The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Council is at fault for delaying consideration of this complaint under the children’s statutory complaints procedure. The Council has agreed to issue its stage two response and make a payment to the complainant for the time and trouble its delay has caused.
- The complainant, who I will call Mr X, complains about how the Council’s children’s services dealt with child protection matters relating to his children. Mr X has not yet received a final response to his complaint.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- Under our information sharing agreement, we will share the final decision with the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted).
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
- I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
- The complainant has had the opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision. I considered their comments before making a final decision.
The statutory complaints procedure
- 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.
- The first stage of the procedure is local resolution. Councils have up to 20 working days to respond.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mr X raised his complaint with the Council which it considered under the statutory procedure, issuing a stage one response in October. Dissatisfied with the Council’s response, Mr X asked for his complaint to be progressed to stage two.
- The Council has told me that the Investigating Officer has now completed their investigation and is compiling their report. It is expected that the Council will be able to respond within a month.
- The Council should have completed a stage two investigation into Mr X’s complaint within 13 weeks. It did not and this is fault. Mr X has not received answers to questions he raised and has been caused frustration by the delay.
- Within one month of the date of my final decision, the Council has agreed to:
- Issue its stage two response to Mr X; and
- Offer to make a payment of £100 to Mr X to remedy the time and trouble he has gone to in pursuing his complaint, and to reflect the Council’s delay in dealing with it.
- We uphold this complaint with a finding of fault causing Mr X an injustice.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman