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Cambridgeshire County Council (20 011 284)

Category : Adult care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 31 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Ms B’s complaint about the Council breaching her confidentiality. This is because we could not add to the Council’s response or make a finding of the kind Ms B wants. Complaints about breaches of data are for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), and it would be reasonable for Ms B to ask the ICO to consider whether the evidence she has breaches confidentiality.

The complaint

  1. Ms B complained to the Council that a Social Worker discussed personal information about her with a hairdresser causing her to suffer harassment and abuse on social media.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or
  • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint, or
  • it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

  1. We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information and documentation Ms B and the Council provided. I sent Ms B a copy of my draft decision for comment.

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What I found

  1. Ms B says a Social Worker discussed her personal life with a local hairdresser who she had complained about. Ms B says the Social Worker and the hairdresser are friends. As a consequence of the complaint, Ms B says the hairdresser targeted her on social media, causing her to suffer distress, harassment, and abuse.
  2. The Council investigated Ms B’s complaints. It found no evidence staff had breached Ms B’s personal data. Ms B says the Social Worker and the hairdresser know each other and believes the information could have only come from the Social Worker. however, we could not make this finding.
  3. The Information Commissioner’s Office considers complaints about breaches of data. Ms B can ask the Information Commissioner to consider whether the evidence she has, demonstrates there has been a breach of her personal data by the Council.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because we could not add to the Council’s response or make a finding of the kind Ms B wants.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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