The latest decisions published by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) reveal a surge in parents complaining about the way they and their children have been treated during child protection investigations. The rise in complaints against councils and social workers involved in child protection investigations comes after the ombudsman confirmed that it could not look into matters which have been raised inside the family courts.
The confirmation initially seemed to stem the large influx of complaints related to child protection social workers, however this no longer appears to be the case. Desperate families have started taking their complaints to the LGSCO once more, hoping the watchdog will provide them with the support they have been unable to get elsewhere. Several complaints were set aside as the LGSCO is prevented in law from looking into matters raised and decided in the UK’s family courts, however some complaints relating to child protection cases which didn’t fall into the above category were investigated by the ombudsman.
Of the 59 complaints published this week by the LGSCO, 15 of those involved child protection cases. The majority of complaints focused on alleged failings over education provision, and support for SEN children.
Child Protection Complaints
A mother and father who lodged a complaint against Hampshire County Council were awarded £500 after the local authority cancelled two child protection conference meetings. The parents had taken unpaid leave to attend the meetings, and when a core group meeting was held the parents were not told about it. The social workers also failed to record the meeting. The ombudsman took the view that the failures to notify the parents of the meeting and record the meeting did not cause the parents any injustice, and chose to compensate them only for the cancelled meetings.
Medway council also had its knuckles rapped after it confused a woman’s husband for another man during a child protection investigation. The ombudsman awarded the woman and her husband £1,000 for the distress the error caused.
The remaining 13 complaints involving family court proceedings were set aside by the watchdog.
There were a significant number of complaints about factual errors within social work reports and councils’ record keeping. One such complaint was made against Birmingham City Council. A father, who is referred to in the ombudsman decision as Mr A, alleged that the social worker carrying out a child protection assessment was biased and the report she produced was inaccurate, which in turn affected the outcome of the investigation. The father also said that the council refused his request for a different social worker without giving any explanation for the refusal. (If you would like to change your social worker, our post on ways to approach this is added here).
The ombudsman issued the following reminders over what it cannot investigate:
- Matters that have been before a court via the statutory children’s complaints procedure.
- Matters currently subjected to legal proceedings.
- An event that occurred over 12 months ago (exceptions apply).
- Where it is unlikely that the ombudsman would reach a sound, fair, and meaningful decision, or achieve the outcomes desired by the complainant.
- Events which happen inside the family courts.
- Complaints about social workers who produce reports for the family court and the production and contents of court reports.
For further information on what the LGSCO can and can’t investigate, click here.
Families lodging complaints about botched child protection proceedings have our sympathy.