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Council takes two years to respond to complaint about children’s services

Authority to pay complainant £500 compensation

Derbyshire County Council has taken more than two years to respond to a woman's complaint, despite assuring the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) three times that it would investigate.

The LGO has now issued a report to make public the council's poor handling of the situation and the recommendations it should undertake.

The woman first contacted the LGO after complaints to the county council about its Children's Services department went unanswered in May 2011.
At the time, Derbyshire County Council assured the LGO that they would investigate, and the case was closed, but by September 2012 the council still had not carried out a stage two investigation, under the statutory children's complaints procedures. The woman made a further complaint to the LGO and as a result of this the council again committed to undertake a stage two investigation.

By April 2013 the woman contacted the LGO saying she had received no communication from the council or the investigating officer. The LGO wrote to the council once again on 25 April 2013 and the woman finally received an acknowledgement of her complaint two days later – some 25 months after it was first registered with Derbyshire County Council.

The council apologised to the woman for the distress it caused her, but it had failed to appoint an independent person to investigate the complaint under the statutory procedures as it promised on two previous occasions, and had not arranged a meeting with her to discuss her issues before starting an investigation.

The LGO has asked Derbyshire County Council to appoint an investigating officer and independent person and carry out a stage two investigation and complete it within the statutory timescales.

The council has also been asked to pay the woman £500 in recognition of the time and trouble it has taken to pursue the complaint and for any distress the delay has caused her.

The council should also carry out a root and branch review of its statutory complaints process and put in place any changes necessary to ensure it meets the required timescales, providing evidence of the review to the LGO within three months along with any outcomes.