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Manchester City Council (19 013 911)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 20 Jan 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Ms J’s complaint about the content of a report the Council provided to court, and other bodies are better placed than we are to consider the other issues she raises.

The complaint

  1. Ms J complains about:
    • The content of a report the Council provided to court during family proceedings
    • The accuracy of information the Council holds about her
    • The professional practice of an individual social worker.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  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 there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the information Ms J provided with her complaint and given her the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. The law does not let us investigate a complaint about what happened in court. This includes complaints about the contents of reports provided to the court. So we cannot investigate this part of Ms J’s complaint.
  2. Ms J’s complaint about the accuracy of the information the Council holds about her is a complaint about compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) deals with complaints about this. So it is better placed than we are to consider this part of Ms J’s complaint.
  3. We investigate administrative fault by the Council as a corporate body. It is not our role to hold a single officer accountable. If Ms J has concerns about the professionalism or integrity of an individual social worker, she could consider reporting them to their professional body.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint. This is because the law does not let us investigate a complaint about the content of reports submitted to court. We should not investigate the other issues she has raised, because other bodies are better placed to consider them.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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