Northamptonshire County Council (17 018 142)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 13 Apr 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint about the compilation and content of an assessment report about the complainant’s family. This is because the report was produced for court proceedings and is therefore out of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I refer to here as Miss T, says that:
    • The content of a Section 7 assessment report by a social worker is biased and inaccurate;
    • The actions of the social worker in compiling the report were unfair, breached confidentiality, and were not in the best interests of the complainant’s child;
    • The alleged deficiencies in the report led to Miss T’s child being put into the care of his father, who is unsuitable to care for him; and
    • The Council has refused to investigate the complaint.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. 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)
  3. 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 there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information provided by Miss T and by the Council. I also sent Miss T an initial view for her comments.

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What I found

  1. Miss T has a son who resides with his father as a result of proceedings in the family court.
  2. The court’s decision was informed by a Section 7 assessment report compiled by a social worker for the Council.
  3. Miss T is unhappy about the content of the report, and about the way in which the social worker put it together, and has complained to the Council about both of these issues.
  4. The Council has refused to investigate the complaint at stage two, because its stage one response told her that it considered challenges to the report and to the credibility of the social worker’s judgements should be made to the court, within the family proceedings which were then current. There is no fault in this decision.
  5. Miss T has therefore brought her complaint to the LGSCO.
  6. We cannot consider the complaint, because it relates to a report produced for court proceedings. Case law has established that we cannot consider either the content or the way in which the report was produced.
  7. Miss T says that one of her complaints against the social worker relate to an alleged breach of confidentiality. This complaint should be made to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which is the body set up by parliament to consider such complaints.

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Final decision

  1. I cannot investigate this complaint because it relates to a report produced for proceedings in court, and so is out or our jurisdiction.

Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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