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Northamptonshire County Council (20 011 591)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 08 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman does not find fault with the Council for its response to safeguarding concerns for Child X. The Ombudsman also does not find fault with the Council for how it shared information about a referral it received.

The complaint

  1. Mrs Y complains the Council disclosed her identity to her son, Mr A, after she raised safeguarding concerns for her grandchildren to their school.
  2. Mrs Y complains the Council has not adequately safeguarded her grandchildren following the concerns that have been raised by herself and other agencies.
  3. Mrs Y also complains the Council told her son to take legal action to safeguard the children instead of the Council carrying out its safeguarding duties.

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What I have investigated

  1. I have investigated the Council’s responses to concerns raised about Child X’s welfare, and whether it shared appropriate information about a referral it received. I am not investigating the Council advising Mr A to take private court proceedings as I am of the view this has not directly caused injustice to Mr and Mrs Y.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
  3. 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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered Mrs Y’s complaint and the information they provided. I also considered information and records provided by the Council. I also considered comments from Mrs Y and the Council on a draft of my decision.

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What I found

What happened

  1. Mr & Mrs Y are the parents of Mr A. Mr A is the father of Child X.
  2. In 2020, the Council received a referral from Child X’s school. The referral said that Mr and Mrs Y had raised concerns that Child X was being neglected by his parents.
  3. The Council contacted Mr A about the referral. Mr and Mrs Y felt the Council shared the details of the referral with Mr A, including that it was them who had raised concerns to the school.
  4. Mr and Mrs Y complained to the Council about the information sharing with their son, and that they felt the Council had not taken action to safeguard Child X.
  5. In its complaint response, the Council said there was no request to keep the details of the referral anonymous, and that it had a duty to explore the concerns for Child X. The Council also said the sharing of the referral details with Mr A was proportionate and appropriate given the nature of the concerns Mr and Mrs Y were raising.
  6. Mr & Mrs Y complained to the Ombudsman that the Council did not respond to concerns for Child X’s wellbeing. They also complained the Council told their son that it was them who had raised concerns for the children’s wellbeing.
  7. Mr and Mrs Y said that by disclosing who raised concerns, the Council caused a breakdown in their relationship with their son and left them without contact with their grandchildren.

Information sharing

  1. The Council received a referral from Child X’s school that said Child X’s grandparents had raised concerns for Child X. The school did not have any concerns but passed the details of the concerns to the Council via a referral.
  2. I have reviewed the referral submitted to the Council and the action taken by the Council. I have also reviewed the Council’s referral advice from its website.
  3. The Council website says, “should you wish to do so, it is possible to report your concern anonymously”.
  4. I am satisfied the Council took suitable action to process the referral and act on the information at the time.
  5. The referral to the Council on behalf of Mr and Mrs Y does not ask for the referral to be anonymous. The referral also states that Mr and Mrs Y were advised to make their own referral directly to the Council.
  6. The Council likely did not treat the referral as anonymous because this was not requested. Mr and Mrs Y say they did want the referral to be anonymous, and my current view is that this should be addressed directly with the school.
  7. Additionally, if Mr and Mrs had submitted their own referral to the Council as advised, this would have given a further opportunity for them to say they wished for their concerns to be anonymous.
  8. Mr and Mrs Y say that by disclosing this information, the Council caused a breakdown in the relationship with their son. This left them with no contact with their grandchildren and left their son without their support.
  9. Mr A has parental responsibility for his children and the capacity to make his own decisions. Mr A’s decision to not allow his parents contact with his children was his own decision, and I have not seen evidence to say the Council directly caused his actions.

Safeguarding decisions about Child X

  1. In its complaint response to Mr and Mrs Y, the Council explained that it could not share details of records about Child X, however, it was satisfied it had taken the suitable action.
  2. I have reviewed all the Council records about the safeguarding actions taken by the Council about Child X. This included all referrals and analysis of the circumstances in the referrals.
  3. It is my view the Council responded appropriately to all allegations and safeguarding concerns raised about the welfare of Child X.
  4. The Ombudsman also cannot share details of records about Child X. However, I am satisfied the Council assessed concerns as they were raised and took appropriate action according to its safeguarding policy.

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Final decision

  1. I have now completed my investigation. I do not find fault with the Council for how it responded to safeguarding concerns for Child X. I also find no fault with the Council for how it communicated about a referral it received.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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