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 are about children’s social care and local authority handling of child protection cases.
The latest round of decisions about child welfare complaints submitted by parents feature alleged failures of support from councils in a range of contexts including financial support, homelessness, child protection support, and lack of support for foster carers.
The majority of complaints were not upheld.
The extract below is from one of only a couple of complaints which was upheld by the ombudsman, and includes a promise by the council to review its procedures:
London Borough of Hounslow (22 004 599)
Summary: Miss X complained about the support the Council provided to protect her son from child criminal exploitation and related violence. There was fault in how the Council arranged for Miss X to move outside of its area, failed to decide whether to assess B’s special educational needs and how it handled Miss X’s complaint. This caused avoidable distress and uncertainty for which the Council agreed to apologise and pay Miss X a financial remedy. It also agreed to review its practices.
Children and Education
Please note: our 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 at the time of issue and the individual circumstances of each case.
London Borough of Croydon (22 008 865)
Summary: The Council was at fault for a delay in considering whether to exercise its discretion to pay Ms X’s legal fees in connection with an immigration application, a delay in processing her housing register application and a failure to send a decision letter when it later changed her priority band. There were also failings in the complaints process. The Council should pay her £500 for the worry and frustration caused, and take action to prevent recurrence of the fault.
North Yorkshire County Council (22 016 676)
Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the way the Council dealt with Mr X’s complaint as we are unable to investigate the substantive matters that underlie the complaint.
West Sussex County Council (22 017 138)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about a Council officer providing false information. Another body is better placed than us to consider the complaint.
Suffolk County Council (22 017 254)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about an alleged data protection breach. This is because the Information Commissioner’s Office is best placed to consider the complaint.
Kent County Council (22 016 529)
Summary: Mrs X complained the Council had not properly considered her request for support from its Disabled Children’s team. We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault.
Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (22 017 179)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s decision to stop providing adoption allowance payments to Mr X. This is because the events complained about took place more than 12 months ago and there is no good reason to exercise discretion to investigate event that took place that long ago.
Leeds City Council (22 017 358)
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about children services’ actions in 2020. There are no good reasons the late complaint rule should not apply.
Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (22 002 633)
Summary: The Council was not at fault for how it dealt with an allegation about Miss B’s care of a child she was looking after. It acted in line with relevant guidance and procedure, considered Miss B’s representations in full, and explained the reasons behind its decision-making. This means we cannot question its decision on the allegation – as we have no power to question decisions made without fault.
London Borough of Tower Hamlets (22 006 863)
Summary: Mr Y complained about the Council’s lack of assistance with his homelessness. The Council was at fault for a failure to progress the homelessness case and issue appropriate decision letters between August 2020 and February 2021. The Council also failed to make proper enquiries about Mr Y’s caring responsibilities in that period but this did not affect the outcome. The Council said it would apologise and pay Mr Y £750 to remedy the frustration and uncertainty caused, which is an appropriate remedy.
Worcestershire County Council (22 009 826)
Summary: Mrs B complained about the actions of the Council in failing to provide social care support for her two children, C and D since late 2018, delay in carrying out a carer’s assessment and delay in dealing with her complaint about the matter. We found the Council delayed in finding suitable support for C at different points amounting to approximately 18 months in total. The Council has agreed to pay Mrs B £1000 and review its commissioning service.
Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council (22 010 393)
Summary: Mr X complained about the Council’s decision to end his special guardianship financial support. We have not found the Council to be at fault. Mr X was not entitled to receive an allowance in accordance with the Council’s policy.
Swindon Borough Council (22 017 081)
Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the Council’s actions in deciding which parent was best placed to care for Mrs X’s children and how it responded to her complaint. This is because the matters complained of are not separable from matters that were or could reasonably have been raised in court. Ms X retains a right to go to court it would be reasonable to use.
Hertfordshire County Council (22 012 585)
Summary: Mrs X complained that the Council have continued to fail to properly investigate her complaint about not being provided with enough guidance and support as a new foster carer. She said the investigation was not independent and no evidence was produced to support the Council’s findings. The Ombudsman does not find fault in the Council’s actions.
Surrey County Council (22 016 605)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s involvement with Ms X’s children. It relates to matters that are currently being considered in court.
Swindon Borough Council (22 017 084)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about information provided to the police by a Council’s social worker. This is because investigation could not establish that the Council’s action in providing the information caused the complainant a significant injustice.
Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (22 000 777)
Summary: Mr F complained that the Council failed to disclose important information to them about the birth mother of their adopted daughter, which caused uncertainty about the contact arrangements he had agreed to. We found the complaints process had taken too long but was very thorough and we considered the financial remedy should be higher. The Council has agreed to increase the payment to £250 and take steps to tighten up the operation of the complaints process for the future.
Lancashire County Council (22 008 773)
Summary: Mr and Mrs P are unhappy with the Council’s response to their complaint about funding adaptations to their home. The Council suggested adaptations during Mr and Mrs P’s application for a Special Guardianship Order to create an extra bedroom. The Council has agreed to consider Mr and Mrs P’s need for adaptations again.
Lancashire County Council (22 015 012)
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about Lancashire County Council and Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board’s delay providing a joint care package to meet his son’s and the family’s needs. The Council has provided an appropriate remedy, which Mr X has accepted. It is unlikely an Ombudsmen investigation would achieve more.
Durham County Council (22 016 667)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about child protection. There is not enough evidence of fault in the Council’s actions to warrant investigation. Mr X also has a right to go to court it would b reasonable to use if he wishes to vary the contact and residence arrangements for his child.
City of York Council (22 016 956)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s refusal to investigate the actions of a social worker. This is because there is no evidence of fault on the Council’s part.
Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (22 017 065)
Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the Council’s actions in relation to the complainant’s children. This is because it concerns matters which have been raised in court or are inextricably linked with those matters.
Leeds City Council (22 015 944)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the withdrawal of a payment for children’s leisure activities done without an assessment. We could not add to the remedy for fault provided by the Council or achieve the remedy Ms X wants. Lawfulness is a matter for a court rather than the Ombudsman.
With the exception of a couple of cases, I can understand people’s frustration with and a lack of trust in local authorities, and then the Ombudsman, with the feeling ‘ordinary’ people have nowhere to turn to when they have problems to deal with of which they have had no previous experience or knowledge rendering councils with an unfair advantage. A definite lack of balance and the feeling that those with/in power will trample all over the underdog.