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Kingston Upon Hull City Council (21 005 545)

Category : Children's care services > Looked after children

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 10 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about children services’ actions in the 1970s. There are no good reasons we should not apply the late complaint rule.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, complains about the way the Council’s children services team cared for him, and protected him, as a child in the 1970s.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Mr X.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. I considered Mr X’s comments on a draft version of this decision.

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My assessment

  1. Mr X complained to the Council in early June 2021 about the Council’s involvement in his childhood in the 1970s. He said there was a lack of safeguarding and a lack of support. He says this led to him suffering significant harm as a child. He says this affected him throughout his life. The Council refused to investigate his complaint as it said it was out of time.
  2. Mr X says he got the Council’s records about his childhood 20 years ago. But they disturb him so much he has not been able to have the strength to complain until this year.
  3. We will not investigate complaints about events which have been known to a complainant for more than 12 months unless there are very clear reason for doing so and:
      1. We are confident there is a realistic prospect of reaching a sound, fair, and meaningful decision, and
      2. We are satisfied the complainant could not reasonably be expected to have complained sooner.
  4. I am not satisfied Mr X’s complaint satisfies those two tests because:
      1. The events are so far away that it will be more difficult to find out the material facts with reasonable confidence. We are unlikely to be able to gather enough evidence to reach a sound judgement. Even if some evidence is available, it will be too difficult to ensure it is reliable, and provides a full picture.
      2. Current standards, guidance, or professional expectations were not the same in the 1970s as now. It is therefore unlikely we will be able to reach a firm and fair conclusion on whether there was maladministration.
      3. We are unlikely to be able to achieve a meaningful remedy. This is because of the time passed, the difficulty in proving causality over longer time periods, and changes in the parties’ situations.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because as there are no good reasons the late complaint rule should not be applied.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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