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Derbyshire County Council (19 015 388)

Category : Children's care services > Fostering

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 29 Feb 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr and Mrs B’s complaint that the Council was at fault in failing to provide proper support for them as foster carers and in unreasonably deregistering them. This is because the complaint is late and there are insufficient grounds to investigate it now.

The complaint

  1. The complainants, who I will refer to as Mr and Mrs B, complain that the Council was at fault in failing to provide proper support for them as foster carers and in unreasonably deregistering them.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Mr and Mrs B have said in support of their complaint and the supporting documents they have provided. I have also considered their response to my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr and Mrs B were Council foster carers. The Council removed the child they were caring for in January 2017 and deregistered them as foster carers in October 2017.
  2. Mr and Mrs B complain that the Council’s officers failed to give them appropriate support in caring for the child and based the recommendation to deregister them on inaccurate information. They also state they were misled about the officers’ intention to recommend deregistration and were not told about the decision to deregister them. They took the matter through the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM), which upheld the decision to deregister.
  3. Mr and Mrs B complained to the Council, which upheld their complaint in part. They do not regard the Council’s response as sufficient and want the matter reconsidered.
  4. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr and Mrs B’s complaint because it is late. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. The matters about which Mr and Mrs B complain took place in 2017.
  5. The Ombudsman has the discretion to consider late complaints where it is appropriate to do so. That is not the case here. Mr and Mrs B have set out why they did not come to the Ombudsman earlier, but their reasons do not provide grounds to use the Ombudsman’s discretion to consider the complaint now. This is because the complaint relates to the decision to deregister them as foster carers, and this was considered under the IRM. It is not for the Ombudsman to reconsider the IRM’s decision.
  6. The IRM process does not fall within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. We cannot therefore consider matters around the decision to deregister Mr and Mrs B. This would have been the case even if the complaint made been made within 12 months. If Mr and Mrs B were critical of the support officers had given them, it would have been appropriate for them to raise this though the IRM. There are no grounds for the Ombudsman to intervene.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is late and there are insufficient grounds to investigate it now.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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