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Middlesbrough Borough Council (20 011 432)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 26 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We cannot investigate Mr B’s complaint that the Council failed to take action to safeguard his daughter. This is because the complaint concerns matters which were considered and decided in court.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Mr B, complains that the Council failed to take action to safeguard his daughter.

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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.
  2. 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)
  3. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
  4. The Courts have said that we cannot investigate a complaint about any action by a council, concerning a matter which is itself out of our jurisdiction. (R (on the application of M) v Commissioner for Local Administration [2006] EHWCC 2847 (Admin))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Mr B has said in support of his complaint and in response to my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr B says he reported concerns about his daughter’s welfare to the Council in 2018. He complains that the Council failed to take appropriate action to safeguard her. As a result, he felt compelled to initiate private law proceedings.
  2. Mr B says that, on the basis of the evidence presented, the Judge advised the Council to take public law proceedings, which it did in May 2020. These concluded in November 2020. Mr B says the Court decided care of the child should be shared, and made a supervision order.
  3. The Council has refused to accept Mr B’s complaint about its actions before and during the court action. Mr B believes this is unreasonable. He states that his daughter is now the subject of Section 47 child protection enquiry.
  4. Mr B’s complaint about matters before he initiated legal proceedings is late. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about what a council has done. This restriction applies to what happened in 2018. Although the Ombudsman has the discretion available to consider late complaints where appropriate, that is not the case here. This is because the care and welfare of Mr B’s daughter was subsequently considered in court.
  5. By law, we cannot consider what happens in court or matters related to it. The questions before the Court were precisely related to Mr B’s daughter’s welfare. So, all aspects of his complaint during the period when the matter was subject to court action fall outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. We cannot investigate them. There is no discretion available to us here.
  6. Mr B says there is currently a Section 47 enquiry underway. If he disagrees with the outcome when it has concluded, he may complain to the Council in the first instance.

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Final decision

  1. We cannot investigate this complaint. This is because the complaint concerns matters which were considered and decided in court.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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