Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 03 Sep 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Miss A’s complaint that the Council’s social worker was at fault in its involvement with her family, and that the Council has been at fault in how it has responded to her complaint. This is because the substantive matters about which Miss A complains have been, or could have been, aired in court.
- The complainant, who I will refer to as Miss A, complains that the Council’s social worker was at fault in her involvement with Miss A’s family. She also complains that the Council was at fault in how it has responded to her formal complaint.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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)
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered what Miss A has said in support of her complaint and the complaint correspondence provided by the Council.
What I found
- Miss A’s children were placed in the Council’s care in March 2017 under the police’s protection powers. The Council then obtained Interim Care Orders for both children. Miss A’s younger daughter returned to her under an Interim Supervision Order. Her older child remained in the Council’s care until August 2017.
- Miss A complains that there was no evidence to justify the removal of her children. She complains that the Council’s social worker made false statements in every report produced throughout the process, without regard for the effect on her children. Miss A says she had to spend the following year rebuilding her relationship with her children and was forced to give up her university course.
- Miss A made a formal complaint. She complains that the Council’s response was delayed and that she has been denied the opportunity to complete the statutory complaints procedure. The Council has declined to escalate the complaint to the final stage of the procedure.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Miss A’s complaint. The decisions to remove Miss A’s children, to place them in foster care and to return them to her were not the Council’s to make. They were decisions of the court and the law says the Ombudsman cannot investigate them. The reports about which Miss A complains would have been material to the court case. Their accuracy or otherwise was a matter for the court and the Ombudsman cannot consider them. It was open to Miss A to challenge them in court. The matters about which Miss A’s complains are not separable from the matters which were, or could have been, aired in court.
- It is not a good use of public resources to investigate complaints about complaint procedures if we are unable to deal with the substantive issue. There are insufficient grounds to investigate the matters about which Miss A complained and we will not therefore investigate the Council’s complaint responses.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the substantive matters about which Miss A complains have been, or could have been, aired in court.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman