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London Borough of Wandsworth (20 008 830)

Category : Children's care services > Looked after children

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 19 Jun 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We have ended our investigation into Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s actions in relation to historical abuse she suffered and how it responded to her data subject access request. This is because an investigation would not achieve anything more. In addition, Ms X can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office about her data subject access request as it is a better suited body to consider her complaint.

The complaint

  1. Ms X complained:
      1. the Council failed to protect her from significant incidents of abuse which she suffered as a child in care. She said this has had a huge impact on her mental health.
      2. the Council did not properly respond to her data subject access request. She said this has caused her anxiety and distress.
  2. Ms X wants the Council to apologise to her and provide her with a payment in recognition of the years she suffered the abuse. Ms X also wants the Council to allow her to volunteer to support cases of looked after children.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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, or
  • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint, (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I spoke with Ms X and considered the information she provided.
  2. I considered the information provided by the Council.
  3. Ms X and the Council had the opportunity to comment on the draft version of this decision. I considered their comments before making a final decision.

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What I found

Historical abuse

  1. Ms X said when she was a child, she suffered significant incidents of abuse whilst she lived in a children’s care home. She said her traumatic childhood has affected her mental health. Ms X complained to the Council. She said the Council failed to protect her from harm during her childhood years. Ms X wanted the Council to investigate the historical abuse she had suffered.
  2. The Council responded to Ms X. The Council said it acknowledged that it was appropriate to investigate Ms X’s concerns. It said the best way to do this would be with a police-led investigation with support from the Council. It informed Ms X it would allocate a specialist officer to oversee the investigation and they would act as a single point of contact. The specialist officer would assist with any enquiries, provide appropriate advice and direct Ms X to the police and support services. They would also initiate any necessary safeguarding enquiries and take appropriate action. The Council provided Ms X with the contact details of the specialist officer.

Data subject access request

  1. Ms X wanted to see the information the Council held in relation to the abuse she suffered as a child when she was under the care of the Council. She therefore submitted a data subject access request to the Council. The Council provided Ms X with the information she had requested however, Ms X was unhappy with how it was presented to her. She told the Council she has a learning disorder and the information was not presented in a chronological order which she found difficult to understand. Ms X also said the information did not reflect all incidents of abuse she had suffered. Ms X said this caused her anxiety and distress. In response, the Council offered to assist Ms X to review the information, as a reasonable adjustment. The Council informed Ms X if she remained unhappy with its response to her data subject access request, she would need to escalate the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

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Findings

  1. The Council has offered to support Ms X’s investigation with the police in relation to her historical abuse. I consider the Council’s response appropriate as it would allow the correct professionals to conduct the investigation. Further involvement from the Ombudsman would not achieve anything more.
  2. In relation to Ms X’s complaint about the data subject access request, the Council is correct in referring Ms X to the ICO if she remains unhappy with the Council’s response to her request. The ICO has broad powers to investigate complaints about access to information and can specifically deal with complaints about personal data requests. The ICO is best placed to consider this part of her complaint.

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Final decision

  1. We have ended our investigation into this complaint. This is because we are satisfied an investigation by us would not achieve anything more and Ms X can contact the ICO in relation to her data subject access request if she remains dissatisfied with the Council’s response.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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