Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 24 Nov 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the way the Council’s children services team conducted a meeting with his family members. Mr X has not been caused a significant personal injustice.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, says the Council failed to follow safe COVID -19 practices for a meeting between Council children services officers and Mr X’s extended family.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- This complaint involves events that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government introduced a range of new and frequently updated rules and guidance during this time. We can consider whether the Council followed the relevant legislation, guidance and our published “Principles of Good Administrative Practice during COVID -19”.
- 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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely we would find fault, or
- the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify the cost of our involvement, or
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information Mr X provided with his complaint and the Council’s replies to him which it provided. I considered Mr X’s comments on a draft version of this decision.
What I found
- Mr X’s and his wife Mrs X, their daughter Miss Y, and her child Z live in the same household.
- The Council and Mr X agreed that its children services team needed to assess Z to see if Z needed more support. As part of this assessment two children services officers met Z and Miss Y in a public park in late July 2020. They drove Z and Miss Y back home.
- Mr X says the officers did not follow COVID-19 safe practices. He says the meeting should have been held in a very quiet place and not a busy public park. Mr X says there was a risk of catching COVID-19 from other park attendees. He says Z hugged an officer and touched items which he does not know if they were sanitised. He says the officers breached social distancing rules to drive Z and Miss X back home in separate cars. He says it was not an essential journey as he says they could have walked.
- The Council replied to Mr X’s complaint at both stages of its corporate complaints’ procedure. It provided the risk assessment produced in advance of the meeting. It says the officers took acceptable and appropriate steps in line with the government guidance at the time. This included using PPE and sanitiser. The Council says in the cars, Miss Y and Z sat the furthest possible seat away from the driver, the driver wore a face covering and the car windows were open. This meets government guidance. Mr X disputes the face covering was worn by both officers and that windows were open.
- The Council denies any fault in the meeting’s conduct.
- We can only investigate complaints where there is an allegation of injustice caused by fault. Here is there is no injustice to Mr X by the way the meeting was conducted. I appreciate he is worried about the risks of COVID-19, but that of itself is not significant enough to justify an investigation.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because there is no evidence Mr X has been caused any significant injustice by the way the Council’s officers conducted a meeting.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman