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Derbyshire County Council (17 018 445)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 28 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman should not investigate Mr J’s complaint about the Council’s involvement with his family. This is because the earlier events he complains about were considered in court, and the Council has not yet had the chance to consider his complaint about more recent events.

The complaint

  1. Mr J complains about the Council’s involvement with his family. In particular he complains about:
    • The circumstances in which the Council took the children into care, in 2015
    • The evidence submitted to court, and proceedings in court
    • His children’s experiences while they have been in care, and
    • The Council’s response to recent contact made by one of the children.

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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. We have the power to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we think the issues could reasonably be, or have been, raised within a court of law. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)
  3. Before investigating a complaint, we must be satisfied that the Council knows about the complaint, and has had an opportunity to investigate and reply. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(5))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the information Mr J provided with his complaint, and information provided by the Council when we asked about its consideration of the complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mr J’s children were taken into care in 2015 and the Council subsequently obtained a court order. Much of what Mr J is now complaining to us about was considered during court proceedings, so we will not investigate these issues. And we cannot investigate the decision to start court proceedings, or Mr J’s complaints about what happened in court.
  2. In his complaint, Mr J also raises concerns about the care his children have received, and the arrangements for contact between the children, while they have been in their separate care placements. Where these issues have occurred since the conclusion of court proceedings, they are matters we could consider. But Mr J needs to make this complaint to the Council first.
  3. The law sets out the procedure the Council should use to consider such a complaint. The Council will need the consent of the children themselves to investigate it.
  4. Mr J also refers to the Council’s response to recent contact made by one of the children via social media. This is also a matter we could consider, but Mr J needs to make the complaint to the Council first. Because this is a complaint Mr J may make in his own right, the Council does not need the consent of the children to consider it.
  5. Once the Council has completed its consideration of Mr J’s complaints about more recent matters, he may bring these parts of his complaint back to us. But we will not consider them until we are satisfied the Council has had the chance to investigate and reply.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman should not investigate this complaint. This is because the earlier events Mr J complains about were considered in court, and the Council has not yet had the chance to consider his complaint about more recent events.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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