Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 25 Sep 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms J’s complaint about the Council’s actions in respect of her daughter before 2017. The complaint is late and there are insufficient grounds to investigate the matter now. Ms A’s daughter’s care has been considered in court. The law says the Ombudsman cannot investigate what happens in court.
- Ms J complains that the Council failed to safeguard her daughter before 2017.
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 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)
- 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)
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information Ms J provided with her complaint and her response to our draft decision.
What I found
- Ms J’s daughter, D, was a ward of court until she became an adult in mid-2016. In May 2017, a Court of Protection decision said the Council had failed to have any positive impact on D’s welfare needs and had failed adequately to address the issue of her capacity. Ms J is complaining to us about this.
- The Court of Protection made its decision more than 12 months before Ms J complained to the Ombudsman. The complaint is therefore late. Ms J says she did not come to the Ombudsman until she became aware of the significance of the order the court made. This does not provide grounds for the Ombudsman to use our discretion to investigate the complaint.
- Even if the complaint was not late, the Ombudsman would not investigate it because D’s care has been considered in court. The court was responsible for D’s welfare while she was a child, so we cannot investigate what happened between 2014 and mid-2016.
- The Court of Protection has reviewed D’s welfare from mid-2016 to May 2017. It has already considered the Council’s actions during this period. So, it is not for us to consider them again. Ms J argues that the Ombudsman has misinterpreted the court order. That is not the case. The Ombudsman has not placed any interpretation on the court order. It is not for us to do so. The fact that D’s care has been before the court prevents the Ombudsman from investigating.
- Any complaint Ms J has about D’s care as an adult may be put to the Council in the first instance. The Ombudsman will not intervene.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the matters Ms J complains of happened more than 12 months ago, and have been considered in court.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman