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London Borough of Tower Hamlets (21 005 529)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 08 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Miss C’s complaint that the Council failed to provide appropriate support for her and other family members. This is because her complaint is late and there are no grounds to consider it now.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Miss C, complains that the Council failed to provide appropriate support for her and other family members between 1992 and 1999.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
  2. 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 we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
  3. We cannot investigate a complaint about the start of court action or what happened in court. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5/5A, paragraph 1/3, as amended)
  4. We investigate complaints about councils and certain other bodies. We cannot investigate the actions of bodies such as the National Health Service. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 25 and 34A, as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the complainant.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. The complainant has had the opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I have considered her comments.

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My assessment

  1. Miss C says that in 1992 her mother was detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. As a result, she and her siblings were placed in the Council’s care for eight weeks before being returned to their mother. Miss C complains that the decisions to detain her mother, to accuse her of child neglect, and to place the children in care were flawed.
  2. Miss C further complains that, between 1992 and 1999, the Council failed to act to support her and her family in dealing with the effects of her mother’s mental health issues. She says this has had a detrimental impact on the lives of all family members.
  3. We will not investigate this complaint because it is late. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a Council has done. The period at issue ended more than 20 years ago. The complaint is therefore late and we will not consider it.
  4. Even if the complaint was not late, we could not achieve the outcomes Miss C wants. The decisions to detain Miss C’s mother and to place Miss C in care were made by the courts, and the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction to consider them. It is also unlikely we could reach a safe view on whether the Council’s decisions relating to the support, or lack of it, offered to the family were reasonable, given that it is over two decades since those decisions were made.
  5. Miss C says she wants Council staff prosecuted. That is a matter for the police, and we cannot intervene. She also says she was assaulted by a third party unconnected to the Council. This too is a police matter, and not for the Ombudsman to consider.
  6. Miss C also complains about the actions of healthcare professionals. By law, the Ombudsman cannot investigate this matter.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because the complaint is late.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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