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Southampton City Council (18 017 267)

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 will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about the Council creating and holding inaccurate information. The Information Commissioner’s Office is better placed to decide if the Council breached the Data Protection Act.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Miss X, says the Council carried out a poor assessment process which resulted in it holding inaccurate information about her.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  2. We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

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

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What I found

  1. Miss X has a grandchild to her son, whom the Council completed a child protection assessment on in the summer of 2018. Miss X says this assessment was poorly collated. She says the assessment’s author did not contact her or discuss the issue and events they put in the assessment about her, with her. She says as a result the assessment contains inaccurate information about her. She says she is misrepresented in the report. She says this caused great problems within her family relationships.
  2. Miss X complained to the Council. It upheld her complaint about poor communication and apologised. It told her that her complaint about the holding of inaccurate information was a Data Protection complaint and referred her to the correct procedure to use.

Analysis

  1. Miss X alleges fault in the Council’s assessment process. She says this fault led to an inaccurate assessment.
  2. Parliament set up the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to consider allegations of Data Protection Act breaches. The holding of inaccurate information can be such a breach. Given this case involves complex child protection information, it is reasonable to expect Miss X to use the ICO. Miss X says she has complained to the ICO but there will be a delay to its investigation or decision.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the ICO is better placed.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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