Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 22 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Council has now progressed Ms J’s complaint to stage two of the statutory procedure for complaints about children’s services. So the Ombudsman should not consider the complaint further at this stage, as he can consider delay in the complaint-handling if Ms J resubmits her complaint at the end of the procedure.
- Ms J complains about the Council’s refusal to acknowledge a duty to accommodate a child she currently cares for, and its delay in considering her complaint about this.
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 provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we are satisfied with the actions a council has taken or proposes to take. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(7), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information Ms J provided with her complaint, and discussed the complaint with her over the phone. I have also considered information provided by the Council about the progress of the complaint through the complaints procedure.
What I found
- Ms J cares for the child of a late friend. Nobody in the UK has parental responsibility for the child and the child’s leave to remain in the UK expires at the end of 2018. In 2017, Ms J complained to the Council about its refusal to acknowledge a duty to accommodate the child.
- The law sets out a procedure for considering complaints about children’s services. This includes complaints about the failure to accommodate a child. So this was the procedure for the Council to use to consider Ms J’s complaint.
- The procedure has three stages. In August 2017, Ms J asked the Council to consider her complaint at stage 2 of the procedure. At stage 2, the Council appoints an investigating officer, and an independent person who oversees the investigation. If a complainant is unhappy with the outcome of the stage 2 investigation, they can ask for a stage 3 review.
- There are clear timescales for considering a complaint through this procedure. From the point at which a complainant requests a stage 2 investigation, the Council usually has 25 working days in which to complete the investigation, including issuing its own adjudication on the investigation outcome. This timescale exists because complaints coming under this procedure are often, as in this case, urgent.
- The Council is only now appointing an investigating officer and independent person to progress Ms J’s complaint at stage 2. But it is usually in everybody’s best interests for a complaint to complete this procedure before we consider it. Ms J can contact us again if she remains unhappy after stage 3 of the procedure, and we can at that point consider the impact of any delay in the Council’s complaint-handling.
- So we should not consider Ms J’s complaint at this stage. She can contact us again if there is any further departure from the timescales in the procedure.
- The Council has agreed to progress the complaint through the statutory procedure for complaints about children’s services. It should do this without any further delay, as the question of the legal arrangements for child’s long-term welfare needs to be settled urgently.
- The Ombudsman should not investigate this complaint, because the Council has agreed to take satisfactory action towards resolving it.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman