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Bristol City Council (19 018 906)

Category : Children's care services > Fostering

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 23 Feb 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint that the Council was at fault in failing to properly investigate an allegation against him and in the process leading to the decision to deregister him as a foster carer. This is because the matters about which Mr B complains are not separable from the those under consideration by the Independent Review Mechanism, and the level of any injustice caused to Mr B cannot be determined at this stage.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Mr B, complains that the Council was at fault in failing to properly investigate an allegation against him, and in the process leading to the decision to deciding to deregister him as a foster carer.

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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 we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Mr B has said in support of his complaint. I have also taken account of the evidence he has provided in response to my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr B is a foster carer for the Council. He says a false allegation of abuse was made against him in 2019. He complains that the Council was at fault in how it considered the allegation, which it decided to regard as unsubstantiated. He argues that the Council failed to scrutinise the allegation and ignored evidence he presented.
  2. Mr B also complains that the Council raised what it regarded as significant concerns about his fostering abilities. He regards these concerns as without foundation and complains that the Council failed to substantiate them. He also believes his refutation of the Council’s allegations was not properly considered.
  3. The Council subsequently recommended that Mr B be deregistered as a foster carer. Mr B has challenged the decision and the matter is within the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM). He has also complained to the Council about its actions.
  4. The Council has declined to investigate Mr B’s complaint grounds that the issues will be considered through the IRM. It has said Mr B may complain again when the IRM has reached a conclusion. Mr B disputes the Council’s position. He argues that the matters about which he complains are distinct from those considered by the IRM, and that an IRM manager has confirmed this.
  5. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint. The matters about which he complains are bound up with the decision to recommend deregistration, and the IRM will consider whether officers were correct to make the recommendation. This will necessarily include consideration of the allegations against Mr B. The matters are not separable, and the Council is not at fault in declining to consider them before the IRM concludes.
  6. When deciding whether to investigate a complaint, the Ombudsman must take a view on the nature and extent of the injustice the complainant may have suffered. This cannot be determined in Mr B’s case before we know whether the IRM upholds the decision to deregister him. We could not therefore make a finding on the substantive matters and there is nothing to be gained from the Ombudsman’s involvement at this stage.
  7. It is open to Mr B to complain to the Council again once the IRM has concluded, as the Council has made clear. If he is unhappy with the Council’s response under its complaints procedure, he may wish to come to the Ombudsman at that point.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. Investigation would achieve nothing significant at this stage. This is because the matters about which Mr B complains are not separable from the matters under consideration by the Independent Review Mechanism, and the level of any injustice caused to Mr B cannot be determined at this stage.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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