Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 20 Feb 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint about the actions of a social worker and a Section 7 Report prepared by the Council’s children’s services department. This is because the issues have been the subject of court proceedings and are out of our jurisdiction.
- The complainant, who I refer to here as Mr F, says that a social worker for the Council:
- Is refusing to allow contact between Mr F’s mother and his daughter;
- Has contacted his probation officer and revoked permission for Mr F’s contact letters;
- Has shared Mr F’s probation file with his mother, without his consent, as part of a Section 7 Report compiled for court;
- Has compiled a biased and inaccurate Section 7 Report; and
- Has refused to consider Mr F’s concerns regarding his daughter’s stepfather.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information provided by Mr F and by the Council. I also sent Mr F an initial view for his comments.
What I found
- Mr F has a daughter, who has been the subject of court proceedings regarding her care and contact, after the death of her mother.
- Mr F is unable to care for his daughter as he is currently in prison, but had contact with her by letter.
- Mr F complains that a Section 7 report prepared for the court proceedings is biased and contains untrue information about him. He further complains about the way it was prepared.
- The Ombudsman cannot consider this complaint as we are not allowed to consider any aspect of a matter which has been subject to court proceedings. Ultimately, any injustice flowing from the way the report was compiled results from its influence on the court decision. It is for the judge to decide on the credibility of any reports provided in making that decision.
- Mr F further complains that in preparing the report, the social worker inappropriately shared confidential information about him with his mother. We cannot consider this issue as complaints about data breaches are investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
- Mr F says that the social worker has also told his probation officer not to send his letters to his daughter. As he says that his letter contact was directed by the court, any refusal to implement it can only be challenged in court.
- Mr F also complains that the Council has not responded properly to his concerns about his daughter’s step-father. However, although it has passed his concerns to its Safeguarding Team to follow up, it is unable to report any details back to him due to data protection considerations.
- Finally, Mr F complains that the Council has refused to investigate his complaints. Although he considers that some of the issues raised will not be specifically addressed by the court, the Council cannot investigate anything relating to the matter while there are on-going court proceedings.
- I cannot investigate the complaint as the matters complained of are related to court proceedings and are out of our jurisdiction.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman