Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (19 000 579)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 03 Sep 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr A’s complaint that the Council has been at fault in its involvement with his children. This is because the matters about which he complains could be, or could have been, raised in court.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Mr A, complains that the Council has been at fault in its involvement with his family.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Mr A has said in support of his complaint and the Council’s complaint responses. I have also considered Mr A’s response to my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr A’s contact with his children is the subject of a court order under which contact must be supervised. Mr A says the Council has been at fault throughout its involvement with his family, which began with a referral to Children’s Services in March 2018.
  2. Mr A complains that, following the referral, social workers failed to carry out the initial assessment properly and have failed to act in his children’s interests. He argues that they have lied and acted unlawfully.
  3. Mr A complained to the Council that its social workers had failed to ensure that supervised contact had taken place in line with the provisions of the court order. The Council denies it has been at fault.
  4. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr A’s complaint. The care of his children has been considered by the court and it was open to him to raise his disagreement with the Council’s actions in the course of the legal action.
  5. Mr A argues that he could not raise his criticisms of the Council in court as the judge did not allow him to make a statement. That is a matter for the court and for Mr A’s legal representatives to. The Ombudsman cannot consider what happens in court.
  6. If Mr A wants the court’s order enforced, or wants a different order made, his recourse is to go back to court. 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 Mr A complains could be, or could have been, raised in court.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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