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Suffolk County Council (17 019 543)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 04 May 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about the involvement of the Council’s Children’s Services with the complainant’s family, and the adoption of her children. This is because the events complained of were known to the complainant more than 12 months ago. They are out of our jurisdiction, and there are no good reasons to investigate them now.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I refer to here as Mrs E, says that the Council:
    • Did not support her properly or acknowledge that she was a victim of domestic violence;
    • Removed her children and put them up for adoption;
    • Did not make arrangements to allow her to contest the adoption; and
    • Has refused to investigate her complaint, saying that it was made late.

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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 cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information provided by Mrs E and by the Council. I have also sent Mrs E a draft decision for her comments.

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What I found

  1. Mrs E has children, who were removed from her care in 2012. In 2013, the children were put up for adoption, and their foster carers applied to adopt them in the following year.
  2. Mrs E complained to the Council about its handling of her case in 2013. The Council says that her concerns were thoroughly looked into, but Miss E complained again in 2015. This time the Council refused to consider the complaint because, it said, the complaints had been previously considered, and were now out of time, being more than 12 months after the events.
  3. The Council referred Mrs E to the Ombudsman, but she did not make a complaint at that time.
  4. Mrs E again complained to the Council in 2018, and the Council again refused to investigate the complaint, as it is regarding events from well over 12 months previously.
  5. Mrs E has now complained to the Ombudsman, but we will not investigate the complaint. This is because the events took place more than 12 months after she was aware of them. The complaint is therefore out of jurisdiction, and there are no good reasons why we should exercise the Ombudsman’s discretion to consider the complaint now.
  6. Much of the complaint additionally refers to matters that were considered in court or had a bearing on court decisions. These parts of the complaint would be out of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction even if raised within the time limit.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman should not investigate this complaint. This is because it is made late, and there are no good reasons to consider it now.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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