Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 08 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate Mr F’s complaint about the Council’s handling of his early placement adoption, as it is unlikely we could significantly add to the Council’s reply.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr F, complains about issues about the way the Council’s children services team has handled their situation.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We cannot investigate a complaint about the start of court action or what happened in court. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5/5A, paragraph 1/3, as amended)
- 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)
- 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:
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify the cost of our involvement, or
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information Mr F provided with his complaint together with the Council’s reply which it provided. Mr F commented on a draft version of this decision.
What I found
- In 2017, the Council placed a child with Mr F to care under its early placement programme. This means the Council immediately place children with prospective adopters rather than spending time with foster carers before moving to adopters.
- Mr F complains about issues relating to this process and his related involvement with the children’s services team.
Complaints and analysis
- Mr F says the Council disclosed individual pieces of information about his family and home which could help the biological parents identify them.
The Council has apologised for the pieces of information it disclosed which it accepts it would not normally do so. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) was set up by Parliament to decide whether bodies have breached the Data Protection Act 1998. Considering the complex child protection exemptions to that Act, the ICO is better placed to consider this part of Mr F’s complaint.
- The Council failed to share a risk assessment:
I understand the Council has now shared this. There is no evidence of any significant problems caused to Mr F by this allegation of fault.
- Mr F says the Council should have paid child care costs for his other children, incurred while he attended contact sessions for this child:
- The Council changed contact supervision officers and allocated social workers:
The Council apologised for doing so. There is no further outcome achievable if we were to investigate.
- Mr F expressed concerns about decisions over the contact frequency.
The Council applied to the Court for Care Proceedings. The Court decided the level of contact while the proceedings continued. We cannot investigate this issue.
- Mr F says the Council’s mistakes and actions delayed the Court care proceedings.
We cannot investigate the Council’s conduct during court proceedings.
- Mr F says the Council delayed in paying for an alarm for which he was chased for payment.
I understand the delays caused Mr F personal time and trouble. On its own this is not significant enough injustice to warrant an investigate.
- Mr F says he would like the Council to escalate his complaint to a higher level and it has refused to do so.
We will not usually investigate how the Council processes a complaint if we are not going to investigate the complaint itself.
- The Council offered £200 for the errors and accepted faults. It is unlikely our investigation could significantly add to this or the Council’s detailed reply. Mr F says he intends to apply to court for a personal remedy.
- We will not and cannot investigate this complaint. This is because the ICO is better placed for the information complaints, we cannot investigate the issues linked to the Court proceedings and it is unlikely we would achieve a significantly different outcome on the remainder.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman