Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 16 Dec 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: There is no evidence of fault by the Council in how it considered Miss X’s complaints about the welfare of her son and the use of his disability living allowance by his foster carers.
- Miss X complains:
- The Council has not properly investigated her concerns about the welfare of her son, Y, in foster care. Miss X is concerned her son is scared of the foster carers, is dressed in worn clothes and in shoes that do not fit him. She also complains the foster carer cannot manage her son’s behaviour and she considers the Council should return Y to her care.
- The Council has not provided Miss X with bank statements and receipts to show how Y’s DLA and fostering allowance is spent as directed by the court during the making of the care order. Miss X is concerned the foster carers could be financially abusing Y.
- Miss X also complains the Council failed to provide support to her rather than seeking a care order in 2014/15 and that a social worker insulted her in 2014.
What I have investigated
- I have investigated complaints a) and b). I explain at the end of this statement why I have not investigated complaint c). I have investigated events from January 2018 to February 2020.
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)
- 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:
- it is unlikely we would find fault, or
- the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
- 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 have:
- Considered the complaint and the information provided by Miss X;
- Discussed the issues with Miss X;
- Made enquiries of the Council and considered the information provided;
- Invited Miss X and the Council to comment on the draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
What I found
- In 2015 the Court granted a care order for Y and he was placed in the care of the Council. Y lives with foster carers and Miss X and Mr Z, Y’s father, have contact with him. The Council reviews Y’s care at care planning meetings, Child in Care reviews and through statutory visits.
- In January 2018, Y’s school referred Miss X’s concerns about a bruise on Y’s arm to the Council. The Council’s record notes there was no suggestion of someone harming Y. The bruise was discussed at a care planning meeting together with Miss X’s concerns about holes in Y’s socks. The record of the meeting notes Y would be referred to a podiatrist and an update provided to Miss X and Mr Z.
- The Council visited Miss X and Mr Z in response to an earlier complaint. The Council has said Miss X advised officers she had photographs. I understand these were photographs showing the condition of Y’s clothes and feet. The Council has said Miss X did not share the photographs at this time and officers advised her to raise her concerns with Y’s social worker.
- The Council’s records show Miss X raised concerns about how the foster carers were spending Y’s Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and this was considered at a Child in Care review in June 2018. The record of the meeting notes the supervising social worker did not have concerns about how Y’s DLA was used.
- Miss X contacted the Council in August 2018 to complain about a telephone call from Y’s foster carer as she considered she was checking up on her when she had taken Y out for the day. She also raised complaints about the foster carer bullying Y. The incidents Miss X referred to happened some years ago. The Council investigated Miss X’s complaint and considered the issues had been largely dealt with in Miss X’s complaint of 2017.
- In March 2019 Miss X and Mr Z raised concerns about Y’s clothing when he was at respite care and care of Y by the foster carer. These concerns were discussed at a care planning meeting. The record of the meeting shows Miss X and Mr Z’s issues were discussed with the foster carer but there were no concerns about Y’s care. The child in care review held in June 2019 shows Y attended a podiatry appointment regarding the concerns about his feet but did not require any treatment.
- Miss X raised further concerns with the Council in August 2018. The majority of her concerns dated from 2014 to 2016. She also said Y did not like the foster carer and she could not manage Y’s behaviour. The Council advised Miss X that it had previously investigated Miss X’s concerns and responded to her. It also advised her to raise any current concerns about Y’s welfare with Y’s social worker.
- The Council held a care planning meeting in October 2019. The record of the meeting shows Miss X raised her concerns about Y’s behaviour when he was with the foster carer. The record shows the meeting discussed Miss X’s concerns and gave reasons for Y’s behaviours. The Council also gave Miss X a complaint form and invited Miss X to speak to officers about her concerns which she declined.
- The Council held meetings with Miss X in November 2019 to discuss her complaint. Miss X later provided photographs of Y’s clothes and feet and explained these were taken in January 2018.
- Miss X raised a number of complaints including historical complaints about the foster carer bullying Y, foster carer calling Miss X when Y was on a day out with her, the foster carer’s spending of Y’s DLA, Y wearing worn clothes and poorly fitting shoes and the foster carer being unable to manage Y’s behaviour. The Council did not uphold Miss X’s complaints. It advised Miss X to raise any future concerns about Y’s welfare with his social worker as soon as they became concerned.
Miss X’s complaints about the care of Y
- The evidence shows the Council considered Miss X’s complaints about Y’s care at the care planning meetings, the child in care review meetings and in response to her complaints. The Council has explained to Miss X why it does not have concerns for Y’s care in response to the issues she had raised. So, I am satisfied the Council has considered Miss X’s concerns about Y’s care.
- The Council’s records show it regularly monitored Y’s care at a number of care planning meetings, child in care reviews and statutory visits during 2018 and 2019. The reports note there were no concerns about Y’s care and welfare. So, I am satisfied the Council has properly monitored Y’s care and welfare.
- I understand Miss X disagrees with the Council’s position that there are no concerns about Y’s care. But as there is no evidence of fault in how the Council considered Miss X’s concerns, I do not have grounds to question its decision.
Use of Y’s DLA
- Miss X considers the care order provides she can see receipts and bank statements showing how Y’s DLA is spent. I have seen the care order and it does not include this provision. The Council has explained it would not normally provide receipts and bank statements to parents. So, I am satisfied the Council is not at fault for not providing this information to Miss X.
- The evidence shows the Council has considered Miss X’s concerns about how the foster carer is spending Y’s DLA and explained to her why it considers the expenditure to be appropriate. So, there is no evidence of fault by the Council.
- There is no evidence of fault by the Council in how it considered Miss X’s complaints about the welfare of her son and the use of his disability living allowance by his foster carers. I have therefore completed my investigation.
Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate
- I have not investigated complaint c) as we normally expect people to make a complaint to us within 12 months of when they first became aware of their complaint, unless there are good reasons to do so. Complaint c) dates back to 2014 and I consider Miss X could have made a complaint to us about these matters sooner. Furthermore, the events are now some six years old so I could not reliably investigate those matters now due to the passage of time. I therefore consider there are no good reasons to investigate complaint c).
- Miss X wants the Council to return Y to her care. This is not a complaint I can investigate, and I cannot achieve this outcome for Miss X. The decision to place Y in care of the Council was taken by the court. So, it is a matter for the court to decide if the care of Y should be changed. Miss X will need to apply to the court if she wishes to challenge the care order and the decision to place Y in the care of the Council.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman