London Borough of Camden (23 007 502)

Category : Children's care services > Looked after children

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 08 Jan 2024

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr B complained that the Council in respect of his statutory complaint about children’s services, had failed to recognise the injustice caused by the identified fault and failed to offer a sufficient payment to put matters right. We concluded the Council should increase the payment from £280 to £480.

The complaint

  1. Mr B complained that the London Borough of Camden (the Council) in respect of his statutory complaint about children’s services, had failed to recognise the injustice caused by the identified fault and failed to offer a sufficient payment to put matters right. This has caused Mr B distress and inconvenience.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused significant injustice, or that could cause injustice to others in the future we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
  2. If we are satisfied with an organisation’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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the complaint and the documents provided by the complainant, made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council provided. Mr B and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
  2. Under our information sharing agreement, we will share this decision with the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted).

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What I found

Leaving care

  1. The Children Act 1989 places duties on councils to provide ongoing support for children leaving care. These duties continue until they reach age 21. If the council is helping them with education and training, the duty continues until age 25 or to the end of the agreed training (which can take them beyond their 25th birthday). 
  2. Councils should appoint each care leaver with a personal adviser, and each care leaver should have a pathway plan. The personal adviser will act as a focal point to ensure the care leaver is provided with the right kind of support. The pathway plan should be based on a thorough assessment of the person’s needs. Plans should include specific actions and deadlines detailing who will take what action and when. They should be reviewed at least every six months by a social worker. 
  3. Pathway plans should continue for all care leavers continuing in education or training. The plan should include details of the practical and financial support the council will provide. 

Statutory complaints procedure

  1. The law sets out a three-stage procedure for councils to follow when looking at most complaints about children’s social care services. The accompanying statutory guidance, Getting the Best from Complaints, explains councils’ responsibilities in more detail.
  2. The first stage of the procedure is local resolution. Councils have up to 20 working days to respond.
  3. If a complainant is not happy with a council’s stage one response, they can ask that it is considered at stage two. At this stage of the procedure, councils appoint an investigating officer (IO) to look into the complaint and an independent person (IP) who is responsible for overseeing the investigation and ensuring its independence.
  4. Following the investigation, a senior manager (the adjudicating officer) at the council should carry out an adjudication. The officer considers the IO report and any report from the IP. They decide what the council’s response to the complaint will be, including what action it will take. The adjudicating officer should then write to the complainant with a copy of the investigation report, any report from the independent person and the adjudication response.
  5. The whole stage two process should be completed within 25 working days but guidance allows an extension for up to 65 working days where required.
  6. If a complainant is unhappy with the outcome of the stage two investigation, they can ask for a stage three review by an independent panel. The council must hold the panel within 30 working days of the date of request, and then issue a final response within 20 working days of the panel hearing.
  7. The statutory children’s complaints procedure was set up to provide children, young people and those involved in their welfare with access to an independent, thorough and prompt response to their concerns. Because of this, if a council has investigated something under the statutory children’s complaint process, the Ombudsman would not normally re-investigate it.

