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.
Of interest this week is that the ombudsman found councils were at fault in a large number of complaints it received.
Among the complaints are family concerns about an unsafe placement, failures to investigate allegations of a biased social worker and withheld evidence which negatively affected the outcome of a case.
Several complaints also center around local authorities failing to provide court-ordered support or support required to be given by law, allowing personal information to be shared with an alleged abuser and using allegations of — unproven — mental health concerns to place the mother on a child in need plan.
And as ever, a disproportionate number of complaints involve SEND support, or the lack of it.
West Northamptonshire Council (21 010 500)
Summary: Mrs A complained on behalf of Mrs X that the Council did not keep her informed of the actions it took following an investigation into Mrs X’s complaint about Children’s Services. Mrs A says the Council did not provide Mrs X with an update as agreed and says the Council’s actions have caused Mrs X avoidable distress. We found fault by the Council in this matter. The Council has agreed to apologise to Mrs X, carry out a review of its processes and make a payment to Mrs X to recognise the injustice caused.
Birmingham City Council (22 001 177)
Summary: The Council is at fault for delaying consideration of this complaint under the children’s statutory complaints procedure. The Council has agreed to make a payment to the complainant for the time and trouble its delay has caused.
Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (22 002 429)
Summary: The Council was at fault in delaying consideration of Mr B’s complaint at Stage 2 of the statutory procedure for children’s services complaints. The Council has now initiated Stage 2 and has agreed to offer to make a payment to Mr B.
Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (22 003 071)
Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about Ms X’s children being in an unsafe placement. This is because the complaint does not meet the tests in our Assessment Code on how we decide which complaints to investigate. There is an absolute bar that prevents us investigating matters that are or have been subject to court action.
Hertfordshire County Council (21 008 459)
Summary: Miss X complained the Council failed to ensure her son, Y, received suitable education and special educational needs provision following his exclusion, causing distress and loss of earnings while she stayed home with Y. We find the Council at fault. We recommend the Council provide an apology; pay £300 for time and trouble; pay £1000 for distress and uncertainty; pay £4000 for loss of education; take action to provide Y with full time education and take action to prevent recurrence of the identified faults.
North Northamptonshire Council (21 014 663)
Summary: The Council was at fault because it did not make arrangements for a child who could not attend school to receive alternative educational provision. But it has recognised this fault and we have now agreed a suitable remedy.
Surrey County Council (22 002 323)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about poor communication by the Council about Ms X’s child or issuing a new Education Health and Care Plan. Investigation would be unlikely to lead to any worthwhile outcome.
London Borough of Lewisham (21 015 816)
Summary: Ms X complains the Council has failed to investigate her complaint about historic sexual abuse, causing her distress. The Ombudsman did not find fault in the way the Council proposes to investigate Ms X’s complaint about historic abuse. The Ombudsman has found fault in the time the Council has taken to commence the investigation.
Wakefield City Council (21 018 317)
Summary: Mr and Mrs X complained the Council did not complete its stage two children’s complaint investigation in line with statutory timescales. They also complained about the Council’s decision not to disclose parts of the stage two investigation report to them. I have ended our investigation into this complaint. There was delay completing the stage two investigation, but it did not cause significant enough injustice to warrant further investigation. If they are dissatisfied with the outcome or decisions taken as part of the stage two investigation, they can escalate the complaint to stage three of the statutory procedure. In addition, only a court can resolve a dispute about mental capacity or best interest decisions.
Birmingham City Council (22 001 215)
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate a complaint about how a Council considered a complaint about child protection under the statutory children’s complaints procedure. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault and investigation by the Ombudsman is unlikely to achieve more.
Reading Borough Council (22 002 832)
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s school admissions team’s actions. We cannot investigate a school’s actions and we are unlikely to find fault in the Council’s actions.
Lancashire County Council (22 003 015)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council failing to respond to a safeguarding referral. There is not enough evidence of fault to warrant investigation and it is for a court to decide who may safely have contact with a child.
Leeds City Council (22 003 082)
Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the actions of a social worker. The matters complained of are not separable from those that were or could have been raised in court.
London Borough of Hackney (20 004 749)
Summary: Ms D complained the Council failed to follow the correct procedures to safeguard her son when he was being abused at school. She also complained about how the Council handled a child protection investigation. Finally, she says the Council failed to understand her son’s special educational needs and it failed to provide him with alternative provision when he was out of school. We find the Council was at fault for failing to notify Ms D of her appeal rights after an annual review. The Council has agreed to our recommendations to address the injustice caused by fault.
Essex County Council (21 005 470)
Summary: Mrs B says the Council failed to put in place alternative education provision for her son despite agreeing his placement was no longer appropriate for him. There were some delays by the Council ensuring the school put in place alternative provision and some communication issues with Mrs B. An apology to Mrs B and her son and payment to Mrs B is satisfactory remedy.
Reading Borough Council (21 010 794)
Summary: Mrs X complained about the support the Council provided for her son’s special educational needs. There was no fault in how the Council arranged the provision in Y’s Education Health and Care plan following a SEND Tribunal hearing in March 2021.
Norfolk County Council (21 015 821)
Summary: Mr X complained the Council delayed in arranging an Educational Psychologist report for his son’s Education, Health and Care plan assessment. The Council was at fault for a significant delay which caused Mr X avoidable frustration. The Council has already apologised to Mr X but will also pay him £200 in recognition of the injustice the delay caused.
Bury Metropolitan Borough Council (21 018 526)
Summary: Mr X complained an appeal panel failed to properly consider his admissions appeal for his daughter, Y, leaving her without a school place. We find fault with the way the panel documented the consideration of Y’s appeal. The Council should apologise to Mr X and arrange a fresh appeal hearing to remedy the injustice caused.
Bedford Borough Council (22 001 613)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint that the Council failed to properly communicate with the complainant and failed to inform her of her right of appeal against the Council’s assessment of her child’s needs. This is because the Council has taken appropriate actions in response to the issues raised and therefore, we could not add to its investigation.
London Borough of Bromley (22 002 406)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint that the Council failed to communicate the details of a meeting to discuss the needs of her daughter, and about the school placement the Council named on her Education Health and Care plan. This is because further investigation into the meeting arrangements would not lead to a different outcome and the naming of the school placement carries a right of appeal to a tribunal, and it would be reasonable to expect the complainant to use that appeal right.
Hampshire County Council (22 002 758)
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about an unsuccessful appeal for a school place. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault and so we cannot question the merits of the panel’s decision.
Devon County Council (21 013 022)
Summary: We have discontinued our investigation into Mr B’s complaint about the Council’s child protection social worker. The Council has accepted its mistakes and offered remedies. We cannot achieve the additional outcomes Mr B wants.
Lancashire County Council (21 004 555)
Summary: Mrs X complains the Council is failing to secure the provision in her son’s Education, Health and Care plan. We found the Council at fault for its continued failure to provide Mrs X’s son with the specialist educational provision which is appropriate for his needs. The Council’s failings have caused Mrs X distress and unnecessary time and trouble. The Council has agreed to our recommendations to remedy the injustice.
Hertfordshire County Council (21 005 712)
Summary: We upheld Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s handling of his son’s education, health and care plan. The Council delayed issuing an amended plan, missed opportunities to assess how well the plan was working, and failed to provide a coordinated approach. This created uncertainty for Y about whether the right support was in place. The Council agreed to apologise to Y, make a financial payment to recognise the impact on him, and review how it handles decisions following annual reviews in the future.
North Somerset Council (22 002 480)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about school transport. 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 evidence of fault by the Council, and we cannot achieve the outcome the complainant wants.
Torbay Council (21 006 448)
Summary: Ms X complains about the Council handling since it placed two grandchildren (Child Y and Child Z) in her care. The Council was at fault for delays in providing support to Child Y, responding to Ms X’s complaints and completing recommendations made during the children’s statutory complaints process. The Council has agreed to apologise, make payments (to Ms X and Child Y) and work with Ms X to remedy the injustice caused. It will also review the payments made to Ms X and other Special Guardians and provide guidance to staff.
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (22 001 381)
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint the Council failed to financially support a placement in late 2016/early 2017 when he cared for a grandchild. Mr X complains late and could have complained sooner.
North Yorkshire County Council (22 002 767)
Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about what the Council disclosed and evidence it withheld negatively affecting a court case. The matters complained of are not separable from the court process and either were or could have been raised in court.
Lancashire County Council (22 002 791)
Summary: We cannot investigate Miss X’s complaint that the Council has failed to provide court ordered therapy for her daughter because it lies outside our jurisdiction. The law prevents us from investigating matters that are being, or have been, considered in court proceedings. We have no discretion to do so.
Hampshire County Council (22 002 431)
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about Y’s education. The Tribunal is considering what Y should receive, we cannot investigate a school’s actions and it is not right to investigate separable matters until the Tribunal has ended.
Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council (21 004 225)
Summary: Mrs X complains about how the Council has dealt with her child’s Education, Health and Care Plan annual reviews. She says it failed to provide her child with suitable education and provision. Mrs X also complains the Council provided her with inaccurate responses to her complaints. The Council was at fault for its delays, non-completion and failing to properly follow statutory guidance during the Education, Health and Care Plan annual review processes. This has caused Mrs X’s family significant distress, frustration and time and trouble and the child was disadvantaged by not having an up-to-date Plan for two years. The Council will take action to remedy the injustice.
Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council (21 009 708)
Summary: We upheld Ms X’s complaint about a lack of hydrotherapy for her son, Y. The Council accepted there was fault in the way it handled Y’s hydrotherapy provision and offered a remedy. We identified further injustice to Ms X and Y in the form of distress and the Council agreed to take further action to remedy this injustice.
Norfolk County Council (21 013 897)
Summary: Miss X complained the Council delayed in completing an Education, Health and Care Plan assessment for her daughter Y. Miss X further complained the Council failed to provide Y with an appropriate education between May 2021 and April 2022. The Council failed to issue the Education, Health and Care plan in line with the statutory timescales and failed to properly consider its duty to provide alternative education provision when Y was not attending school. The Council agreed to pay Miss X £450 to recognise the uncertainty and distress caused to her and Y.
Suffolk County Council (22 001 962)
Summary: We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint the Council did not complete an Occupational Therapy sensory assessment as part of its assessment for her sons’ Education Health and Care Plans. That is because Mrs X has the right of appeal to Tribunal. We can’t decide whether any delay in the Council finalising the Education Health and Care plan has caused an injustice until the Tribunal has reached a conclusion.
Trafford Council (21 007 404)
Summary: Mr X complained about the Council’s response to his children’s statutory complaint. The Council was at fault in how it responded to Mr X’s concerns about the actions of its education department and health services and for a delay in arranging an educational placement for Mr X’s son, W. This caused Mr X frustration and meant W missed out on educational provision. The Council will apologise to Mr X and W and pay W £1500 to remedy that injustice. It will also carry out staff training.
Sheffield City Council (21 009 397)
Summary: Miss X complained about the way the Council handled the child protection process for her daughter, Y, which Miss X said caused significant distress for her and meant Y was exposed to further harm. The Council was not at fault.
Suffolk County Council (22 002 871)
Summary: We cannot investigate Mr X’s complaint the Council’s social worker has written a court report which is biased and contains inaccurate information. We cannot lawfully investigate what happens in court including the content of a report.
Portsmouth City Council (20 012 829)
Summary: We did not uphold Mrs X’s complaint about how the Council funded nurseries and pre-schools in the first national lockdown in response to COVID-19. There was no fault in the way the Council decided its funding arrangements.
Wiltshire Council (21 013 627)
Summary: Mrs V complained the Council did not put enough alternative educational provision in place when her son could not attend school. After making alternative arrangements, she asked to withdraw her complaint. We agreed to discontinue our investigation.
Gloucestershire County Council (21 017 443)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council not providing financial support for Mrs X’s child’s in attending the school it later named on his Education Health and Care Plan. The complaint is late and there is no good reason to exercise discretion to investigate it now.
London Borough of Bromley (22 002 432)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about how the Council dealt with a school admissions matter. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault by the Council. Also, we cannot achieve the outcome the complainant wants.
Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council (22 002 523)
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about the Council’s decision not to provide her son with free transport to school. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault by the Council for us to be able to question the merits of its decisions.
Surrey County Council (22 000 324)
Summary: Mrs R complains the Council wrongly ended her son’s (Child A) personal budget which was used to support his special educational needs. She also complains the Council has delayed in amending Child A’s Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP). We have identified numerous and serious failings by the Council which amount to poor administrative practice in some areas. The Council repeatedly made flawed decisions about Child A’s personal budget based on no clear rationale or criteria. It also failed to provide Mrs R her legal right to challenge the decisions through a clear review process. The Council also failed to adhere to statutory guidance relating to the timeframe for amending an EHCP. Mrs R has suffered serious loss, harm and distress by reason of the Council’s failings. The Council has agreed to our recommendations to remedy the serious injustice identified.