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 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.
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)
- 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  EHWCC 2847 (Admin))
How I considered this complaint
- 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.
What I found
- 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.
- 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.
- Mr X complained to the Council.
- 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.
- Mr X says the stage 2 investigation was inadequate on parts of his complaint.
- We cannot investigate the content and preparation of a report a Council officer provided to a Court.
- We cannot investigate comments made during Court proceedings.
- We cannot investigate how a Council replied to a complaint when we cannot investigate the complaint itself.
- The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint. This is because we cannot investigate legal proceedings.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman