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Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (18 017 637)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 28 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Miss A’s complaint that the Council has been at fault in the course of its involvement with her children. This is because the matters about which Miss A complains have been, or can be, considered in court.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Miss A, complains that the Council has been at fault in the course of its involvement with her children.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
  3. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Miss A has said in support of her complaint.

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What I found

  1. Miss A’s children are in the Council’s care and are placed with foster carers. She says she shares parental responsibility with the Council.
  2. Miss A complains that the Council relied on dishonest statements by a social worker when instigating care proceedings, and has undermined her attempts to have her children returned. She also complains that the Council has asked the court to discharge the care order and is supporting an application for a Special Guardianship Order.
  3. Miss A complains that the Council has been at fault in the ongoing court action. She complains about was she sees as inaccuracies in the assessment the Council has carried out and that it failed to notify her of the hearing. As a result, she could not attend.
  4. Miss A complains that the Council has breached the current care order, in that it has failed to arrange the contact with her children the order specifies. She also alleges that it has failed to act on her concerns about her children’s foster carers.
  5. The Ombudsman will not investigate Miss A’s complaint. Matters relating to the care of her children have been considered and decided by the court and the law says the Ombudsman cannot investigate such matters.
  6. If Miss A disagrees with orders the Council has asked the Council to make, her recourse it to oppose them in court. It is open to her to ask the court to make different arrangements for her children or to enforce the order it has made. The Ombudsman will not intervene.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the matters about which Miss A complains have been, or can be, considered in court.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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