Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 27 Aug 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mr X and Ms Y’s complaint about the way the Council responded to concerns about a child’s welfare. Most of the issues they raise have been considered in court and are therefore outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.
- The complainants, whom I shall call Mr X and Ms Y, complain about the Council’s actions in respect of Mr X’s daughter, D. They say that the Council has wrongly assessed the family and that information from inaccurate assessments and reports has led to D being taken into Council care.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- 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)
- We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered information provided by Mr X and Ms Y.
- They have had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
What I found
- In March 2017, D was made the subject of a Child Protection Plan as there were concerns about her welfare. Following unexplained injuries, the Council began care proceedings in October of that year. The court decided that D should go into foster care. The final care plan agreed by the court in April 2018 anticipated D returning to her family home dependent on the outcome of work with the family. D remains in foster care.
- Mr X and Ms Y argue that the Council wrongly assessed D as being at risk; misinterpreted information from third parties and failed to take account of D’s manipulative behaviour. They say that this led to biased reports being presented to court. They would like D returning to their care.
- The Council says that, after reassessing D, it is of the view that a Care order is still appropriate. It strongly refutes the suggestion that it lied in its evidence to court.
- Mr X and Ms Y have a number of other complaints about the way they have been treated and the level of support they received both before and after the 2017 court order.
- At the heart of this complaint is Mr X and Ms Y’s belief that D should not be in foster care and that this decision was based on misinformation. This is not something the Ombudsman can investigate. The decision itself was made by a court. Any information considered by the court is out of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction as he is not allowed to question any decision made by the court (see paragraph 3). This includes any evidence the court relied on. Any concerns about bias or untruthfulness in assessments or reports could have been brought to the court’s attention.
- Whether the Council could have supported Mr X and Ms Y more before deciding to seek a care order is not something the Ombudsman can investigate - in part because events have been overtaken by the court orders and also because too much time has passed (see paragraph 4).
- I have decided that the Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint. This is because it primarily relates to matters which have been considered in court and are therefore out of jurisdiction.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman