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Suffolk County Council (21 003 550)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 10 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about advice given to the complainant on the phone regarding her allegations that her daughter’s school was not considering her welfare properly. This is because investigation could not achieve a worthwhile outcome.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I refer to here as Mrs K, says that she twice phoned the Council to ask for advice on how to complain about her daughter’s treatment by staff at her school. She says she was given conflicting advice, and that the Council wrongly did not regard her contacted as a safeguarding issue.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide:
  • there is not enough evidence of fault to justify investigating, or
  • we could not add to any previous investigation by the organisation, or
  • further investigation would not lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the Mrs K and by the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. I gave Mrs K an opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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My assessment

  1. Mrs K first contacted the Council in July 2019 regarding the way in which her daughter was being treated by staff at her school. She was referred to the School’s complaint procedure, and her complaint was then investigated by the School. Mrs K says that her enquiry should have been treated as a safeguarding concern. There are no records of the call as Mrs K did not provide her details, so there is nothing that investigation of the issue could achieve.
  2. Mrs K contacted the Council again in February 2020. She was referred to OFSTED, which looked into her concerns, but told her that any safeguarding issues would have to be considered by the Council.
  3. Mrs K complained to the Council in January 2021, that her concerns should have been considered through its safeguarding procedures when she contacted it in February 2020. The Council says there is no longer any record of the call. However, it says that if the concerns raised had been relation to wellbeing and safeguarding incidents, a referral to safeguarding would have been made, but that it believed the issue raised was in relation to the way in which the Chair of Governors dealt with her concerns, and that was why Mrs K was referred to OFSTED. Without a record of the call, there is no way in which I can reconcile the opposing recollections of what was said.
  4. Although Mrs K is also unhappy with the lack of any record of the call, data protection requires organisations to have a data retention policy ensuring that data is not retained when no longer needed.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because investigation could not achieve a worthwhile outcome as it would not provide additional information to enable us to make an evidence based decision as we are required to do.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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