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Kent County Council (21 005 467)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 08 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We cannot investigate Ms X’s complaint about a report used in Court proceedings, nor the Council’s actions and decisions in assessing the family. We have no legal power to investigate reports which form part of legal proceedings. And we cannot investigate the same issues a Court is considering.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Ms X, says the Council completed a report for a Court case which was inaccurate and unfair and she disagrees with its assessment process and decisions.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. 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 considered information provided by Ms X and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. I discussed the complaint with Ms X and considered her comments on a draft version of this decision.

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My assessment

  1. Ms X says the Council’s children services team omitted important information from a report it gave a Court considering her child’s care. She says the report influenced the Court. She says this left her child at risk and has caused her to suffer from medical conditions.
  2. Ms X has recently made further complaints about this report and its affects on her family. The Council most recently replied in July 2021.
  3. We have no legal power to investigate:
    • The preparation, collation, and analysis of evidence for use in Court reports
    • Reports and assessments written by social workers or other officers for court proceedings
    • The use of a report written previously, in later court proceedings
    • Evidence given by council officers in any proceedings.
  4. We cannot investigate how a Council replied to a complaint about the report as we cannot investigate the report itself.
  5. Ms X would like the Council to reassess her family properly. Ms X has confirmed she is in current Court proceedings to decide her child’s long term care arrangement. As the Court is considering the child’s welfare, and within those proceedings has the power to order the Council to assess the child’s risk of harm, we cannot investigate, whether the Council should reassess the family.

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Final decision

  1. We cannot investigate this complaint. This is because we cannot investigate complaints about reports which form part of legal proceedings.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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