Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 17 Mar 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the advice provided to the complainant by the Council’s Children’s Services regarding her application to become the carer of a child. This is because there is no fault in the Council’s actions.
- The complainant, who I refer to here as Mrs X, complains that in July 2019 the Council’s Children’s Services told her to seek legal advice regarding her request to be a carer for a child, and did not provide information about the option to represent herself. Mrs X says this resulted in her paying £2000 of unnecessary legal fees.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe it is unlikely we would find fault. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information Mrs X provided with her complaint. I also considered the information the Council provided. Additionally I sent Mrs X a draft version of this decision and considered the comments she later sent.
What I found
- In July 2019, Mrs X contacted the Council’s Children’s Services upon discovering that a child known to her had been taken into care. Mrs X wanted to know if she could be considered as a legal guardian for the child. Later that month, the Council sent Mrs X a letter stating that she should seek legal advice if she wished to make an application to the Family Court.
- Mrs X sought legal advice from a solicitor but when her legal fees reached £2000, she stopped the legal representation, as she had discovered that it was optional. She says she had not been previously aware that seeking legal advice was optional and that the Council should have told her this.
- Mrs X complained to the Council in January 2021 and requested a reimbursement of her legal fees. The Council responded to Mrs X later that month and said a letter that had been sent to her in July 2019 advised her to seek legal advice on the matter, but did not say that she must do so. It further said the solicitor should have made her aware of her options, including the option of making an application herself. The Council informed Mrs X it would therefore not reimburse her legal costs.
- Mrs X has now complained to the LGSCO but we will not investigate the complaint. This is because the Council’s advice said only that she should contact a solicitor, not that she must do so. This is sound advice, and there is no fault by the Council in providing it.
I will not investigate this complaint because there is no fault in the actions of the Council.
Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman