The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr and Mrs X complain about the Council’s decision not to issue their daughter with a Child in Need plan despite confirming it necessary to make social care provision her. We found no evidence of fault in the way the Council considered these matters. So, we are completing our investigation.
- I have called the complainants Mr and Mrs X. They complain about the Council’s decision not to issue their daughter Y with a Child in Need (CiN) plan. Mr and Mrs X say the Council should issue Y with a plan as it has confirmed Y is a CiN. They say in addition the Council also assessed Y under section 17 of the Children’s Act 1989 (Act) and determined it was necessary to make social care provision for her.
- Mr and Mrs X say the Council wrongly states it can only maintain a CiN plan if an assessment by a social worker shows provision is necessary. Mr and Mrs X say the Council has failed to engage with any planning for Y as she will be moving to receive Adult Social Services in a few years. This is because the Council says it does not have a case open for Y under section 17. But the Occupational Therapy team says Y does have a case open under section 17. Mr and Mrs X says the Council is giving them contradictory information about whether Y is receiving CiN services.
- Mr and Mrs X want the Council to issue a CiN plan and apologise to Y and the family for any distress caused to them.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether an organisation’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with an organisation’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)
How I considered this complaint
- I have read the papers submitted by Mr and Mrs X. I considered the Council’s comments about the complaint and the supporting documents it provided.
- Mr and Mrs X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
What I found
Child in Need
- Section 17 (10) and (11) of the Children Act 1989 (Act) defines a child in need as a child who:
- is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him of services by a local authority under this Part.
- his health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision for him of such services or
- he is disabled.
Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (CSDPA) 1970
- The CSDPA places a specific duty on local authorities to provide the support a disabled child is assessed as needing when it comes within the scope of the act . This will include arrangements for the provision of assistance for an eligible disabled child for adaptations to their home. or the provision of any additional facilities designed to secure greater safety, comfort, or convenience. This includes the provision of equipment. Such assessments are usually carried out by the child’s occupational therapist (OT) on behalf of Children’s Services.
The Council’s Child in need Policy
- The Council holds a CiN planning meeting following a Single Assessment which concludes social care services are needed to meet the child’s needs under s17 of the Act. The single assessment will be carried out by a registered social worker. The meeting allows an opportunity for the child and parents with key professionals to identify and agree the package of services required and develop the CiN plan. The CiN plan will be developed at the CiN meeting and identify the social worker as the lead professional. The plan includes identifying the needs of the child and any services required.
Background to the complaint
- Mr and Mrs X’s daughter Y is a teenager who lives at home with them. Y has a permanent and substantial disability and because of this has been identified as a CiN by the Council under section 17.
- Mr and Mrs X complained to the Council in July 2021 it should maintain a CiN plan for Y as it had determined it necessary to make social care provision for her. Mr and Mrs X said Y was a CiN due to her disability and the Council was making ongoing social care provision for her. But they had been told the Council did not have a section 17 CiN plan for Y as she did not have a social worker. Mr and Mrs X said the Council was wrongly not maintaining a plan for Y.
- The Council responded to the complaint. It confirmed it had carried out a section 47 investigation in November 2020 over concerns professionals had been unable to see and access Y for some time. The investigation identified Y was not at risk of any harm. It found Y could benefit from support under section 17 as she was considered a CiN. The Council wrote to Mr and Mrs X advising that as a family they would be required to engage with social care. This would include an assessment plus regular CiN meetings and home visits. The Council noted Y had declined these in the past and as a result she was not open to social care under section 17.
- The Council said it had also written to Mr and Mrs X in March 2021 to highlight areas where Y may benefit from support from a social worker and a CiN plan. But Mr and Mrs X declined this.
- The Council told Mr and Mrs X Y will need to be open to it under a section 17 if a CiN plan was to be produced. This involved having an allocated social worker and engaging with an assessment where officers would make home visits for its social care services to provide any identified support. This required Y’s consent which she had previously refused. The Council made a further offer to carry out an assessment under section 17.
The Council’s comments on the complaint
- The Council confirms it has repeatedly offered to carry out a CiN assessment for Y as it considers it would be in her best interests. However, the process is voluntary, and the family have refused to have the assessment undertaken. This is also the view of Y who has refused the assessment, and the Council has taken account of her wishes and feelings.
- It says it has a duty to carry out an assessment as to whether a CiN plan is appropriate and a power to maintain such a plan. But maintaining a plan depends on the consent of all parties involved. If the offer of a CiN plan is refused, then the Council will not allocate a social worker to oversee the plan because there is no plan in place. Where a person has not given consent to maintaining a CiN plan and no plan is being maintained the Council will not allocate a social worker. This is the reason why Y does not have an allocated social worker.
- The Council does not consider it has been contradictory in its responses over whether Y has a CiN plan. It confirms its paediatric occupational therapy team (POT) have responded to Mr and Mrs X requests many times to clarify whether Y is a CiN.
- The Council confirms the POT team are part of the Disabled Children’s Service and it classes any child with a disability as a CiN. The Council considers Y a CiN and so she is receiving services from the POT team through the CSDPA. The social care team of the Disabled Children’s Service also recognise Y as a CiN. But for the social care team to provide her with a service she needs to have a single assessment carried out. This will identify Y’s needs, what support is needed and be completed by a registered social worker.
- The Council has offered Mr and Mrs X a single assessment several times but they and Y have declined. This means Y does not have a social worker and her case, while open to the POT service is not open to a social worker.
- The Council considers Y a CiN. If Mr and Mrs X wish for services from the social care team, then they and Y need to agree to the Council carrying out a single assessment. Mr and Mrs X may disagree that a CiN plan can only be maintained if a social worker is allocated. But the Council says that if it finds out if a child needs a service, then it needs to carry out an assessment. The assessment can be for an Education Health and Care Plan, OT provision or a CiN plan. But to access these the Council may carry out different assessments. To access a CiN plan the Council will carry out a single assessment by a social worker. This is to consider the child’s development needs, parenting capacity and family and environmental causes.
- The Council has explained its decision not to issue a CiN plan for Y. It considers Y to be a CiN. And it is willing to carry out a single assessment to assess her needs and decide what social care support to offer her. The Council explained its procedure is for a social worker to carry out the assessment. The documents provided by the Council show it has offered to carry out a single assessment on Y. But Mr and Mrs X and Y have refused. The CiN process is voluntary, and Mr and Mrs X and Y have declined to have an assessment carried out. Because of this Y does not have a CiN plan, a social worker and her case is closed to Children’ Services.
- Mr and Mrs X may disagree with the decision, but we will not criticise the merits of a decision if it has been taken without fault. I do not consider there is fault in this case. This is because the Council has explained how it has reached its decision. The evidence provided shows officers have contacted Mr and Mrs X and Y on several occasions to discuss the CiN plan and need for an assessment. The Council has explained the requirements for doing so which have been declined by Mr & Mrs X and Y.
- In addition, documents show the Council has considered the requirements of the Act in making its decision and currently has no safeguarding concerns about Y. There is no evidence of fault by the Council in way it has reached its decision not to draw up a CiN plan for Y. It is for Mr and Mrs X and Y to agree to a single assessment. The Council can then draw up a CiN plan so Y can receive services from social care.
- The Council explained its policy is for a registered social worker to carry out an assessment for CiN plan. While Mr and Mrs X may disagree with this and need to have an allocated social worker it is for the Council to decide its policy requirements for a CiN assessment. There is no evidence of fault by the Council as the documents provided show it is carrying out its policy for carrying out a single assessment for Y.
- The Council has explained why its POT service is providing services to Y as she is a CiN. But this is distinct from the social care team who require Y to have a single assessment to provide social care services to her.
- I am completing my investigation. I have found no evidence of fault in the way the Council has decided not to issue Y with a CiN plan.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman