Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 05 Apr 2022
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Council is at fault for delaying consideration of this complaint under the children’s statutory complaints procedure. The Council has agreed to make a payment to the complainant for the time and trouble its delay has caused
- The complainant, who I will call Miss X, complains about the contents of an assessment completed by the Council’s children’s services. Miss X complained to the Ombudsman that the Council had delayed issuing a response to her complaint under the statutory complaints procedure.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- Under our information sharing agreement, we will share the final decision with the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted).
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
- I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
- The complainant has had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
The statutory complaints procedure
- The law sets out a three-stage procedure for councils to follow when looking at complaints about children’s social care services. The accompanying statutory guidance, Getting the Best from Complaints, explains councils’ responsibilities in more detail.
- The first stage of the procedure is local resolution. Councils have up to 20 working days to respond.
- If a complainant is not happy with a council’s stage one response, they can ask that it is considered at stage two. At this stage of the procedure, councils appoint an investigator and an independent person who is responsible for overseeing the investigation. Councils have up to 13 weeks to complete stage two of the process from the date of request.
- If a complainant is unhappy with the outcome of the stage two investigation, they can ask for a stage three review by an independent panel. The Council must hold the panel within 30 days of the date of request, and then issue a final response within 20 days of the panel hearing.
- Miss X raised her complaint with the Council which it considered at stage one and two of the statutory procedure. In mid-February, Miss X requested her complaint be progressed to stage three of the procedure. The panel has not yet been arranged.
- The Council should have held the stage three panel within 30 days of Miss X’s request. It did not and this is fault causing a Miss X a significant delay in receiving answers to questions that she raised and has caused her frustration by the delay.
- The Council has agreed that within one month of the date of my final decision it will:
- Arrange a stage three panel and write to Miss X to inform her of the arrangements.
- Offer to make a payment of £100 to Miss X to remedy the additional time and trouble she has gone to pursuing her complaint and to reflect the delay in the Council dealing with his complaint.
- We uphold this complaint with a finding of fault causing an injustice.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman