The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has published the latest round of complaints submitted by parents and carers to the body and its decisions about those complaints. They touch on children’s social care, local authority handling of child protection cases and the provision of education and educational support.
Children and Education
Please note: decisions are published six weeks after they are issued to councils, care providers and the person who has made the complaint. The cases below reflect the caselaw and guidance available.
Worcestershire County Council (20 010 788)
Summary: Mr B complains the Council did not provide services outlined in his son, Y’s, EHCP after he transferred from another local authority. He says the Council placed Y in an unsuitable school and delayed in reviewing the EHCP, which had a significant negative impact on his son’s education and development. The Ombudsman finds the Council at fault for delay in completing a reassessment, not providing the services set out in Y’s existing EHCP and not considering Mr B’s complaint in line with its complaint procedure.
Buckinghamshire Council (21 000 791)
Summary: Mrs B complains the Council delayed in completing her son’s final Education Health and Care Plan (“EHCP”) and placed him at an unsuitable school. Mrs B says that due to the delays he was in the school for 18 months, which had a detrimental impact on his education and caused distress. The Ombudsman finds the Council at fault for the delay in issuing a final amended EHCP.
Surrey County Council (21 013 381)
Summary: Ms X complained the Council failed to ensure her son received suitable education after he stopped attending school, resulting in loss of education, costs to the family, distress, time and trouble. We have found the Council at fault. We recommended it apologise to Ms X, make payments for time and trouble (£300), distress (£500), missed education (£2000), costs incurred (£7498), take action to ensure Y receives education and provide training to staff to prevent recurrence.
Liverpool City Council (22 000 459)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the conduct of a Council officer at a school attendance meeting in 2019. There is no good reason to exercise discretion to investigate now.
London Borough of Hounslow (20 010 933)
Summary: Ms X complained that the Council did not act on safeguarding concerns she raised, about a lack of support for her as a foster carer, and about the way the Council handled her complaint. Ms X said this caused frustration and concern. Largely we do not find the Council at fault. However, we find the Council at fault for failing to log Ms X’s complaint. As recommended by the Ombudsman, the Council has apologised to Ms X for the injustice caused by this failure.
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (21 009 551)
Summary: Ms X complained the Council did not properly deal with her application for its holiday activities and food programme. She also complained the Council did not effectively deal with her complaint about this matter. Ms X says the Council’s actions caused avoidable distress and led to the loss of opportunity for her children to take part in the activities. We found fault by the Council and the Council agreed to make a payment to recognise the injustice identified.
Wiltshire Council (21 011 707)
Summary: Ms X complained about errors during the Council’s pre-birth safeguarding assessment processes. The Council was not at fault.
Bury Metropolitan Borough Council (22 000 069)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the actions of the Council. This is because the complaint does not meet the tests in our Assessment Code on how we decide which complaints to investigate. The matters complained of are not separable from matters that have been subject to court proceedings, or which could reasonably be raised in court.
Swindon Borough Council (22 000 679)
Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the Council’s actions concerning Mr X and his family, regardless of whether these amount to the Council presenting untruths to a court or concealing information from it. This is because the complaint does not meet the tests in our Assessment Code on how we decide which complaints to investigate. The matters complained of are not separable from matters concerning contact with children that are before a court and can only be decided by a court.
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (21 000 633)
Summary: The Council’s actions contributed to the breakdown of K’s specialist school placement. The alternative education then offered by the Council while K was out of school did not include all of the special educational provision set out in his Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. The Council also delayed finding K an alternative permanent school placement and delayed amending his EHC plan. The Council has agreed to apologise and make payments to K and his mother, Miss B.
London Borough of Lewisham (21 003 533)
Summary: Mrs X complained on behalf of her son, Mr Y, that the Council failed to properly meet his special educational needs. The Council accepted there were delays in planning and meeting Mr Y’s needs. However, the remedy it offered did not fully recognise the education Mr Y missed or the distress this caused him. The Council agreed to pay an improved financial remedy to Mr Y.
Kent County Council (21 004 563)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s alleged failure to provide a finalised Education Health and Care Plan. The Council has now provided the plan, and it is reasonable to expect Miss X to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal.
