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Essex County Council (19 015 047)

Category : Children's care services > Fostering

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 06 Feb 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about issues surrounding her foster carer registration. It is reasonable to expect Mrs X to use the Independent Review Mechanism.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, complains about the way a Standards for Care investigation was carried out, its resultant report and events which led to it.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
    • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint, or
    • it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mrs X provided with her complaint and the Council’s reply which it provided. Mrs X had an opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

Background

  1. Mrs X has been a foster career for over three years. The Council carried out a Standards for Care investigation and issued a report. It decided to ask its Fostering Panel to consider her foster carer registration. The Panel decided, in October 2019, to recommend she be de registered as a foster carer. The Council wrote to Mrs X and explained it had decided to adopt the Panel’s recommendation. The letter explained Mrs X had a right of appeal to the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM). The Council headed the letter as a ‘qualifying determination’.
  2. Mrs X says the investigation which fed into the Standards for Care report was inadequate and unfair. She says it led to an unbalance and inaccurate report. She complained about it and the officer’s conduct in both supporting the family and the report compilation.
  3. The Council say the right avenue for Mrs X’s concerns is via the IRM and not the complaint procedure.

Analysis

  1. Foster carers may approach the IRM about a decision to de-register. The review process is conducted by a panel that is independent of the fostering service provider. The IRM does not have the power to overturn a decision by the fostering service provider but it may make a fresh recommendation to the fostering provider on the carer’s fitness to foster a child or the terms of the approval and the council must take account of its recommendation. 
  2. The main injustice to Mrs X by the fault she alleges in the investigation and report, is being de registered. As the IRM is independent from the Council and is designed for foster carers and fostering decisions, it is reasonable to expect Mrs X to use the IRM.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because there is another body better placed.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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