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Hampshire County Council (21 016 242)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 15 Mar 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We should not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s complaints procedure. There are no good reasons why the late complaint rule should not apply.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, says the Council has not met its Children Act statutory complaints duties.

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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 has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, 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.
  3. I considered Mr X’s comments on a draft version of this decision.

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My assessment

  1. Mr X complained to the Council in April 2019 about a children services assessment and related matters during the period June 2016 to February 2019.

The statutory complaints procedure

  1. The law sets out a three-stage procedure for councils to follow when looking at complaints about children’s social care services. The accompanying statutory guidance, Getting the Best from Complaints, explains councils’ responsibilities in more detail.
  2. The first stage of the procedure is local resolution. Councils have up to 20 working days to respond.
  3. If a complainant is not happy with a council’s stage one response, they can ask that it is considered at stage two. At this stage of the procedure, councils appoint an investigator and an independent person who is responsible for overseeing the investigation. Councils have up to 13 weeks to complete stage two of the process from the date of request.
  4. If a complainant is unhappy with the outcome of the stage two investigation, they can ask for a stage three review by an independent panel. The Council must hold the panel within 30 days of the date of request, and then issue a final response within 20 days of the panel hearing.

Analysis

  1. The Council completed the complaints procedure in early January 2021.
  2. Mr X complained to us in early February 2022. He said the Council had failed to meet the complaint procedure timescales. He says the Council has refused to accept his complaint, about the Council’s complaint procedures, for investigation in its Children Act complaint procedure.
  3. Mr X says he complained to the Council within 12 months of the decision letter in January 2021. He did so one day within 12 months. He says the Council did not refuse his complaint until 20 days later and then he complained to us within 12 months of that decision.
  4. Mr X’s complaint to us is late. He knew about the delays in 2020. The explanation he provides is not good enough to justify an investigation.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because there are no good reasons why the late complaint rule should not apply.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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