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Devon County Council (21 006 245)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 13 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the management of Miss B’s children’s care. This is because it concerns matters which have been, or will be, decided in court.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Miss B, complains that the Council has been at fault in the management of her children’s care.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. 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)
  3. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

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

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My assessment

  1. Miss B says her children have been in the Council’s care since July 2020. She complains that the Council threatened her with legal action if she refused to agree that they be accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989. She says that, when she later tried to have the children returned, the Council obtained an Interim Care Order.
  2. Miss B complains that the Council has placed the children with her mother, thereby stripping her of her parental rights. She further complains that the Council has failed to work with her and has unreasonably restricted her contact with the children.
  3. We cannot investigate Miss B’s complaint. The decision to place the children in the Council’s care was tested in court and the Council obtained an order. This places the matter outside our jurisdiction. The evidence shows that the court is being asked to consider whether to grant a Special Guardianship Order in favour of Miss B’s mother. This, and arrangements for contact, are the court’s decisions to make. By law, the Ombudsman cannot investigate.
  4. Miss B argues that court action was unnecessary. That is not something we can comment on. It is open to Miss B to challenge the Council’s actions in court and, if she chooses, ask for the children to be returned. We cannot intervene.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Miss B’s complaint because it concerns matters which have been, or will be, decided in court.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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