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Suffolk County Council (21 003 559)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 02 Aug 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about child protection. This is because the complaints raised are inextricably linked to matters considered in court. Court proceedings are outside our jurisdiction.

The complaint

  1. Mr Y complains the Council:
    • Failed to properly conduct or include him in a child protection plan;
    • Discriminated against him as a male victim of domestic abuse, ignored his concerns and evidence.
  2. Mr Y says this led to him feeling unable to be involved in the child protection plan as he wished as well as distress and upset.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. We have the power to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we think the issues could reasonably be, or have been, raised within a court of law. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)
  3. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. There are ongoing court proceedings relating to Mr Y’s children and their care, custody and contact arrangements. The issues Mr Y has raised are inextricably linked to those court proceedings as they relate to the views the Council has formed of Mr Y and his relationships with his children. As these proceedings are ongoing, we cannot investigate this complaint and it is reasonable for Mr Y to raise his concerns with the court if he disputes the Council’s views.
  2. The Council has also said it is willing to consider any issues which are not decided within the court proceedings, but only once the proceedings have fully concluded. This is to prevent prejudicing any of the information involved in the proceedings.
  3. Mr Y can raise his concerns with the court or, if not decided in the proceedings, to have his remaining concerns considered after the proceedings by the Council through its complaints process. Mr Y has given no reason why this is an unreasonable approach to his complaint, particularly as the court proceedings are ongoing, giving him the opportunity to raise them easily. Consequently, we will not investigate this complaint.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr Y’s complaint because the complaints raised are inextricably linked to matters considered in court. Court proceedings are outside our jurisdiction.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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