London Borough of Camden (19 000 396)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 20 May 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about a children services officer’s conduct and an assessment. It is unlikely our investigation could significantly add to the Council’s response.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, complains about the behaviour of a Council officer, and about the way the Council investigated and replied to his complaint.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  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:
    • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
    • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
    • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), 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)
  4. 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.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mr X provided with his complaint which includes the Council’s replies to him. I considered Mr X’s comments on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr X has a child, B, with Ms Y. They do not live together. In May 2018, the Council investigated a referral made to its children services team about B’s life. The Council completed an Early Referral Assessment. Mr X disagrees with the content of this assessment. He says it contains inaccurate statements about him which he believes are not substantiated by evidence.
  2. Mr X became involved in Court proceedings about B’s care.
  3. In December 2018, Mr X had a telephone conversation with a Council support worker, Officer Z. Mr X says Officer Z was rude and ended the call.
  4. Mr X complained to the Council about Officer Z’s conduct and the assessment. He says Officer Z was trying to influence the Court proceedings. The Council replied in February and March 2019. It offered to place a written statement of Mr X’s views on the file next to the assessment. It asked Mr X to provide a recording of the telephone conversation he said he had. The Council said it would then considering disciplinary action if the recording proved Mr X’s claim. It told Mr X it would not be able to tell him about that action.
  5. Mr X was unhappy with the Council’s reply. He complained to us. He said the officer who investigated his complaint and replied to him was not independent enough.

Analysis

  1. Our investigation would be unlikely to significantly add to the remedy offered for Mr X’s complaint about the assessment accuracy of his written statement placed alongside the assessment. This is the usual remedy we would seek for this type of alleged fault.
  2. It is reasonable to expect Mr X to tell the Court of Officer Z’s actions if he feels they are unjustified and means the Court should not consider their views.
  3. We will not investigate allegations when there is no practical prospect of investigating robustly. A complaint about a telephone conversation is the uncorroborated word of one person against another. Mr X denies he has a telephone recording.
  4. We will not investigate how a Council replied to a complaint when we are not investigating the reasons Mr X made the complaint.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we could significantly add to the Council’s response.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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