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Lancashire County Council (21 004 534)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 26 Aug 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint that the Council failed to assess the complainants suitability for contact with children. Whilst there was a delay in the Council responding to Mr X’s request, this did not cause him an injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will call Mr X, complains that the Council refused to assess his suitability for contact with children. Mr X says the Council’s actions has meant he has missed out on time with his family and has caused him frustration.

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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
  • any fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered Mr X’s complaint and the Council’s response.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. The complainant now has an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I will consider their comments before making a final decision.

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My assessment

  1. Mr X was convicted of sexual offences. He is therefore subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) which prevents him ‘from having or seeking contact or any communication with any child under the age of 16 years other than with the permission of the child’s parent or guardian, that person to be made aware of his convictions and with the express approval of social services for the area.’
  2. In April 2021, Mr X contacted the Council and said he wanted contact with children. The Council say that a member of staff incorrectly believed another agency were responsible for carrying out the assessment and therefore it took no further action.
  3. The Council has now contacted the parents of the children that Mr X requested contact with. The Council said that the children’s mother would only agree for Mr X to have contact with the children with her supervision, but Mr X had declined this, stating that he wanted the children’s father to supervise his contact. The Council have therefore decided not to carry out an assessment.
  4. I will not investigate this complaint because I do not consider that Mr X has been caused an injustice significant enough to warrant our further involvement. Mr X has previously requested contact with the children, but agreement was not reached with the parents. Mr X made a further request for contact, and whilst the Council did delay responding, the disagreement between the parents about Mr X’s contact remains the same. Therefore, I do not consider that the actions of the Council has caused Mr X to miss out on time with his family.
  5. The Council cannot force parents to agree to have contact with Mr X or how that contact should be supervised. The Council has previously directed Mr X and the children’s father towards mediation and court proceedings.

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Final decision

  1. I will not investigate this complaint. This is because the Council there is because the Council’s actions did not cause Mr X an injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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