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Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (16 007 694)

Category : Children's care services > Fostering

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 28 Feb 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsmen will not investigate Mr and Mrs P’s complaint about the actions of Calderdale Therapeutic Services (CTS). An investigation is unlikely to achieve more for Mr and Mrs P than the Council’s response has already provided.

The complaint

  1. The complainants, whom I shall call Mr and Mrs P, complain about the way they were treated by staff during an appointment they and a foster child had with Calderdale Therapeutic Services.

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The Ombudsmen’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsmen have the power to jointly consider complaints about health and social care. Since April 2015, these complaints have been considered by single team acting on behalf of both Ombudsmen. (Local Government Act 1974, section 33ZA, as amended, and Health Service Commissioners Act 1993, section 18ZA)
  2. The Ombudsmen investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. We use the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. If there has been fault, the Ombudsmen consider whether it has caused injustice or hardship. (Health Service Commissioners Act 1993, section 3(1) and Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended).
  3. The Ombudsmen provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. They may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if they believe
    • it is unlikely they could add to any previous investigation by the bodies, or
    • they cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.

(Health Service Commissioners Act 1993, section 3(2) and Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered written information provided by the Council and the complainants. Mr and Mrs P have had the opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr and Mrs P are foster carers. In November 2015, they attended an appointment at Calderdale Therapeutic Services (CTS) with a foster child, X. They saw two officers, one employed by the Council and one by the Trust. They complain about the actions of both officers.
  2. Mr and Mrs P were dissatisfied with the way the professionals managed the appointment. In particular they say
    • the professionals had not read all the relevant information regarding X and their family before the appointment, and misunderstood some of the information they did read,
    • they believed the appointment would be for professionals to work directly with X and for Mr and Mrs P to get advice on preparing X for adulthood. However, when they were at the appointment, they found out the appointment was for a family consultation,
    • the professionals questioned their skills as foster carers inappropriately in front of X, leading them to provide answers which caused X distress,
    • the professionals were hostile to Mr P and ageist towards both Mr and Mrs P,
    • the professionals should have stopped and rearranged the meeting sooner,
    • the professionals wrongly raised concerns about Mr and Mrs P’s fostering of X with their supervising social worker,
    • they did not get the minutes of the consultation.
  3. After the appointment, Mr and Mrs P complained to their supervising social worker and later, the Council. They disagreed with the CTS professionals’ written records of the appointment and provided their own written account.
  4. In its responses to Mr and Mrs P’s complaint, the Council told them
    • the CTS professionals were spoken to and remain of the view that their records of the appointment were how they saw it through their eyes. The reported experiences of the appointment are so different they indicate a communications breakdown leaving the parties with very different recollections,
    • the social worker had not sent all the relevant information to CTS when she made the referral for a CTS appointment. However, the two CTS professionals who saw the family had a sufficient overview of the case because they discussed it in advance with the clinical psychologist who made the recommendation for the referral,
    • although they differ, the records and recollections all indicate that some of what was said at the meeting was inappropriate and distressed X. Because of this, the CTS workers should have stopped the meeting and re-arranged to see Mr and Mrs P on their own at a later date,
    • CTS now send minutes direct to foster carers to ensure they get information first hand,
    • although the Council did not uphold their complaint, it acknowledged they found the experience confusing and upsetting,
    • the experience of other Council services in working with Mr and Mrs P was very different to the experience of CTS and Mr and Mrs P have a good track record of working with other professionals.
  5. The Council offered to arrange mediation with CTS staff. Mr and Mrs P have explained why they feel they cannot go ahead with this.
  6. The Council said it would do the following as a result of learning from the complaint:
    • CTS would produce written information about the purpose and format of consultations to ensure carers know what to expect,
    • the fostering team would ensure case recordings were properly shared with carers,
    • CTS would be reminded that foster carers are fellow professionals and that CTS workers should be explicit in relation to how they observe them,
    • CTS workers will raise concerns about foster carers directly with the carers alongside their supervising social workers.

Analysis

  1. CTS offers consultation, training and support to professionals, alongside direct therapeutic support to children and young people in the Council’s care (‘looked after children’).
  2. CTS is a Council service. Some of the professionals who work within CTS are employed by the Council. Others are employed by health organisations commissioned by the Council to work within CTS.
  3. Although one of the workers Mr and Mrs P complain about is employed by the Trust, they were acting on behalf of the Council and providing a Council-commissioned service. The Council is therefore the body responsible for the matters Mr and Mrs P complain of.
  4. An investigation of the complaint is unlikely to achieve more for Mr and Mrs P than the Council’s response has already provided. This is because
    • Mr and Mrs P’s recollection and written records of the consultation differ significantly from those of the two workers who saw them. In the absence of an independent witness to what happened, an investigation by the Ombudsmen would not be able to resolve this difference of evidence,
    • the Council has already taken the steps we would have recommended had we investigated and found fault,
    • Mr and Mrs P would like action to be taken against the officers they complain about. This is not an outcome an investigation by the Ombudsmen can achieve.
  5. The Ombudsmen will therefore not investigate Mr and Mrs P’s complaint.

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Decision

  1. The Ombudsmen will not investigate Mr and Mrs P’s complaint about the actions of Calderdale Therapeutic Services (CTS) staff. An investigation is unlikely to achieve more for Mr and Mrs P than the Council’s response has already provided.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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