Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 04 Dec 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about what the Council recorded or failed to pass on. The outcome he seeks is one more appropriate for a court and it would be reasonable for him to return there.
- Mr X says the Council failed to tell him about an assessment of his child it carried out. He says if he had known about his, it would have been easier to demonstrate to a court the poor childcare by his former partner and her new partner. He says the Council also formed a negative view of him and underestimated the issues with the former partner. He says the result has been significant time, trouble, cost, and stress.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- 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)
- 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:
- 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)
- We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I read Mr X’s complaint and the complaints correspondence sent by the Council. I gave Mr X the opportunity to comment on a draft decision.
What I found
- A court decided the contact and residence arrangements of Mr X’s child, following the end of the parental relationship. The Council accepts there were errors in social work, including not sharing an assessment of the child it carried out in 2018 with Mr X. It apologised for these. Mr X wants his legal fees reimbursed and compensation for the stress caused to him.
- It was open to Mr X to rebut evidence he disagreed with in court. It would be reasonable for him to seek a court order for fresh contact and residence arrangements if he wishes to challenge the current ones.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because Mr X has a right to return to court it would be reasonable for him to use.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman