Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 12 Sep 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We cannot investigate Mr X’s complaint about reports and assessments used in Court proceedings. Other separable matters have not yet completed the Council’s complaint process.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, says the Council has not properly assessed his family’s circumstances and has provided unfair and inaccurate assessments
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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)
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint unless we are satisfied the Council knows about the complaint and has had an opportunity to investigate and reply. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to notify the Council of the complaint and give it an opportunity to investigate and reply (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(5))
- 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  EHWCC 2847 (Admin))
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by Mr X and the Council.
- I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
- I considered Mr X’s comments on a draft version of this decision.
- Mr X says the Council’s children services team has been negligent in the way it assessed his family’s circumstances. He says it has not properly considered his comments. He says the Council ignored his requests for help and support.
- There are current Court proceedings to decide Mr X’s children’s care. The Court ordered the Council to provide a section 37 report. It does this when it wants to know if there is a risk the children could be suffering from significant harm and whether the Court should make Care Orders. Mr X is unhappy with the assessment process and the report content.
- The Council says it has not properly replied to Mr X’s complaint yet. It says his complaint has not completed its complaint procedure. It says it has suspended the complaint investigation while the Court proceedings continue.
- We cannot investigate:
- The preparation, collation, and analysis of evidence, including reports written by social workers or other officers for court proceedings. This includes section 37 reports;
- The use of a report written previously, in later court proceedings. This includes the assessments the Council used to form the section 37 report or ones which parties to the Court proceedings provide to the Court as part of their evidence;
- Evidence given by council officers in any proceedings; and
- How the Council replied to Mr X’s complaint about these assessments and reports.
- We will not and cannot investigate this complaint. This is because part of his complaint is about legal proceedings and the rest is premature.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman