Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council (19 010 180)

Category : Children's care services > Adoption

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 21 Nov 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mr X’s complaint about why a child was not placed with him with a view to adoption between December 2018 and July 2019. The Court approved the decisions on the child’s care, and we cannot investigate Court proceedings.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, says the Council delayed in placing a child with his family for fostering with the aim of adoption.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. 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 further investigation will lead to a different outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mr X provided with his complaint which included part of the Council’s reply to him. I considered Mr X’s comments on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr X says in July 2019 the Council placed a child, Y, with his family with the aim his family should foster Y and then adopt Y. Mr X says Y should have been in their care from December 2018. He says the Council told them the Courts decided in December not to follow the foster to adopt plan at that stage. Instead Y lived with other foster carers.
  2. Mr X says he has since learnt the Council did not ask the Court to approve a foster to adopt plan. He says not doing so has cost Y six months of lost vital bonding time with Mr X and his family. He says the Council failed to put the child’s interests first. He says the Council officers were not truthful in Court.
  3. The Council’s reply to Mr X’s complaint says the Council had foster to adopt as one of five alternatives at the Court hearings in November 2018. At the Court proceedings a legal guardian represented Y. They are independent from the Council.

Analysis

  1. When a Council applies for a Care Order, as happened here, the Council has to provide the Court with a Care Plan. This sets out the Council’s future long term plans and the immediate care plans for the child. Any Court decision is taken in light of those Care Plans. This includes all interim orders.
  2. We cannot investigate the information provided to a Court which it relies on to make its decision. We cannot investigate the case the Council presented to the Court. We also cannot investigate the Court’s decisions. This means we cannot investigate why the foster to adopt plan was not agreed by the Court in November/December 2018
  3. Mr X says he has received contradictory information about what happened at Court in December. We cannot investigate what happened at the Court hearings.
  4. Mr X says Y interests were not put first. The court appointed guardian represented Y in the Court proceedings. It is their role to put Y’s interests first. We cannot investigate their actions.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint. This is because we have no power to investigate the conduct of Court proceedings.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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