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Thurrock Council (20 011 228)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 30 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the accuracy of a children services assessment and its sharing. The Information Commissioner’s Office is better placed and it is unlikely we would achieve a significantly different outcome than already offered.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, says the Council produced an inaccurate assessment on his family and shared this with a school. He says this has caused him upset.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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 we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
    • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
    • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  2. We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  3. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by 'maladministration' and 'service failure'. I have used the word 'fault' to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mr X provided with his complaint and the Council’s replies to him which it provided. I considered Mr X’s comments on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. The Council’s children services team completed an assessment on Mr X’s family in 2017 when he was released from prison. He returned to prison shortly after that to be released again in 2020. The Council carried out another assessment in July 2020. Mr X complained about this assessment in August. He said it contained inaccuracies about him and was unfair. He believed the Council had shared it with his children’s school.
  2. In reply to Mr X’s complaint, the Council accepted some errors in the assessment. It says is has corrected these. The Council has also placed Mr X’s comments with the assessment. It made a professional decision to close the case. It says the assessment was not shared with the school. It has refused to disclose some information Mr X asked about his children’s mother’s life as it says he does not have a right to see that information.

Analysis

  1. Parliament set up the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to decide data protection disputes. If Mr X believes the Council still holds inaccurate information, has shared information without his consent and has not provided him with information he is entitled to see, he can ask the ICO to decide if the Council needs to take action. It is reasonable to expect him to do so for these issues. The Council informed him of this right.
  2. It is unlikely our investigation could achieve a significantly different outcome. We usually consider placing a complainant’s comments with the assessment is a suitable remedy for a disagreement over opinion in an assessment.
  3. The Council’s decision to close the case in August 2020 was made on the basis of the information available. It is not a decision we are likely to criticise.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would achieve a significantly different outcome and the ICO is better placed.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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