See also: • Cascading Oppression • Fractal Abuse • Authoritarian Paradigm Collapse
Children Services Abuse:
Weird letter from the Ombudsman 23/06/2011
26 June 2011
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How silly can things get?  These people are numb skulls.  He says one thing one week and another the next week.  And he gives fact sheets explaining what he should do and doesn't do it.  He seems to be making things up as he goes along!  This sort of thing happening once in a while would possibly be a mistake but it is beginning to seem as if it is a mode of operation for government agents.  On the 10 June Wallace Filbert, the Ombudsman's Customer Service Adviser, stated quite clearly "We have asked them to supply this information within 10 working days".  But 15 days later Dave receives this letter through the post.  In it Wallace Filbert clearly states "I am sending a copy of your complaint to the Council today asking the Council to put it through the Council's own complaints procedure".  What is going on?  Under normal conditions the council should reply in two days.  Wallace wrote to them asking for a reply in 10 days.  Fifteen days later he tells Dave he is writing to them now.  It is all flak and fob off.

0123 456 7890

23 June 2011

Ms Dave Hook
80, Haslet Road

Our ref:       12 345 678

(Please quote our reference when contacting us and, if using email, please put the reference number in the email subject header)

Dear Ms Hook

Thank you for your complaint against Sumshire County Council.  We have allocated your complain reference number 12 345 678, and it will help us if you quote this number whenever you contact us.

The law says that, before investigating a complaint, the Ombudsman must normally be satisfied that the Council knows about the complaint and has been given an opportunity to investigate and to reply.  For social care complaints such as yours, councils are required by law to operate formal complaints procedures.  These complaint procedures normally end when the Council has told you what action it will take in response to any recommendations that a review panel makes on your complaint.  We usually expect you to complete this process before we will consider your complaint for investigation.

When the council has completed its investigation of your complaint, and if you are happy with the outcome, you can then complain to the Ombudsman.  You can also complain to us if you are not satisfied with the way the Council has dealt with your complaint.

From the information I now have, it appears to me that the Council may not yet have had a reasonable opportunity to deal with your complaint under the statutory complaints procedure.  So I am sending a copy of your complaint to the Council today asking the Council to put it through the Council's own complaints procedure, or to otherwise respond to your complaint if for any reason the Council doesn't think it is appropriate to use the statutory complaints procedures.

Fact sheets

I enclose a 'frequently asked questions' (FAQ) sheet that explains in more detail what is likely to happen now that your complaint is being sent to the Council.

We have produced a series of fact sheets to help people understand our role and how we will investigate complaints.  I enclose the fact sheets listed at the bottom of this letter that cover some of the issues relevant to your complaint, and may be helpful if the Council does not resolve your complaint.

Next steps

When the Council tells you that it has completed its consideration of your complaint, and if you are not happy with its response or the way it has dealt with you, please telephone us on 0123 456 7890.  Tell our advisor that you have had this letter and quote our reference number 12 345 678.  It would help if you have with you the Council's written or email response to your complaint when you call, as our advisor will ask you some questions about what the letter or email says.

Equality and diversity

In the meantime, it will help us if you fill in and return the enclosed form.  We need this information to help ensure that we deliver our services in accordance with our Equality and Diversity Policy.  We will not send this information to anyone else.  It will not affect the way we handle your complaint, nor will it be seen by the person who deals with it.

When you have completed the form, please return it in the enclosed pre-paid envelope.

As explained, if you remain unhappy when you have completed the Council's complaints process you can complain to us then.

Yours sincerely

Wallace Filbert
Customer Service Advisor

Enc:   G3 Premature social care children FAQ,
S2 Childrens care services
Equality and Diversity Form

Local Government Ombudsman
PO Box 1234
T: 012 3456 7890
F: 012 3456 7890
DX:DX 012345 Oustring 6
Advice Team: 0123 456 7890

Fact sheet - G3 LGO
0123 456 7890
Premature children's social care
complaints - frequently asked

Why have you sent my complaint to the council? - I want to complain to the Ombudsman not the council.
The Local Government Act 1974 says that, before investigating a complaint, the Ombudsman must usually be sure that the council knows about the complaint and has had a reasonable opportunity to investigate and reply to it.  For social care complaints such as yours this means we usually give the council the chance to put complaints all the way through the three-stage statutory complaints procedures.  Our Advisor has concluded from what you have told us that this hasn't happened yet, so we have sent your complaint to the council.

How long will this take?
From start to finish the social care complaints procedures may take up to six months (and in a  few exceptional cases longer than this), depending on how detailed and complex a complaint is.  But councils resolve many complaints whilst they are going through the complaints procedures, so it's possible that the council will deal with your complaint much more quickly than that.

What is the council's complaints procedure?
By law councils which provide social care services have to operate complaints procedures according to regulations and guidance issued by central Government.  For children's services these have three stages:  Stage 1 is the Local Resolution stage, and if complaints cannot be resolved at this point they move on to the second stage, the Investigation.  Again, many complaints are sorted out at the Stage 2 Investigation, but if one is not, and the complainant wants to take it further, a Review Panel considers that complaint at Stage 3.  The Government has established timescales for these different stages.  The council will let you know what these timescales are.

Where can I get details of the council's complaints procedure?
The most obvious source is the council's website, or you can telephone the council to ask for a copy.  If you have difficulty getting a copy, please telephone our Advisor and they will get a copy for you.

What if the council doesn't keep to the timescales set down for the stages of the complaints procedures?
If there are serious delays please let us know:  we may decide the council has had enough time to deal with your complaint and that we should consider it for investigation.

What happens if the council puts my complaint right through the complaints procedures and I am unhappy with the outcome?
Call our Advisor on 0123 456 7890 or 0123 456 7890, quoting your reference number.  It would help if you could have a copy of the council's response when you call.  The probability is that we will then investigate your complaint.

I complained to the council before it decided the issue I am concerned about - is this not sufficient?
No, because until the council makes a decision affecting you, we do not consider that there is a cause for your complaint.

The council has not put the complaint through the complaints procedures but instead it has written to me to tell me that it cannot help me.  What should I do now?
Call our Advisor on 0123 456 7890 or 0123 456 7890, quoting your reference number.  The probability is that we will then investigate your complaint.

Why must I allow the council to put my complaint through the complaints procedures when I know it will not change its decision?
Experience suggests that many councils are quite successful at resolving complaints through their own complaints procedures.  About two thirds of the complaints that we refer to councils to investigate are not pursued by the complainant with us afterwards.

Will you check what is happening to my complaint whilst the council is dealing with it?
No.  When you have completed the complaints process, come back to us if you remain unhappy.  The council will usually tell you when you have reached the end of the process.  However, we have special procedures for dealing with complaints made to us directly by a child or young person, or by someone else on their behalf and in such cases we will check what happens to the complaint whilst the council is dealing with it.

I am worried that things will get worse if the council is allowed a period of months to deal fully with the complaint.  Why can't the Ombudsman investigate that complaint now?
The law does allow the Ombudsman to investigate some particularly urgent complaints without giving the council the opportunity to complete the statutory complaints procedures first.  But we do not usually do this.  It could be that both you and the council agree that the Ombudsman should now investigate after stage 2.  Our Ombudsman will decide whether this is the best thing to do. If you think your complaint should be treated as an exception, and you have not discussed this point with our Adviser already, please call us on 0123 456 7890 or 0123 456 7890.

Six weeks have passed and I have heard nothing from the council.  What should I do?
Telephone us on 0123 456 7890 or 0123 456 7890.  We will usually give you some contact information so you can ask the council yourself what is going on.  Exceptionally, we might contact the council for you.

My complaint is about the council's plan to move me to another residential home.  I've been told this will happen soon, so if I have to wait some months before the Ombudsman investigates it's likely I'll have been moved by then.
The fact that you make a complaint to the council or to the Ombudsman won't in itself stop the council going ahead with its plans.  The Ombudsman doesn't have any power to stop that from happening.  But the Government guidance on children's social care complaints procedures says councils should consider 'freezing' decisions such as the one affecting you whilst complaints are being investigated.  If the council comes to the view, whilst it's dealing with your complaint, that there has been fault in the process that led to the decision, then it may change it.  If that doesn't happen, but we later decide you shouldn't have been moved, we can make recommendations to the council about how it might put things right for you.  More details of this are given in our fact sheets, which you can view on our web site or we will send you a copy if you call us on 0123 456 7890 or 0123 456 7890.

How long will it take the Ombudsman to investigate the complaint once the council has responded to it?
Our target is to complete the investigation of half the complaints made to us within 13 weeks.  Eighty per cent of complaints are fully investigated within 26 weeks.  But complex social care complaints do tend to be among those which take us longer to investigate.

After the council has completed its response to my complaint - and I am unhappy with it - what happens next?
Our Adviser will discuss with you the next steps and we will send you a further explanatory document.  The complaint will be passed straight away to one of our investigation teams, and we will give you the contact details.  An investigator will usually contact you quickly - but at the latest within 28 days of us sending the complaint to them.

Why have you sent me some fact sheets?
We have fact sheets that are relevant to your complaint and our Adviser felt it would be helpful for you to see them now.  They may help you in pursuing your complaint with the council and they will give you a better understanding of our role if we investigate your complaint later on.

Fact Sheet - S2 LGO
0123 456 7890
Complaints about children's care services

This fact sheet is aimed primarily at parents, carers and young people who have a problem with a children's care service complaint and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.

I have a problem with my complaint about children's care services.  Can the Ombudsman help me?
   In some cases, yes.  If you are a user of children and family services or are complaining on behalf of someone who is, you will very probably have the right to use this special complaints procedure which the law says councils have to operate to deal with these kinds of complaints.
   If you have made a complaint and the council has looked into it, but you're unhappy with the result or with the way your complaint has been dealt with, you can complain to us.  But please be aware that we cannot look at the merits of the decisions which have been properly made.
   There are some kinds of children and family services complaints that we can't deal with.  We can't look into complaints about anything that has been considered by a court.  And we can't stop a council from taking a court action that will affect you, for example if the council starts proceedings to take a child into care, or to have a child adopted.
   In the same way, you can't use a complaint to us as a way of appealing against a court decision.  If you want to change a decision a court has taken you need to seek legal advice, and we can't help you with that.

How do I complain?
   You should normally complain to the council first.  We will not normally consider a children and family services complaint until it has gone right through the council's complaints procedure for children's social services.
   You should normally complain to us within 12 months of hearing what the council's final decision is.  When you make a complaint to children and family services you should be given information about what will happen to your complaint and how long it will take.
   There are three stages, and generally the time to complain to us is if you are not happy with the outcome at the end of the third stage, after an independent Review Panel has considered your complaint.
   In exceptional cases we will consider complaints even though they haven't been all the way through the council's special complaints procedures.  We may for example do this where there are serious delays by councils in processing children and family services complaints, if there is good reason to believe the council would not handle it effectively, or where the complaint is received directly from or on behalf of a child or young person.  It is also possible for you and the council to agree to refer a complaint to the Ombudsman early, following a thorough investigation at stage 2 of the complaint process.
   To complain to the Ombudsman phone our Advice Team on 0123 456 7890 or 0123 456 7890 (8.30am to 5.00pm, Mondays to Fridays).  You will be able to discuss your complaint with one of our advisors.  You can text us on 0123 456 7890.
   You can complete an online complaint form at, or you can email us at

If you're a child or young person making a complaint to us we'll give you extra help
We'll help you make your complaint to the council, if you haven't done that already, and keep in touch with you regularly while it goes through the complaint procedure.  Once we're in a position to consider your complaint ourselves we'll give it priority, and we'll use the means of contact with you that you prefer - including email or test, if you like.  We'll also help you find an advocate to support you with your complaint if you want us to.  There is more information on special pages on our website at people/ or call our Advice Team on 0123 456 7890.

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?
We will consider whether the council has done something wrong in the way it went about dealing with your children and family services complaint which has caused you problems.  Some of the issues we look at are if the council:
   didn't sort out an advocate for a child or young person who had a complaint to make
   failed to provide you with information about how it would deal with your complaint and how long this will take
   did not look into all the important issues that you wanted to complain about, even though they are issues it could consider
   failed to keep to the time scales set down for any stage of your complaint
   asked someone to deal with your complaint who is biased against you, or who hadn't got enough knowledge or experience to do the job properly
   didn't check evidence available to it that could support what you say
   produced a report on your complaint that contained mistakes or that came to conclusions that aren't justified
   upheld your complaint, but then didn't take the action needed to try to put things right for you, or
   if in any other way it didn't follow the guidance that the Government has published that says how complaints about children's services have to be handled.

What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault?
A lot depends on what kind s of faults we find and how we think you have been affected by them:
   if we decide that the council hasn't dealt with your complaint properly but that the outcome would have been the same if it had handled it well, then we probably won't ask it to do more than apologise to you, and perhaps make a payment for your wasted time and inconvenience, but
   if we decide that the council should have come to the conclusion that your complaint was justified if it had looked into it properly, we then look at how you were affected by the original faults you complained about and how the council might now put things right for you.

Sometimes things have happened that can't be undone.  But if we find you have been harmed by something children and family services have done wrong, we will ask the council to take action to make up for this, so far as is possible.  As examples, we can ask it to:
   carry out proper assessments of needs and reviews, and make proper care plans, involving all the people and agencies who will have a part in delivering them
   make sure the services and support provided are what's needed and up to standard
   provide extra input, if appropriate, to make up for anything that you've missed out on, or
   if this is the only way of putting things right, pay you compensation - whether we ask the council to compensate you and how much we ask for will depend on how you've been afected by what has gone wrong.
Where we find fault with the council's procedures we will often ask it to make changes so that the same problem doesn't happen again in the future, to you or anyone else.

Examples of a complaint we have considered
Ms X complained to us when she was still under 18.  She complained that social services had failed to take appropriate action when she made several reports that her father was ill-treating her.

We found that social services hadn't taken seriously either Ms X's reports of being abused or her complaint to them.  We asked the council to improve its procedures, including the way it deals with complaints from young people, to compensate Ms X for the time and trouble she was put to in making her complaint, and to put a much larger sum of money in trust for her until she was 18.  The council did this.

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation.  If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please call 0123 456 7890.

The Local Government Ombudsmen provide a free, independent and impartial service.  We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities.  We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it.  If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result the Ombudsmen aim to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

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