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Surrey County Council (21 012 617)

Category : Children's care services > Looked after children

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 10 Jan 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s response to a complaint made against Children’s Services. This is because there is no evidence of fault on the Council’s part causing unremedied injustice to the complainant.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Mr B, complains that the Council was at fault in dealing with his complaint about the services provided to a former Looked After Child.
  2. Mr B further complains that two Council officers made false statements about him, and falsely claimed another party had acted on information which suggested a child was at risk.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse effect on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start an investigation if the tests set out in our Assessment Code are not met. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. Mr B made a complaint about the services provided to a former Looked After Child. The correspondence shows he made the complaint on his own behalf as a person with sufficient interest to complain. The Council initially accepted the complaint and offered a mediation meeting. It subsequently withdrew the offer and declined to pursue the complaint. Mr B is critical of this decision and the way it was made.
  2. Mr B says two Council officers made false statements to the effect that another party had acted on information which raised safeguarding concerns about him. He says such information and concerns did not exist.
  3. Mr B complained about these matters to the Council. He believes the Council’s response fails to properly address his concerns.
  4. We will not investigate Mr B’s complaint about the Council’s decision to withdraw the offer of mediation and to decline to consider his complaint. The decision not to treat Mr B as a person with sufficient interest to complain is reasonable and defensible. That being the case, it is not for the Ombudsman to criticise the decision, or to intervene to substitute an alternative view.
  5. With regard to the allegation that officers made false statements, I note the Council has accepted inappropriate terminology was used in a letter to Mr B. It has apologised for this, and for the distress Mr B was caused. This is an appropriate outcome and there are insufficient grounds for the Ombudsman to consider the matter further.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr B’s complaint because there is no evidence of fault causing unremedied injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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