Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 04 Dec 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about how the Council handled matters when his wife and child left the family home. This is because we could not achieve a meaningful remedy for Mr X. He seeks contact with his child and action against the individual social worker, which we could not achieve. There are other bodies better placed to consider the matters Mr X raises.
- Mr X complained about how the Council handled matters when his wife and child left the family home. He says the Council’s social worker lied to his wife about him having women in his home overnight. He says it used his child as a tool to not share information with him or work with him. Mr X says the Council’s actions caused the family to fall apart, and this led to such a significant impact on his mental health that he tried to take his own life. He says the Council is using his mental health against him and not letting him see his child.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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 further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or
- there is another body better placed to consider this complaint.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information Mr X provided when he complained to us.
- I considered information the Council provided.
- I gave Mr X the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
What I found
- Mr X’s wife and son left the family home in 2020. Mr X is unhappy with how the Council handled this. He says the social worker lied to his wife and he blames the Council for the breakdown of the family. The Council says it supported his wife through what she perceived as fleeing domestic abuse. The Council says the social worker’s actions were proportionate to safeguard the child, and in line with expected procedures.
- Mr X does not know the location of his wife and child, and he wants us to make recommendations that will help rebuild the family. This is not something we can achieve. We cannot order contact between Mr X and his child. It is open to Mr X to involve the courts to consider this matter.
- Mr X also raises concerns about the social worker continuing work in a different council area, as they have since left their employment at the Council. Mr X hopes, as an outcome of complaining, they could be prevented from working in the same way in another council area. We cannot recommend action against individual social workers and we could not stop the worker being employed by a different council. It is open to Mr X to contact Social Work England, the regulatory body for social workers, to raise concerns about the individual social worker.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because we cannot achieve the outcomes Mr X seeks. There are other bodies more appropriately placed to deal with the issues.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman