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South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council (19 013 473)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 15 Jan 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Miss X complained about how the Council handled the child protection case for her child. We cannot investigate this complaint as it relates to decisions ultimately made by the courts. The issues Miss X raises would best have been raised as part of proceedings and we cannot achieve the outcome Miss X seeks.

The complaint

  1. Miss X complained about how the Council handled the child protection case for her child. She says it failed to properly communicate with her, gave her family misleading information and did not hold meetings properly. She complained the Council will not consider her complaint.

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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 provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (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 when she complained.
  2. I considered information provided by the Council.
  3. I gave Miss X the opportunity to comment on a draft version of my decision.

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What I found

  1. Miss X gave birth to her child in 2018. The Council obtained an interim care order to place the child in a foster placement. This was due to concerns about Miss X’s ability to care for her child, due to substance misuse. The Council carried out assessments on several of Miss X’s family members, to decide whether the child could be cared for within the extended family.
  2. Miss X says the Council gave those family members misleading information which led to the family members saying they could not look after Miss X’s child. She believes it was due to this, and other faults in the Council’s actions, that the Council sought a care order and put her child up for adoption.
  3. It is the court, and not the Council, that made final decisions about Miss X’s child. We cannot investigate decisions made by courts as they are not within our jurisdiction. It would have been reasonable for Miss X to have raised her concerns about the Council’s actions during the proceedings, so the court could consider how the issues Miss X raises might have influenced its decision.
  4. Miss X wants her family to be allowed to look after her child in the short-term while she shows the Council she can maintain recovery from substance misuse. We do not have the powers the courts do, to make decisions about children’s residence, and we cannot change the court’s decision. Therefore, in any event, we cannot achieve the outcome Miss X seeks.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint. This is because it relates to decisions that have been made by the courts rather than the Council, about
    Miss X’s child’s residence.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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