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Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (21 010 123)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 24 Nov 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about delays in the statutory children’s complaint process. It is unlikely we could achieve more than the Council has offered.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, says the Council delayed in considering his complaint.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate 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 continue an investigation if we decide:
    • we could not add to any previous investigation by the organisation, or
    • further investigation would not lead to a different outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Mr X and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. Mr X complained to the Council in July 2019 about the Council’s children services actions. This included the level of personal budget the family received, the adequacy of a child in need plan for his children and problems with respite care. The Council replied and Mr X requested the Council escalate his complaint to stage two.
  2. The law sets out a three stage procedure for councils to follow when looking at complaints about children’s social care services. At stage two of this procedure, the Council appoints an Investigating Officer and an Independent Person (who is responsible for overseeing the investigation). This should be completed within 65 working days.
  3. If a complainant is unhappy with the outcome of the stage two investigation, they can ask for a stage three review. If a council has investigated something under this procedure, the Ombudsman would not normally re-investigate it unless he considers that investigation was flawed. However, we may look at whether a council properly considered the findings and recommendations of the independent investigation.
  4. The Council completed the stage two by the end of January 2021. The Council arranged a review panel for May. The review panel decided new information meant the stage two reports needed reviewing. The Council provided an amended stage two report in August 2021. Mr X remained unhappy and requested a stage three review panel.
  5. The Council say it has now arranged for that review panel to be heard on a date in January 2022. It has also offered to pay Mr X £1000 to reflect his time and trouble in the complaints delay.
  6. We would not achieve more for the complaint delays than has been arranged and offered. And it is reasonable to expect Mr X to complete the stage three review panel before we could consider his main complaints.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint because we are unlikely to achieve significantly more than the Council has already offered and arranged.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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