Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 28 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complains the Council told his partner to end their relationship or it would remove her child from her care. There is no fault in the Council’s decision to reject Mr X’s complaint as he has no parental responsibility or any other legal responsibility for his partner’s child. The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mr X’s complaint about what happened in court in 2012 as the law does not allow us to do so.
- Mr X complains the Council told his partner to end her relationship with him or it will remove her child from her care. Mr X says the Council has based this advice on findings made in a court case regarding his daughter in 2012. Mr X disputes the findings of the court.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- 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)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information Mr X has provided to the Ombudsman. I have also considered the Council’s response to my enquiries and its response to Mr X’s complaint.
- I have written to Mr X and the Council with my draft decision and given them an opportunity to comment.
What I found
- 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 Independent Investigator 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. However, she may look at whether a council properly considered the findings and recommendations of the independent investigation.
- The law says councils can only consider complaints from people with parental responsibility for a child or who have other specified legal responsibilities in relation a child.
- Mr X says the Council told his partner to end her relationship with him because he was a risk to her child. Mr X says this was because of a court decision made 2012 following allegations about his behaviour in relation to his daughter. Mr X says the court decision is wrong but he was unable to get legal aid at the time to challenge it.
- Mr X complained to the Council on 8 August 2017 about its interactions with his partner.
- The Council wrote to Mr X on 14 August 2017 to say that it could not consider his complaint as he did not “hold Parental Responsibility (PR) for [his partner’s child].”
- The Council said “in order for these issues you raise to be considered, your partner would need to raise these issues with us and make a complaint in her own right, which would then be considered.”
- The law does not permit the Ombudsman to investigate complaints about the commencement or conduct of court proceedings. Therefore, I cannot investigate what happened in court in 2012.
- There is no fault in the way the Council dealt with Mr X’s complaint in 2017. Mr X does not have parental responsibility or any other legal responsibility for his partner’s child and so the Council could not accept his complaint under the statutory children’s complaints process.
- The Council said Mr X’s partner could complaint if she was unhappy with its actions. There is not fault in the Council giving this advice to Mr X as a way of progressing the complaint.
- I have completed my investigation as I have found no fault.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman