London Borough of Hackney (19 014 432)

Category : Children's care services > Adoption

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 29 Jan 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mr X’s complaint about information the Council’s children services team gave a Court. We cannot investigate legal proceedings.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, complains about a report the Council’s children services team gave a Court. And about the way the Council replied to a complaint about this.

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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. The Courts have said that we cannot investigate a complaint about any action by a council, concerning a matter which is itself out of our jurisdiction. (R (on the application of M) v Commissioner for Local Administration [2006] EHWCC 2847 (Admin))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mr X provided with his complaint which included the Council’s final reply. Mr X had an opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

Background

  1. Mr X applied to Court to adopt a child. The Court granted the Adoption Order in November 2018. As part of those proceedings the Council had to provide the Court with a report about the child’s circumstances and the merits of an adoption.
  2. Mr X says the Council’s report was inadequate. He says it was inaccurate, unfair and not thorough enough. He says he also complains about comments the Council officer made in Court. Mr X says this all led to an increase in his legal costs of around £11 000.
  3. Mr X complained to the Council.
  4. The law sets out a three stage procedure for councils to follow when looking at complaints about children’s social care services. At stage 2 of this procedure, the Council appoints an Investigating Officer and an Independent Person (who is responsible for overseeing the investigation). If a complainant is unhappy with the outcome of the stage 2 investigation, they can ask for a stage 3 review. If a council has investigated something under this procedure, the Ombudsman would not normally re-investigate it unless he considers that investigation was flawed. However, he may look at whether a council properly considered the findings and recommendations of the independent investigation.
  5. Mr X says the stage 2 investigation was inadequate on parts of his complaint.

Analysis

  1. We cannot investigate the content and preparation of a report a Council officer provided to a Court.
  2. We cannot investigate comments made during Court proceedings.
  3. We cannot investigate how a Council replied to a complaint when we cannot investigate the complaint itself.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint. This is because we cannot investigate legal proceedings.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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