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Salford City Council (20 009 429)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 16 Jul 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman has decided to discontinue our investigation of Ms Y’s complaint that the Council failed to make a referral to its Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) after she raised safeguarding concerns about the actions of her son’s headteacher. This is because we cannot investigate complaints about what happens in schools and any actions of the Council that are inseparable from such events.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I shall refer to here as Ms Y, complains the Council failed to make a referral to its Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) after she raised safeguarding concerns about the actions of her son’s headteacher in March 2019. She complains that the LADO failed to investigate her safeguarding concerns.
  2. Ms Y says her son missed out on six weeks of education so she could ensure he was safeguarded at home. She says the lack of involvement from the LADO affected her relationship with her son’s school. She says the situation has affected her physical and mental health.

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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 an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
  2. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  3. 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)
  4. We cannot investigate a complaint if it is about a personnel issue. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5/5a, paragraph 4, as amended)
  5. We cannot investigate complaints about what happens in schools. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5, paragraph 5(b), as amended)
  6. We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)
  7. If we are satisfied with a council’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 considered the information provided by Ms Y and by the Council. I spoke to Ms Y about her complaint.
  2. Ms Y and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered their comments before making a final decision.

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What I found

What happened

  1. In March 2019, the Council received a referral from the police about certain actions of Ms Y’s former partner connected with a non-molestation order.
  2. Following this incident involving her former partner, Ms Y contacted the Council to raise safeguarding concerns she had about the Headteacher of her son’s School.
  3. In June 2020, Ms Y complained to the Council about the lack of involvement of its Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) after she had raised safeguarding concerns about her son’s headteacher.
  4. In November, Ms Y complained to the Ombudsman.

Analysis

  1. Ms Y complains the Council failed to make a referral to its Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) after she raised safeguarding concerns about the actions of her son’s headteacher in March 2019. She complains that the LADO failed to investigate her safeguarding concerns.
  2. The Local Government Act 1974 says the Ombudsman cannot investigate any action concerning: conduct, management or discipline, in any school or other educational establishment that is maintained by the authority (except so far as relating to special educational needs). This means we cannot look at the actions of the headteacher in this complaint. Instead, it is open to Ms Y to seek redress through the school’s complaints process. This is in line with paragraph seven above.
  3. This restriction on the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction extends further than just the actions of the school. It means we also cannot look at the actions of the Council when it deals with any complaints regarding internal management of schools. These principles were confirmed by the High Court in the cases of: R (on the application of ER) v CLAE and London Borough of Hillingdon [2014] EWCA Civ 1407 and R (M) v CLAE [2006] EWHC 2847.
  4. This means I cannot investigate Ms Y’s complaint the Council failed to involve its LADO after she raised safeguarding concerns about her son’s headteacher. This is because it is inseparable from the actions of the School.
  5. Ms Y complains about the action the Council took following the police referral about her former partner. Ms Y says her former partner is still employed by the Council. In line with paragraph six above, I cannot investigate this aspect of Ms Y’s complaint as it is about a personnel issue.
  6. Ms Y also complains the Chair of a number of Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences failed to declare a conflict of interest before chairing the meetings. Ms Y says the last conference took place in March 2019. In line with paragraph five above, the law says I cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. In this case, I find that Ms Y could have complained sooner about this matter. I, therefore, do not find that an investigation into this point alone can be justified.

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Final decision

  1. I have discontinued my investigation. This is because I cannot investigate complaints about what happens in schools and any actions of the Council that are inseparable from such events.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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