What happened

  1. Mr B had been looked after by the Council since 2021. He was involved in an incident at his accommodation and the police were called. After this the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) diagnosed PTSD and said his mental health was affected by how he viewed a physical disability (which affected his mobility). The Council’s looked after children team requested help from the children with disabilities team to work with Mr B on accepting his physical disability. The Council noted that health professionals had said there was no quick fix for this condition. The Council funded studio sessions and a gym membership for Mr B.
  2. On 7 January 2022 Mr B’s accommodation provider gave the Council 28 days’ notice for Mr B to leave due to behavioural issues. By 21 January 2022 Mr B had not been told he needed to move. The accommodation provider was concerned about his reaction to the news. Mr B was told on 27 January 2022, and he moved to the new accommodation in a different area on 3 February 2022.
  3. On the same day a physiotherapist raised concerns about the suitability of the accommodation due to stairs. He viewed different accommodation on 4 February 2022 which was all on the ground floor and moved there on 7 February 2022.
  4. Mr B said he was unhappy in the new placement and the Council held a professionals meeting in March 2022 to discuss a possible move back to Camden. Mr B also made a stage one complaint about the way the move was managed. Mr B moved back to different accommodation in Camden in April 2022.
  5. The Council responded to his stage one complaint on 4 April 2022. It apologised for the short notice move, the lack of opportunity to visit and the failure to carry out a risk assessment regarding his mobility. It arranged funded transport to and from his CAMHS appointments. Mr B remained unhappy and escalated his complaint to stage two of the complaints procedure.
  6. His pathway plan was reviewed in May 2022 and a meeting was held at his accommodation. The review covered his accommodation, education, health, finances and family issues. The report said Mr B did not feel the Council was supporting his needs. His consultant had advised him to do four to six months of strengthening work before they would consider recommending surgery for his physical condition. He had another appointment in July 2022. The Council had offered gym membership at a local gym, but Mr B preferred a different one. The Council looked into his preference but concluded it did not offer anything more than the one it had a contract with. It offered to contribute towards his preferred option but not cover the whole cost. The Council met again with Mr B at the end of May 2022 to discuss the areas of disagreement over finances, gym membership and support to obtain surgery for his condition.
  7. In July the consultant advised him to continue with the strengthening work and said there were no further surgeries which would help. Mr B wanted a second opinion, but his medical team did not consider that was a good idea. The Council agreed to fund a personal trainer for Mr B for four to six weeks.
  8. An Investigating Officer (IO) and Independent Person (IP) were appointed on 20 September 2022, and they met with Mr B and his representative on 14 October 2022 to agree a statement of complaint.
  9. The Council reviewed Mr B’s pathway plan in October 2022 and sent a copy to Mr B by email. It contained preparations for after he reached 18. The review noted that Mr B wanted a second opinion regarding surgery, that he did not want to progress with the occupational therapy service and did not wish to meet with his CAMHS workers. It noted that he needed to continue to work positively with staff at his accommodation to demonstrate independent living skills.
  10. The IO and IP completed their investigation in January 2023. They upheld the following complaints:
    • The Council had given Mr B insufficient notice of the move to new accommodation.
    • The Council did not obtain Mr B’s views on the move.
    • Mr B did not have a chance to visit the new accommodation.
    • The Council failed to do a risk assessment of the new accommodation.
  11. They did not uphold complaints about the move affecting his connections with friends and family, that the Council did not consider the impact on his gym or music studio sessions or his safety. It did not uphold the complaint that the pathway plan was one-sided and said it contained Mr B’s views. But it did criticise the Council for carrying out the review as part of a looked-after child review and for not meeting with Mr B prior to the review taking place.
  12. The Council sent its adjudication letter on 9 February 2023. It offered him £100 for his time and trouble and his social worker committed to work with Mr B and his advocate in developing his pathway plan and considering the next steps towards independence.
  13. Mr B escalated his complaint to stage three shortly after receiving the adjudication letter. He wanted £5,000 - £10,000 compensation. The review panel met on 14 April 2023. It upheld the complaint about the pathway plan and said Mr B had not been involved in the preparation of the report presented to the review meeting and had not seen it prior to the review meeting. He had been disadvantaged by being asked to comment on it without prior notice. It supported Mr B’s desired outcome of the pathway plan to reflect his accommodation and educational needs in relation to this disability.
  14. The Council’s final letter following the review panel, sent on 1 June 2023, offered an additional £80 for the delays in the complaints process and increased the £100 to £200 (making a total of £280). The Council agreed that the failure to include him properly in the pathway plan review impacted on how well he felt heard by the service. The Council said it was not its intention and said it had learnt from the complaint. It had reminded the relevant officers that the pathway plan and looked after child reviews should be held separately due to their different functions. It had also advised that a separate meeting should be arranged with a young person to discuss the pathway plan and they should be consulted on the proposed report before the review takes place.
  15. Mr B complained to us in August 2023.
  16. In response to my enquiries the Council said that there was no pathway plan review in April 2023 as Mr B did not want to engage with the process. The Council carried out a review in October 2023, but Mr B did not engage with it.


Complaint delay

  1. The Council considered Mr B’s complaint thoroughly, but it accepts there was some delay in completing all three stages. The Council sent its stage one complaint response on 4 April 2022 but did not start the stage two until 20 September 2022. I do not know when Mr B requested a stage two investigation, so I am unable to determine the cause of the delay between April and September 2022.
  2. The IO and IP completed their reports within about 17 weeks and the Council sent its adjudication letter three and a half weeks later. So, the delay at stage two was about seven and a half weeks. The review panel was held on 14 April 2023 approximately two months after the adjudication letter but the Council did not send its final letter until 1 June 2023, about six weeks later, about two week outside the statutory timescale.
  3. In total I have identified almost ten weeks of delay, so I consider the £80 offered by the Council for this is reasonable.

Failures around the move in January/February 2022

  1. The Council accepted that it failed to give Mr B sufficient notice of the move, the opportunity to visit before he moved and failed to carry out a risk assessment to identify the mobility issues with the first accommodation. This meant Mr B was caused distress and uncertainty at a difficult time and had to move twice in quick succession due to the unsuitability of the first flat.
  2. The Council has also accepted it did not hold a separate pathway plan review or properly involved Mr B in that review. This caused Mr B distress as he felt the Council was not listening to him. I have not identified any services or provision that Mr B missed out on because of this. I am satisfied that the Council properly considered the issue of health care for his disability, gym membership/personal trainer options and finances during this period.
  3. I welcome the Council’s offer of £200 for Mr B’s injustice but given the disruption, poor planning and short notice of the moves, combined with the lack of involvement in the pathway plan review, I consider the Council should increase this to £400.

Agreed action

  1. I recommended the Council within one month of the date of my final decision increases the payment to Mr B from £280 to £480.
  2. The Council has agreed to my recommendation and should provide us with evidence it has complied with the above action.

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Final decision

  1. I consider this is a proportionate way of putting right the injustice caused to Mr B and I have completed my investigation on this basis.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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