Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 22 Dec 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X complained the Council did not implement all of the recommendations as agreed following an investigation into her complaint under the children’s statutory complaints procedure. She also complained the Council did not explain why her child did not meet the criteria to receive funding for the requested support. There was no fault by the Council.
- Mrs X complained the Council did not implement all recommendations of the stage three panel following its investigation of her complaint under the children’s statutory complaints procedure. Her complaint was about the Council’s decision not to fund specialist support for her child who is visually impaired. Mrs X also complained the Council did not explain why her child did not meet the funding criteria. She said this caused her unnecessary stress. She wanted the Council to implement all the recommendations of the stage three panel and explain its decision to refuse funding for the requested support for her child.
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)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I spoke with Mrs X and considered the information she provided.
- I considered the information provided by the Council.
- Mrs X and the Council had the opportunity to comment on the draft version of this decision. I considered their comments before making a final decision.
What I found
Children’s 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 the responsibility of councils in more detail.
- The first stage of the procedure is local resolution. 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. 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.
- If a council has investigated something under this procedure, the Ombudsman would not normally re-investigate it. We may consider whether a council has properly considered the findings and recommendations of the independent investigation and review panel and any remedy the council offers.
- Mrs X’s child, Y, is visually impaired. Mrs X said Y’s medical team recommended that Y received habilitation training provided by habilitation specialists as this is something which is recommended for all children and young people with Y’s level of sight loss. The purpose of habilitation training is to help people who are visually impaired to develop skills and confidence in mobility and daily skills for independence.
- In November 2018, Mrs X contacted the Council’s Social Care Team to apply for funding for long-term habilitation training for Y. The Council’s decision-making panel agreed to provide funding for 30 hours of training only. The decision was to be reviewed annually. Mrs X applied for further funding in November 2019 as the 30 hours were coming to an end. In February 2020, the Council refused any further funding for Y’s habilitation training. It said this was because its sensory service had advised it that Y had already received more hours of habilitation training than that offered to other young people with similar impairments who were receiving education in a school setting.
- Following this, Mrs X complained to the Council about its decision to refuse further funding and about administrative errors and poor communication during the assessment process. She said:
- the Council lacked understanding about visual impairment and the habilitation training required.
- the Council’s decision not to provide funding for long-term habilitation was based on a general view of provision for sight-impaired children rather than Y’s individual needs.
- the Council had failed to explain its procedures regarding assessment and funding to her.
- information included in the assessment, reports and reviews was inaccurate, irrelevant, not evidence-based and not corrected, even when errors were pointed out. Mrs X referred to an inaccurate comment made about Y’s education which was detailed in the report for the Council’s panel.
- the assessments, reviews and the decision-making process were not thorough.
- the Council’s communication was poor. For example, Mrs X said on several occasions, the Council did not respond to her queries.
- provide Mrs X with a written apology for the failings identified.
- investigate how the inaccurate comment about Y’s education was included in the report and inform Mrs X what steps it would take to prevent similar errors from happening again.
- review all leaflets and information available to families of children with disabilities seeking support.
- review its process for closing cases and communicating this decision to families.
- meet with Mrs X to discuss the stage three outcome.
- consider financial redress for Mrs X for the distress caused by the Council’s poor communication.
- recognised its failings and apologised to Mrs X for them.
- told Mrs X how it had investigated the inaccuracy noted in the report, and what action it had taken to prevent a recurrence.
- explained to Mrs X the Council did not have information leaflets for families with children with disabilities. However, it said the information was available on its website, under the “Local Offer” section.
- explained to Mrs X its process for closing cases. It acknowledged that in Mrs X’s situation, the Council had failed to follow this process. It said it had reminded relevant staff of the process to ensure this did not happened again.
- offered to meet Mrs X to go through the stage three outcome. The Council also said meeting Mrs X would allow it to apologise to her in person.
- offered Mrs X £250 in recognition of the time and trouble she went through to complain about the Council.
- Mrs X said the Council did not implement all the recommendations the stage three panel made following its investigation. However, I am satisfied the Council did implement all the recommendations as it agreed. The evidence shows the Council:
- provided Mrs X with a written apology and referred to all failings which were identified by the stage three panel. This apology was also for the inaccurate comment in the report. Furthermore, the Council met with Mrs X and apologised to her in person.
- informed Mrs X it had addressed her complaint in relation to the inaccurate comment and explained to her what action it had taken to ensure information included in reports was correct.
- explained to Mrs X it did not provide information leaflets for families with children with disabilities however the information was available on its website.
- explained to Mrs X its process for closing cases and said it had reminded staff of this process.
- offered Mrs X financial redress of £300 and considered £200 of this to be for distress caused by the Council’s failings.
The Council was not at fault.
- Mrs X said the Council had not explained to her why her child did not meet the criteria to receive funding for their habilitation training, but the evidence shows the Council did this when it wrote to her after the meeting. It explained to her how the decision was made to fund Y’s habilitation training in November 2019 and how it reached its decision not to award further funding in February 2020. The Council was not at fault.
- I have now completed my investigation. The Council was not at fault.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman