Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 04 Oct 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We have discontinued our investigation into Miss B’s complaint about delays to a special guardianship assessment. The Council has already accepted fault and offered a satisfactory remedy.
- The complainant, whom I refer to as Miss B, complains that the Council significantly delayed completing an assessment after she decided she wanted to become a special guardian for her sister.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide further investigation would not lead to a different outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
- Under the information sharing agreement between the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), we will share this decision with Ofsted.
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information from Miss B and the Council. Both parties had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
What I found
- In August 2020, Miss B told the Council that she wanted to apply for a special guardianship order for her sister.
- The Council started an assessment. However, in June 2021 this assessment was still not complete. Miss B complained to the Council about this.
- After responding at both stages of its complaints procedure, the Council accepted that there had been significant delays to its assessment. It offered a total of £800 to recognise the injustice caused: £300 for Miss B’s distress, £300 for her sister’s distress, and £200 for the time and trouble Miss B took in pursuing the complaint.
- The Council also told Miss B that it would complete the assessment by the end of August 2021. But it did not do so.
- The Council now says it was instructed by the Family Court to file documents by the end of September.
- The Council has already accepted fault for the long delay in completing its assessment, so it would not be proportionate for me to reinvestigate the delay. And, as the Council ended up working to a court-imposed deadline for completing the assessment, any further delays are a matter for the Court.
- I have, however, considered whether the Council’s remedy is satisfactory.
- The Ombudsman says in our remedy guidance that, when we decide financial remedies, they “are not intended to be punitive and we do not award compensation in the way that a court might”. Instead, we recommend token payments which ‘recognise’ an injustice.
- Our guidance says a remedy payment for distress is often between £100 and £300 (although in cases where the distress was severe or prolonged, more may be justified). This is because the Ombudsman is not an organisation which can properly decide the monetary value which should be placed on the ‘distress’ someone has suffered. Only a court can do this.
- The Council’s financial offer to Miss B and her sister is within the Ombudsman’s usual range of distress remedy payments, so is satisfactory.
- Because of this, further investigation would not lead to a different outcome.
- I have discontinued my investigation. The Council has already accepted fault and offered a satisfactory remedy.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman