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West Sussex County Council (17 020 409)

Category : Children's care services > Looked after children

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 27 Apr 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s responses to questions raised about its involvement with the complainant and her daughter. This is because investigation would not add anything further to the Council’s investigation and response.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I refer to here as Ms S, says that the Council has not responded to a series of questions she has raised in relation to the Council’s involvement with her and her daughter, who is Looked After under a Section 20 Order.

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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:
  • any injustice caused is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information provided by Ms S and I have sent her a draft decision for her comments.

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What I found

  1. Ms S has a daughter, D, who is currently Looked After under a Section 20 Order.
  2. Ms S raised a number of questions about the Council’s relationship and communications with her, in relation to care for D and support and appropriate involvement for Ms S. The Council treated the questions as complaints. After a stage one response, Ms S remained dissatisfied, and added a number of questions relating to the stage one investigation and response.
  3. The Council provided a response at stage two of the complaints procedures to the questions raised by Ms S.
  4. It said that some of the issues had been upheld at stage one, and apologies given. It said there was no further action it could take on these issues.
  5. Of some of the questions, it said they related to decisions or actions that were not the Council’s responsibility, and so it could not make a finding.
  6. Responses have been provided for the other questions, many of them by the specific officers that the questions were aimed at. Most were not upheld. For those that were upheld, the stage two offers apologies and in two cases, recommends actions to remedy any outstanding issues.
  7. There is nothing that investigation by the LGSCO could add to the Council’s investigation, and I cannot see any further outcome we could provide. Mrs S says she is dissatisfied because the Council has not responded to her questions, but I cannot agree with her view. I consider that it has responded, but it does not accept the premise of some of her questions, and Ms S does not accept or agree with the answers provided.
  8. Additionally, where fault has been admitted, we are unlikely to find that significant injustice warranting investigation has been caused.

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Final decision

  1. Subject to any comments Ms S might make, my view is that the Ombudsman should not investigate this complaint. This is because we cannot add anything to the Council’s investigation, and we are unlikely to find that significant injustice has been caused to Ms S.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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