West Sussex County Council (15 017 743)

Category : Children's care services > Adoption

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 03 Mar 2016

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Information Commissioner’s Office is better placed to consider Mrs X’s complaint about the Council’s failure to provide information she requested.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, complains the Council failed to provide her with her adoption records.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman normally expects someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, the Ombudsman may decide to investigate if she thinks there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
  2. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. She must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. She provides a free service, but must use public money carefully. She may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if she believes there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mrs X provided with her complaint which included the Council’s reply. Mrs X has commented on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mrs X has been trying to find out about her adoption in 1942 for many years. She understands the Council took over from the Council that may have been the placing agency. She requested it provide her with its records. It has not yet done so.

Analysis

  1. A request for information which a body might hold about a person is a subject access request under the Data Protection Act. Parliament established the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to decide Data Protection Act 1998 disputes. The Ombudsman would usually consider the ICO is better placed to determine the issue at the crux of Mrs X’s complaint. This is particularly so given the complexity involved in her particular case.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint that the Council has failed to provide her with information about her, as another body is better placed.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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