Oxfordshire County Council (21 007 422)
Summary: Mrs Y complains the Council delayed in issuing its decision to end Mr A’s EHC Plan. The Council has now accepted there was a delay in issuing this decision. The Ombudsman also finds the Council at fault for failing to maintain the Plan while Mrs Y appealed its decision to the SEND Tribunal. This caused Mrs Y and her son significant distress. To remedy this, the Council has agreed to apologise to Mrs Y and her son and make them several payments. The Council has also agreed to make certain service improvements.
Surrey County Council (22 000 611)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the content of the education and healthcare plan issued for Mrs X’s daughter. She has a right of appeal to the special educational needs and disability tribunal to resolve these issues. We will not investigate Mrs X’s remaining complaint about the admission decision for an academy school. The law prevents us from considering complaints about an academy’s admission decisions.
West Berkshire Council (21 018 588)
Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the Council’s children’s services involvement with her family. This is because this matter is subject to ongoing court proceedings. We will not investigate how the Council has dealt with complainants about these matters because there is insufficient evidence of fault causing the complainant a significant injustice.
Kent County Council (20 011 100)
Summary: The complainant alleged that the Council had failed to provide some of the support specified in his Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan and, in particular, failed to carry out an Occupational Therapist’s assessment. The Council has accepted this. But we cannot assess the level of injustice or a suitable remedy until after the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal has decided the complainant’s current appeal. We are therefore discontinuing our investigation.
Suffolk County Council (21 001 406)
Summary: Mrs X complained the Council failed to provide appropriate support to her daughter, Miss Y, who has an Education, Health and Care plan, during her first year in college. The Council was at fault for not ensuring all the support in the plan was delivered and not properly considering whether an urgent annual review was needed. It should apologise and make a payment to Miss Y for the missed support. It should also reimburse Mrs X for the cost of a private report she had to obtain as a result of the failings.
Royal Borough of Greenwich (21 005 320)
Summary: There was a failure to provide suitable full-time alternative education between June 2020 when Y was unable to continue to attend her school and May 2021 when she started a new school. This was fault and caused loss of education as well as distress and inconvenience to the family. The Council will apologise, make a financial payment and service improvements.
Wokingham Borough Council (21 018 879)
Summary: We will not investigate the Council’s requests to Mrs X for information about home educated children. It is unlikely we would find fault or any significant injustice. The Information Commissioner’s Office is better placed to consider her data protection complaint.
London Borough of Lewisham (21 001 866)
Summary: The Council failed to make a reasonable contribution to Miss B’s nursery expenditure and loss of earnings when she became a Special Guardian, after it agreed to do so. The Council also failed to ensure the nursery provided Miss B with clear invoices. The Council has agreed to make a payment to Miss B and to take action to ensure all providers of free early education are providing parents with clear, transparent and itemised invoices.
Kent County Council (21 014 846)
Summary: Miss B is complaining about the Council’s handling of her grandchildren’s child protection case over the past six years. However, we have no jurisdiction to investigate this complaint. This is because part of Miss B’s complaint is late and there are no good reasons to exercise discretion in this respect. The other parts of Miss B’s complaint have been subject to legal proceedings and I have no jurisdiction to investigate in these circumstances. We have therefore discontinued our investigation.
Buckinghamshire Council (21 017 599)
Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the way the Council has dealt with the care of her son, because this matter has been to court.
Wokingham Borough Council (21 018 264)
Summary: We should not investigate Mr X’s complaint about foster care issues. It is reasonable to expect Mr X to complete the Independent Review Mechanism.
Gloucestershire County Council (21 018 897)
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s children services actions. It is unlikely we could add to the Council’s replies, there is not enough direct injustice caused by Council fault, and there are other bodies better placed.
Herefordshire Council (21 004 629)
Summary: Mrs X complains about the Council’s decision not to provide school transport to her child, Y who has special education needs. The Council was at fault for not considering Mrs X and her family’s circumstances and fettering its discretion to assist a disabled person with accessing education. Since making her complaint to us, the Council has acted to resolve the personal injustice caused to Mrs X and her child. The Council has also agreed to review its policy and remind relevant staff of its duties under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (21 008 249)
Summary: Mrs X complained that the Council failed to provide alternative education when her son, Y was unable to attend school due to anxiety. The Council accepted it was at fault and offered Mrs X £1000 to support educational opportunities for Y. It has also improved its procedures for the future. We consider this is a reasonable and proportionate way of resolving the complaint.
