The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: we discontinued our investigation into Mrs X’s complaint that the Council did not offer her suitable fostering placements for a year. Mrs X also complained the Council failed to communicate with her when a child placed in her care went missing. The Council has offered a remedy which Mrs X has accepted, and the other part of her complaint is late.
- Mrs X complained a looked after child went missing from her care in July 2020 and the Council did not contact her to provide an update for four days, which caused her anxiety and distress. Mrs X says since then the Council failed to follow its policies about arranging suitable placements, so she has lost her carer’s salary.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended).
- 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).
- We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended).
How I considered this complaint
- I have discussed the complaint with the complainant and considered the complaint and the copy correspondence provided by the complainant. I have considered the documents the Council provided. Mrs X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered their comments before making a final decision.
What I found
- Mrs X complained that the Council failed to offer suitable child placements, in accordance with its policies for a year from June 2020. Offers were made, but Mrs X said the Council did not ensure all the placements were properly matched. These issues were ongoing when Mrs X complained to the Council in July 2021, so we do not consider this part of the complaint to be late.
- The Council responded to Mrs X’s complaint, and it has now offered a remedy which Mrs X has accepted.
- As the Council has offered a suitable remedy and further investigation will serve no useful purpose, I have discontinued our investigation.
- I have discontinued my investigation for the reasons I have explained.
Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate
- I have not investigated Mrs X’s complaint about the actions of the Council in July 2020, when a child she was fostering went missing from her home. Mrs X did not complain to the Council until July 2021, then came to the Ombudsman in September 2021. Therefore, as described at paragraph 3, this part of the complaint is late.
- We have discretion to set aside this restriction where we decide there are good reasons. In this case we have decided not to exercise discretion. It was reasonable to expect Mrs X to complain to the Council or to us sooner. Mrs X has not provided good reasons why she did not complain to us within 12 months of knowing about the issue.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman