stage 3 - Review Panel

(Department for Education, Statutory guidance for local authority children’s services on representations and complaints procedures, 2006)

What happened

  1. Mrs X complained about the way the Council completed its child protection interventions in January and February 2021. Mrs X complaints related to the section 17 and section 47 assessments completed by the Council.
  2. The Council investigated Mrs X’s complaints under the statutory children’s complaint procedure.
  3. The stage 2 investigation investigated 12 complaints by Mrs X and made the following findings:
    • One complaint was partially upheld
    • Two complaints were upheld.
    • Two complaints where no findings were made.
    • Seven complaints were not upheld.
  4. The stage 2 investigation made two recommendations. The Council accepted the findings and recommendations of the stage 2 investigation. The Council apologised to Mrs X for the upheld findings and completed the recommendations made.
  5. Mrs X was not happy with the outcome and escalated her complaint to a stage 3 review panel.
  6. The stage three review panel considered all the complaints, aside from the ones that were upheld. The panel made the following findings:
    • One complaint finding was changed from partially upheld to upheld.
    • One complaint finding was changed from not upheld to partially upheld.
    • One complaint was changed from not upheld to no finding.
    • Two complaint findings remained no finding.
    • Five complaints findings remained not upheld.
  7. The stage 3 review panel made three recommendations. The Council accepted the findings and recommendations of the stage 3 review panel. The Council completed the recommendations made by the stage 3 review panel.
  8. Mrs X told us she wanted a written apology from the Council as she felt the apology already provided was not sufficient. Mrs X did not provide any evidence to suggest the stage 2 investigation and stage 3 review panel were flawed or that the findings were not robust.

Analysis

  1. When a case has been considered through the statutory complaint procedure, we generally would not reinvestigate the substantive issues. The statutory procedure is designed to provide significant independent and detailed analysis of concerns raised. This means reinvestigation is neither necessary nor warranted unless there are serious and fundamental flaws in the way the case was investigated.
  2. There is no evidence to suggest there were any fundamental flaws at stage 2 or stage 3. Therefore, the Ombudsman will not reinvestigate the complaint and the findings of the stage 2 investigation and stage 3 review panel must stand.
  3. The main area of dispute appears to be around the apology issued by the Council. It is clear Mrs X is unhappy with the apology and she has stated she would like the Council to write to her and to apologise for the poor standard of service it provided.
  4. We are satisfied the Council has provided a satisfactory apology for the findings that were upheld at stage 2 and 3. The Council has also provided evidence it has completed the recommendations made at stage 2 and 3.
  5. Therefore, there is no worthwhile outcome in the Ombudsman continuing or pursuing an investigation. This is because we are satisfied the Council has provided a suitable apology and no further remedy is appropriate in the circumstances.

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Final decision

  1. I have discontinued our investigation. This is because further investigation would not lead to a different outcome, and we cannot achieve the outcome Mrs X wants.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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