The Local Government And Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) has just released the latest complaints filed with the monitoring body, which oversees councils, adult social care providers and other organisations which provide local public services. Of the 31 new child protection and education cases published, 19 involve child protection matters.
Several cases raise concerns about councils’ handling of safeguarding procedures and failure to protect children from harm, unjust adoption placements, and unprofessional conduct by social workers. Interestingly, once complaint asks the LGSCO to look at harm caused by foster carers in the 70s. The LGSCO will not investigate claims which are more than 12 months old, though it does have discretion to disapply the late complaint rule if they consider the case meets the threshold. Their Guidance Note tells us the how the LGSCO assesses these kinds of complaints:
“The reasons for exercising discretion to investigate (or not) must be noted on the file and detailed in the decision. The following guidelines should be taken into account.
In R v Local Commissioner for Administration, ex parte Bradford Metropolitan City Council (1979) QB287 in the Court of Appeal, Lord Denning said:
“time bars are not to be enforced rigidly against a complainant where justice
requires that the time be extended and his complaint heard”.
It may not have been reasonable for the complainant to have come to us within 12 months if s/he:
• was ill or through some other incapacity was unable to act in time;
• was taking the complaint through the body’s complaints procedure;
• believed that action was being taken on the complaint by the council or its
• believed a solicitor or other adviser was taking up the complaint on his/her behalf;
• has not at any time allowed the matter to rest for more than a few months.”
The complaint was not allowed, but is an important development in that it may signal a growing appetite to hold the government accountable for maltreatment during childhood whilst in state care.