Case Study 40: Contact with Social Services - Formally resolved - No maladministration

Ms B’s complaint was about her landlord’s communications with Social Services following a dispute between her partner Mr T and the landlord’s contractors.

Mr T has a medical condition which can affect his behaviour, particularly in situations which he finds stressful. In this case both Ms B and the landlord agreed that there was an incident between Mr T and the contractors, which involved Mr T throwing items at the contractors and shouting at them. However the actual details of the extent and seriousness of the incident and Mr T’s behaviour were disputed by Ms B.

Following the incident the landlord arranged to meet Ms B and Mr T. However the meeting was postponed following advice from Mr T’s support worker that she should also be present at the meeting. The landlord had in the meantime received further information about Mr T’s condition and how it could affect his behaviour and it noted that Ms B has three children. It then sought advice from the local authority's Social Services team who advised that a referral should be made to it. Following the landlord’s referral, Social Services contacted Ms B, but did not take any further action, in part because Ms B was already engaging with it in regard to other matters.  

Ms B complained to the landlord about the attitude of the officer who had initially responded to the incident and questioned why sensitive information had been passed to Social Services and a referral made before the landlord had met her and Mr T to discuss the incident.

We decided that local resolution was no longer possible and that formal resolution was appropriate. In our findings we noted that referrals to Social Services about possible child welfare issues are extremely sensitive matters, and that the referral understandably caused significant upset to Ms B and Mr T. However both parties agreed that the incident had taken place, and Mr T’s behaviour had been interpreted as threatening and potentially unsafe. The landlord could not fully assess this, but was responsible for raising concerns with Social Services, we found that it was reasonable that the landlord had sought guidance from Social Services and followed its advice.

When Ms B raised concerns about the matter, the landlord reviewed the role of its staff in various aspects of the case and apologised where it had gone wrong. We decided that this was proportionate and reasonable redress for the acknowledged mistakes. However, we also considered that the landlord had not demonstrated that it had learnt from the outcomes of this case.

We therefore recommended that the landlord considered how it could learn from the outcomes of the case and ensure that it reduced the risk of similar errors being made in the future. The landlord provided a comprehensive response to this, explaining the actions it had taken. By doing so it demonstrated that it had leant from this complaint, had made changes as a result and had therefore shown its commitment to improving future services for its customers.