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Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (21 005 398)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 09 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We cannot investigate Mrs X’s complaint that the Council’s children services team refused to provide her with direct contact with her grandchildren. The Court recently decided the care arrangements for these children, and we cannot consider the same issues.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, complains the Council’s children services team refused to set up direct contact between her and two of her grandchildren.

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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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Mrs X and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. Mrs X had an opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision.

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My assessment

  1. The Council began caring for Mrs X’s three grandchildren in July 2019. Mrs X had direct contact with the eldest. The younger two were cared for in a separate foster care placement. Mrs X initially had no contact with them, but from Christmas 2019 had indirect contact in the form of letters.
  2. In June 2021, Mrs X complained to the Council about the lack of direct contact with the younger two children. The Council replied in early July 2021 and said the contact had been arranged in the children’s best interests. It encouraged Mrs X to seek legal advice as Court proceedings were due to conclude.
  3. The Council says the Court proceedings to decide the children’s care arrangements ended in early August 2021.
  4. We cannot investigate issues a Court considered and decided. Here the Court only recently decided the children’s care arrangements which would include whether to make any specified contact orders.

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Final decision

  1. We cannot investigate this complaint. This is because the Court recently decided the care and contact arrangements for her grandchildren.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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