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Bury Metropolitan Borough Council (17 019 023)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 29 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint about the Council’s involvement in the decisions regarding the care and contact arrangements for the complainant’s daughter. This is because the decisions were made by a court and are out of our jurisdiction. Additionally we are unlikely to find evidence of fault in the Council’s actions since the court decision.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I refer to here as Ms M, says that:
    • Her daughter has been unfairly removed from her care and placed with her ex-partner;
    • She has been unable to have contact with her daughter;
    • The Council has failed to protect her daughter and has ignored the concerns she has raised about the risk presented by her ex-partner; and
    • The Council has shared her personal confidential data with her ex-husband.

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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 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:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • 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 Ms M and by the Council. I have also sent Ms M an initial view for her comments.

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What I found

  1. Ms M has a daughter, who has been removed from her care and placed with her ex-partner. Ms M is unhappy with the decision, and feels that it was based on inaccuracies contained in the assessment and report presented to the court by the Council.
  2. We cannot look at this part of the complaint, as the assessment and report formed part of the court proceedings. This means that their content, and the way they were produced, are out of jurisdiction for us.
  3. Ms M further complains that the Council has not enabled her to have contact with her daughter. The Council has explained that the contact arrangements were ordered by the court and are for the family, not the Council, to put in place. If Ms M feels that her ex-partner is not complying with a court order, she would need to go back to court to enforce it.
  4. There is no fault by the Council in this issue.
  5. Ms M also says that the Council has failed to protect her daughter as it has ignored her concerns about the risks she says are posed by her ex-husband.
  6. However, the court decided that Ms M’s ex-partner was the best person to look after their daughter, and it had no concerns for her safety or well-being with him. We cannot challenge a decision made by the courts.
  7. The Council has considered the additional concerns Ms M has raised since then. It used Child in Need procedures to ensure that her care was monitored. It found no evidence of any risk to Ms M’s daughter's safety or well-being and has now closed her case to social services We are unlikely to find fault in its actions.
  8. Finally, Ms M raises the issue of a data breach. Any such complaint needs to go to the Council and then to the Information Commissioner's Office, which was set up to consider such complaints

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Final decision

  1. I cannot investigate this complaint as the substantive issue has been before the courts. I will not investigate the other issues raised as there is no evidence of fault by the Council in the other issues raised.

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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