Hartlepool Borough Council (22 000 022)
Summary: We will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about a children social worker’s actions. We cannot investigate opinions and evidence given to a Court, and Social Work England is better placed to consider her complaint about professionalism.
Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council (21 004 199)
Summary: Ms E complained the Council failed to follow child protection procedures when it was involved with her family. We find the Council was at fault for allowing Ms E’s son to visit his grandmother without her knowledge or consent. The Council has agreed to apologise to Ms E to reflect her injustice.
Suffolk County Council (21 006 296)
Summary: Mr and Mrs C said the Council failed to respond adequately to their enquiries about the care of their granddaughter, X. The Council was at fault for a failure to communicate adequately during early 2021. This fault caused injustice to Mr and Mrs C who were distressed by these failures. The Council has already apologised and no further remedy is required.
Birmingham City Council (21 009 103)
Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the Council withholding letter contact between Miss X and a grandchild. The matter complained of is not separable from matters included in court action.
Kent County Council (21 018 692)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about a breach of confidentiality during the adoption process. This is because the Information Commissioner is better placed to consider the complaint than us.
Cumbria County Council (21 019 109)
Summary: We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about a report prepared for a fostering panel by the Council’s children services team. This is because the complaint does not meet the tests in our Assessment Code on how we decide which complaints to investigate. There is not enough injustice and the Information Commissioner’s Office is better placed.
London Borough of Lambeth (21 010 041)
Summary: Miss X complained the Council refused to provide transport support for her son to attend school. The Council’s failure to properly advise Miss X on the availability of transport support and how to formally apply for this amounts to fault. This fault has caused Miss X an injustice.
Surrey County Council (21 011 446)
Summary: There was a delay in issuing Y’s amended Education, Health and Care Plan which caused his mother Mrs X avoidable uncertainty about whether the Council would continue to fund the provision the next school year. The Council will apologise and pay her £150.
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s involvement with the complainants family. This is because it is unlikely we could add to the investigation already carried out by the Council.
London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (21 018 869)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint from a parent about a school admission appeal panel. The parent complained about the panel’s decision to refuse her appeal concerning a place for her daughter at her preferred school. But there is insufficient evidence of fault by the panel to warrant our further involvement.
Blackburn with Darwen Council (21 017 917)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s involvement in the contact arrangements between the complainant and his children. This is because it is reasonable to expect him to take the matter to court.
Leeds City Council (21 018 380)
Summary: We cannot investigate Mr X’s complaint the Council’s court report was flawed and resulted in him not having contact with his children for a long time. The Ombudsman cannot lawfully investigate actions which are part of court proceedings.
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s actions regarding Mr X’s family. This is because the Council has corrected the inaccurate information and apologised. This is an appropriate remedy for any injustice caused. We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council incorrectly sharing information with him because he can submit a complaint to the Information Commissioner about any alleged data breach. We cannot investigate Mr X’s concerns about police actions and recordings as we cannot investigate complaints about the actions of police.
Kent County Council (21 019 030)
Summary: We will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about children services actions. It is unlikely we could add to the Council’s reply nor that we would find fault in the Council’s decision not to change social workers. The Information Commissioner’s Office is better placed to consider her data protection complaint.
Nottinghamshire County Council (21 019 048)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about advice the Council gave to the complainant’s former partner. This is because there is no evidence of fault on the Council’s part.
Nottinghamshire County Council (21 019 111)
Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the actions of social workers in dealing with Mr X and his former partner. The matters complained of are not separable from matters that were or could reasonably have been before a court.
Paul-Brian Tovey said:
You can see what a weave Social Services and Courts create in so far as they can never be seen into.. Plenty of those cases “that cannot be investigated”… Problems of accuracy of information and procedures accurately applied look as if they will never be investigated … Transparency and accountability have gone into mists ..
Or was it just my spectacles that needed cleaning … xx 😉
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Dr Manhattan said:
The LGO should be scrapped as they are useless. even when strong evidence is presented they still drop cases at a rate of 3 out of 4. i also heard that many LGO staff used to work for councils. Go figure !