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Stoke-on-Trent City Council (18 016 957)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 26 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mrs X’s complaint that the Police removed her children from her care. We cannot investigate the Police’s action to prevent crime.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, says the Police removed her children from her care without a Court order. She complains about how the Council officers acted during the removal.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate complaints about the action taken by the Police in connection with the investigation or prevention of crime. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5, paragraph 2, 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:
    • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint, or
    • it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mrs X provided with her complaint which included the Council’s reply. I considered Mrs X’s comments on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mrs X says the Council prearranged for the Police to take her children from her care without a Court order.
  2. The Police can remove children from a parent’s care using a Police Protection Order. Section 46 of the Children Act 1989 sets this out. The Police can remove a child for up to 72 hours if they believe if they did not do so the child could come to significant harm.
  3. Mrs X says Council social workers accompanied the Police. She says the Council officers acted in a harmful way towards the children. She says some of the children were physically harmed during the removal. She believes the social worker abused the law.
  4. Mrs X says the Police are investigating the actions of its officers. She says the Council refused to investigate the actions of its officers.
  5. The Council told Mrs X in November 2018 it understood the Police were also investigating its officer’s conduct. It said once the Police investigation was completed, Mrs X could complain again to the Council.

Analysis

  1. We cannot investigate the Police’s actions or decisions to remove the children.
  2. Once the Police completes its investigation, it is reasonable to expect Mrs X to complain again to the Council about its officer’s conduct.
  3. It would be difficult to investigate the social worker’s actions or manner separately from the removal decision and Police action. Our role is to investigate the actions of the Council as a corporate body, not to hold a single officer accountable. If Mrs X has concerns about the professionalism or integrity of an individual social worker, it is reasonable to expect her to report her concerns to their professional body, the Health and Care Professions Council.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint. This is because it is about the Police’s actions to prevent a crime. And it is reasonable to expect Mrs X to complain to the Council and the HCPC about a social worker’s professionalism.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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