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.
Cases of concern this week include Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council (21 010 557), which highlights the culture of “fostering as income” and the poor handling of allegations of child abuse by foster carers; a case where the council “lost” all care records belonging to a man who had been in care as a child — and paid out a paltry £1,000 for the loss; an allegation of sexual assault against a social worker who was subsequently jailed for making indecent images of children; biased and inaccurate assessments by social workers and allegations of sexual abuse while in care.
Sale High School (21 011 260)
Summary: Mr B complains about the way an independent school admissions appeal panel considered his appeal. He says the School did not properly explain why the admission of his child would cause prejudice to the school and the panel did not consider supporting information about the impact on his child. He says his child now attends a school that is harder to get to and this impacts negatively on their attendance. The Ombudsman finds fault in how the panel considered the appeal.
Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (21 012 502)
Summary: Mr L complains the Council has failed to investigate and take formal safeguarding action in relation to his daughter (Child A) who he considers to be at risk of harm. He also says alleges the Council has failed to communicate with him responsibly and that the conduct of individual social workers has been inappropriate. We found the Council fully considered Mr L’s concerns relating to the welfare of Child A. There was however some fault by the Council in the way it communicated the outcome of its assessment to Mr L. That said, the Council remedied any injustice to by promptly sending him additional information, as requested. We did not identify any fault with respect to conduct issues by individual social workers.
Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (22 003 194)
Summary: We cannot investigate Mr X’s complaint the Council has sent a court an assessment saying he should not care for his children and that it did not support him caring for them in a court case many years ago. We cannot lawfully investigate what happens as part of court proceedings.
Hampshire County Council (22 003 326)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint that the Council has declined to implement a recommendation made by the Review Panel considering a complaint against children’s services. This is because the Council’s actions have not caused the complainant an injustice.
Liverpool City Council (21 000 374)
Summary: Fault found causing injustice and recommendations made.
St. Mary’s Church of England Primary School (21 006 472)
Summary: Miss X complained about the School’s handling of her application for a school place for her daughter. We found fault with the School’s record keeping. However, this did not cause an injustice to Miss X because there was other contemporaneous evidence which supported the School’s decision making. The School agreed to keep more detailed written records in future.
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (22 001 979)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about how the Council completed an educational psychology assessment. That is because there is insufficient evidence of fault.
Devon County Council (22 002 340)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about how the Council managed a child’s education provision. This is because the complainant has appealed to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal about the child’s education provision. The matter complained about is not separable from that and the courts have ruled we cannot say what education should be provided in such circumstances.
St Hilda’s C of E High School, Liverpool (22 003 315)
Summary: We 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.
Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council (21 010 557)
Summary: The complainants, previous foster carers, complained about the way the Council dealt with an allegation from a foster child. The Council has already upheld some aspects of the complaint. We have considered whether the injustice caused by the faults has been properly identified and remedied. We have recommended additional remedial actions which the Council has agreed to take. We are therefore closing the complaint.
Trafford Council (21 015 093)
Summary: The Council is at fault for losing or failing to keep Mr X’s records from his time in care. The Council will pay Mr X £1000 in recognition of the injustice caused.
Brighton & Hove City Council (21 015 276)
Summary: There was no fault in how the Council dealt with Miss B’s allegation that she was sexually assaulted by a social worker. The Council has no record of Miss B reporting this before 2019, by which point the social worker – who had left to work for a different authority several years before – had been jailed for making indecent images of children. When the Council did hear Miss B’s allegation in 2019, it referred the matter to the Police and provided her with support. Its actions were satisfactory.
Newcastle upon Tyne City Council (22 002 437)
Summary: We will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about children services actions as the Court is now considering the child’s care.
Newcastle upon Tyne City Council (22 003 149)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s refusal to escalate Mr B’s complaint about its failure to safeguard his son. This is because there is no evidence of fault on the Council’s part.
Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council (22 003 218)
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint the Council completed an assessment on his family which is biased and inaccurate which it sent to the court advisory service and has since delayed providing a ‘section 7’ report to court. We cannot achieve what Mr X wants on the original assessment report and cannot investigate actions which are part of court proceedings.
Swindon Borough Council (22 003 333)
Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the Council’s decisions regarding Miss X and the safety of her child. The matters complained of are not separable from matters that either have been, or could reasonably have been, raised during court proceedings.
West Sussex County Council (21 000 584)
Summary: The Council was at fault for failing to put in place adequate education for a child when he was out of school. The Council was also at fault for failing to put in place the provision listed in the child’s Education, Health and Care plan. As a result the child has fallen behind his peers. The Council agreed to apologise and make a payment for the benefit of the child’s education.
Nottinghamshire County Council (21 010 513)
Summary: Miss X complained the Council did not provide a suitable alternative education for her daughter, Y, when she was out of school. Although the Council was not aware initially that Y was out of school, it was at fault for not checking the support in Y’s Education Health and Support plan was in place, enabling her to return to school, and delays in identifying a new school when it became clear this was needed. As a result, Y missed out on education from March 2020 to July 2021. It should review its processes and make a payment to remedy the injustice caused.
London Borough of Bromley (21 011 678)
Summary: Mr X complained about the Council’s failure to secure alternative education, including provision from his son’s Education, Health and Care plan, after it found out in June 2021 that his son was no longer able to attend school. The Council was at fault for the delay in securing alternative provision for Mr X’s son. The Council agreed to remedy the injustice its actions caused to Mr X and his son.
London Borough of Southwark (22 003 241)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about an ex-pupil returning to a school and causing disruption. This is because the complaint does not meet the tests in our Assessment Code on how we decide which complaints to investigate. We cannot investigate internal school matters and we cannot accept a complaint from the school. There is also no parental consent to investigate matters on behalf of the child concerned.
Surrey County Council (22 003 746)
Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council publishing inaccurate information about a school academy. Ms X says this caused her child to lose out on a place at the school. We cannot investigate the admissions of pupils to academies.
London Borough of Wandsworth (20 008 830)
Summary: We have ended our investigation into Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s actions in relation to historical abuse she suffered and how it responded to her data subject access request. This is because an investigation would not achieve anything more. In addition, Ms X can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office about her data subject access request as it is a better suited body to consider her complaint.
Southampton City Council (22 000 738)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about events that occurred over 20 years ago. This is because it is a late complaint.
Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (22 002 113)
Summary: We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about the Council’s involvement with her family. This is because the complaint is late and there are no good reasons it could not have been brought to us sooner. Even if we were to investigate, it is unlikely we could now add anything to the Council’s response.
Middlesbrough Borough Council (22 002 690)
Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about a child’s education and Special Educational Needs provision. This is because this matter is currently part of ongoing court proceedings.
Lancashire County Council (22 003 002)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s complaint handling. The substantive matters complained about concern the actions of a school, which we could not investigate. And there is not enough evidence of fault in the way the Council has managed Mrs X’s correspondence to warrant investigation of that alone.
Liverpool City Council (22 003 151)
Summary: We will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about children service’s actions. We are unlikely to achieve a significantly different outcome than she has already achieved.
London Borough of Barnet (21 009 581)
Summary: Mrs X complained that the Council incorrectly applied the admissions criteria to her application for a place for her daughter at her preferred primary school. She also says the Appeal Panel failed to give due weight her arguments when deciding to refuse her appeal. We found no fault in the way the Council applied the admissions criteria or in the way the Appeal Panel considered Mrs X’s appeal.
Royal Borough of Greenwich (21 013 438)
Summary: Mr X complained the Council did not consult him as part of creating an Education, Health and Care plan for his daughter. The Council was at fault and did not act in line with the relevant law and guidance. This caused Mr X frustration and meant he had to spend avoidable time and trouble in complaining to the Council and then to the Ombudsman. The Council agreed to apologise to Mr X, pay him a financial remedy and review its procedures.
Suffolk County Council (21 016 344)
Summary: there was delay by the Council arranging Speech and Language Therapy for Mr F’s daughter, G, but the Council has offered an appropriate remedy. There are no grounds for the Ombudsman to recommend the Council refund Mr F’s legal expenses.
Nottingham City Council (22 002 831)
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about an Education Health and Care Plan processing. It is not possible to assess any injustice to Mr X until the process has finished.
Warrington Council (22 003 488)
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s Schools Admissions Appeal Panel’s failure to provide his child with a place at School Y. It is unlikely the Ombudsman would find fault which caused him to lose out on a school place.
London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (22 003 648)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the conduct of the Council when Mr and Mrs X applied for an Education Health and care Plan for their child. We could achieve any worthwhile outcome by investigating at this stage as it is not yet clear what injustice if any has been caused by the Council’s delay in issuing an appealable decision not to assess Mr and Mrs X’s child’s special educational needs. Other matters are outside our jurisdiction.
Derbyshire County Council (21 006 458)
Summary: Mr and Mrs X complain about the Council’s decision not to issue their daughter with a Child in Need plan despite confirming it necessary to make social care provision her. We found no evidence of fault in the way the Council considered these matters. So, we are completing our investigation.
Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (21 007 914)
Summary: I have not investigated Mr B’s complaints about how the Council facilitated contact with his children, the contents of its assessments or the conduct of the social worker. This is because these matters are subject to court proceedings, or we cannot add to the Council’s own investigation. The Council has explained why it did not use the statutory procedure to investigate Mr B’s complaints. There is fault by the Council in how it dealt with its breaches of Mr B’s personal data, and it has agreed to take the action set out below to remedy this.
Wokingham Borough Council (21 011 024)
Summary: Ms X complained the Council failed to properly consider her complaint about its actions during an assessment of her children’s needs, which it investigated through the children’s statutory complaint procedure. The Council failed to respond to an identified risk, delayed in investigating Ms X’s complaint and failed to properly complete the children’s statutory complaint procedure. The Council has agreed to apologise to Ms X and pay her a total of £1000 to recognise the distress, frustration and time and trouble caused by the faults, and pay her son £200 to recognise the injustice he was caused.
Liverpool City Council (21 016 655)
Summary: The Council’s refusal to consider Ms X’s complaint about how it protected her when she was a child is fault. The Council has agreed to apologise, pay Ms X £200, investigate her complaint, and take action to improve its services.
West Sussex County Council (21 017 661)
Summary: the Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about disclosure of sensitive information now because he can re-submit his complaint to the Council.
London Borough of Enfield (21 005 235)
Summary: Mrs R said the Council failed to provide the education set out in her adult daughter Miss C’s education, health and care plan and also failed to provide tutoring it agreed to provide. The Council was at fault for delay in providing tutoring and for minor failures in the education health and care plan process. These caused Miss C injustice in the form of distress. The Council has agreed to pay Miss C £500 in recognition of that distress, to take all reasonable steps to ensure she receives education and to provide evidence that it has reviewed its processes.
Plymouth City Council (21 009 448)
Summary: The complainant (Ms X), who is also her daughter’s (A) representative, says the Council’s delay in supporting A through an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) affected her school attendance and General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) grades. There was a delay in issuing A’s EHCP, which is fault. However, the fault did not cause A any injustice.
Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (21 010 140)
Summary: Mrs X complained the Council failed to meet her child, Y’s special educational needs and to provide them with suitable alternative education. There was fault in how the Council failed to arrange suitable alternative education for Y when she was unable to attend school due to anxiety. It agreed to apologise, pay Mrs X and Y a financial remedy and review its procedures.
Wiltshire Council (22 002 771)
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about delay in the assessment of child A’s education and health care needs and ‘child A’ more recently being out of school. It is not currently possible to assess the injustice. Mr X can return to this office when there is a decision on his appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal or following the Council’s assessment of ‘child A’ being out of school.
London Borough of Barnet (21 018 136)
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about a social worker’s conduct as Social Work England is better placed.
Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (22 002 588)
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s assessment of Miss X’s conduct as a foster carer. There is not enough evidence of fault to warrant investigation.
Somerset County Council (22 002 600)
Summary: We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about foster care processes as she has appealed to the Independent Review Mechanism.
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (22 003 224)
Summary: We cannot investigate Mr X’s complaint that the Council’s social worker gave inaccurate information to court. We cannot lawfully investigate what happens in court.
Essex County Council (21 008 023)
Summary: Miss X complained that the Council failed to consider her application and appeal for home to school transport for her 16-year-old son properly. There was fault in the way the Council considered the matter as it did not look at whether in all the circumstances of the case it was necessary to offer help with transport. Nor did it explain how it measured distances. The Council has agreed to review the decision and its post-16 transport policy.