The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr and Mrs B complain about the way the Council considered their complaints about allegations made against them as foster carers. They say that as a result they have not been able to continue fostering and have not had a chance to have their complaints properly considered. There was fault by the Council in not investigating Mr and Mrs B’s complaints. The Council’s offer to commission an independent investigation is a satisfactory resolution. It should be completed within 13 weeks.
- Mr and Mrs B complain about the way the Council considered their complaints about allegations made against them as foster carers. They say that as a result they have not been able to continue fostering and have not had a chance to have their complaints properly considered.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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)
- Under the information sharing agreement between the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), we will share this decision with Ofsted.
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the complaint and spoke to Mrs B. I asked the Council for its comments on the complaint and additional information. I sent a copy of a draft of this statement to Mr and Mrs B and the Council and invited their comments
What I found
- Mr and Mrs B started caring for two children, siblings, X and Y, in 2014. The intention was not that this should be a long-term placement but the children stayed with Mr and Mrs B until 2017. In May 2017 allegations were made by members of the public alleging there had been emotional and physical abuse of the children by Mr and Mrs B.
- The Council decided to remove the children. Mr and Mrs B complained about that decision and generally about the way the Council had handled the matter. The Council agreed to conduct a household review. Mr and Mrs B wanted to escalate their complaint but the Council said the household review needed to be completed before it could be decided on the way forward. Essentially the Council was saying the decision needed to be made about whether Mr and Mrs B could remain as foster carers first. If the decision was that they could not then there is a way of challenging that through the Independent Review Mechanism rather than through the complaint process.
- Mr and Mrs B argued that their complaints were separate from their registration as foster carers and should be considered separately but the Council did not agree.
- The Council’s approach here meant that Mr and Mrs B did not have their complaints about how the Council handled the allegations against them considered properly under the complaints process. That was wrong.
- In response to my enquiries about the complaint the Council offered to commission a detailed independent investigation into the complaint. That is a satisfactory way forward and I intend to complete my investigation on that basis. If Mr and Mrs B are not satisfied at the end of the investigation they can make a further complaint to the Ombudsman.
- I invite the Council to say what action it has taken to ensure what happened here in terms of complaint handling cannot recur.
- The Council will commission an independent investigation of Mr and Mrs B’s complaints.
- There was fault by the Council in not investigating Mr and Mrs B’s complaints. The Council’s offer to commission an independent investigation is a satisfactory resolution. It should be completed within 13 weeks.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman