Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 13 Nov 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Miss B says the Council failed to assess her needs properly when she was a homeless young person. It then failed to provide accommodation and leaving care services and support. The Council has agreed to investigate this complaint through the statutory procedures and to apologise that it has not yet done so.
- Miss B says the Council failed to consider her needs as a homeless 17-year-old and was late providing her with accommodation and services. She says that, because of this failure, she was not given leaving care status, which she should have.
- The Council investigated the complaint, which was made on Miss B’s behalf by her mother, as a corporate rather than a children’s services complaint.
- Miss B later complained to the Council’s legal services but did not hear anything.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- 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.
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information provided by Miss B and had email correspondence with her. I assessed the Council’s complaints responses to her mother. I sent Miss B and the Council a copy of my draft decision and took account of their comments before I issued a decision.
What I found
- Miss B’s mother made a complaint about the Council failing to treat Miss B appropriately both when she was homeless and when she left care, on behalf of Miss B. Miss B recalls signing permission for her mother to do this.
- However, the Council then took the complaint as being her mother’s complaint. It addressed the issue as a corporate, rather than a children’s social care, complaint. As Miss B was below 18 at the time of the matters complained of, the Council should have considered her complaint through the children’s (statutory) process rather than through the corporate process.
- Its failure to consider Miss B’s complaint is fault. It should apologise to Miss B for failing to do this given Miss B’s mother was acting for her. It should now investigate her complaint at Stage Two of the statutory process. This is set out in ‘Getting the best from complaints’ (2006). It involves the Council identifying an Investigating Officer and an Independent Person to look at Miss B’s case. The Council is asked to do this within two months of the date of my decision. The Council should ensure it takes complaints through the statutory process if and when an adult is making a complaint on behalf of a child. It should do this within two months of the date of my decision.
- If Miss B remains unhappy after the Stage Two, and at Stage Three, she is able to come back to the Ombudsman to ask us to look further at the matters complained of.
- For the Council to apologise to Miss B for failing to consider her complaints under the appropriate procedure within one month of the date of my decision.
- For the Council to investigate Miss B’s complaints at Stage Two of the statutory children’s services complaints procedure within two months of the date of my decision.
- For the Council to ensure it directs complaints through the statutory procedure when an adult is making a complaint on behalf of a young person. It should make any necessary changes to its procedures within two months of the date of my decision.
- Fault leading to injustice and a remedy has been agreed.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman