Devon County Council (18 007 567)

Category : Children's care services > Adoption

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 15 Oct 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint about the actions of social workers for the Council in removing the complainant’s children from her care and putting them up for adoption. This is because the care orders are made by the courts and are out of our jurisdiction. Additionally we cannot achieve her desired outcome of returning her children to her.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I refer to here and Miss M, says that the Council unfairly removed her children from her care and has now put them up for adoption.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. 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)
  3. 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 we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information provided by Miss M and I sent her an initial view for her comments.

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What I found

  1. Miss M has two boys. She says that right from birth, she has not received proper support from the Council to help her look after them at home. She says the Council has unfairly judged her because she has a learning disability, and that the reports presented at court are not accurate.
  2. Miss M’s sons are now subject to a placement order which will result in their adoption. She feels this is unjust, and wants the Ombudsman to help her get them back.
  3. The LGSCO cannot consider the complaint, however. This is because the courts have made and continue to make the decisions regarding the care of Miss M’s sons. Any evidence or reports from the social workers needs to be challenged in court. The court’s involvement and decision-making posers mean that the matter is out of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.
  4. Additionally, although I can understand how difficult the situation must be for Miss M, we could not provide her desired outcome, as only a court could return her children to her.

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Final decision

  1. I cannot investigate this complaint as it is out of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction because the matter has been decided by a court.

Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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