Staffordshire County Council (17 016 885)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 20 Sep 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Miss X complains the Council has failed to provide her and her son with enough support. I have decided to discontinue my investigation. The Council is now investigating Miss X’s concerns as part of the statutory complaints process for children. If Miss X remains unhappy following the conclusion of the process she can return to the Ombudsman.

The complaint

  1. Miss X complains the Council has failed to provide her and her son with enough support resulting in her asking the Council to accommodate her son.

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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 provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we are satisfied with the actions a council has taken or proposes to take. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(7), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have spoken to Miss X and considered her written complaint.
  2. Miss X and the Council have had an opportunity to comment on a draft of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 the Council may provide accommodation for any child within their area, by agreement with the parent, if it considers that to do so would safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. The Social Worker has a responsibility to make sure that parents are genuinely agreeing to Section 20 accommodation.

Statutory Complaints Process

  1. There is a formal procedure, set out in law, which the Council must follow to investigate certain types of complaint. It involves three stages:
    • Local resolution by the Council (Stage 1);
    • an investigation by an independent investigator who will prepare a detailed report and findings (Stage 2). The Council then issues an adjudication letter which sets out its response to the findings; and, if the person making the complaint asks
    • an independent panel to consider their representations (Stage 3).
  2. Regulations set out the timescales for the process. The Council should provide a response at Stage 1 within 10 working days and at Stage 2 within 25 working days (or exceptionally within 65 working days). The Council should call a review panel at Stage 3 within 30 working days.

Background

  1. In 2017 the Council agreed to provide Miss X’s son, Y, with respite support. However, the Council was unable to provide the full package due to a lack of resources. In September 2017 Miss X told the Council she was not coping and would like the Council to accommodate Y under section 20 of the Children Act.
  2. The Council did not respond to Miss X’s request. Following a cancelled session for Y Miss X complained to the Council. The Council considered the matter through its corporate complaints process. It said it needed to review Y’s risk assessments as his behaviour had become more aggressive. It accepted Y had not had the benefit of his full respite package as it had been unable to find suitable resources.
  3. In December 2017 Miss X complained further that the Council had not responded to her section 20 request, and there was no suitable support in place for Y’s Christmas holidays. The Council referred Miss X to the Ombudsman.

My findings

  1. Miss X has raised several complaints about Y’s support from the Council. The law is clear these complaints are best handled through the statutory complaints procedure outlined above. The Council has now agreed to investigate Miss X’s concerns through the statutory process. An independent investigator has been appointed and an investigation is underway.
  2. I have decided to discontinue my investigation as I consider the statutory complaints process is the best way to fully investigate Miss X’s concerns. If Miss X is unhappy following the statutory complaint process, or with the way her complaint has been handled, she can return to the Ombudsman.

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Final decision

  1. I have decided to discontinue my investigation as the Council is now investigating the complaint as part of the children’s services statutory complaints procedure.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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