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Kent County Council (21 008 712)

Category : Children's care services > Child protection

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 24 Nov 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about a children services inaccurate assessment report. We cannot achieve the outcome she seeks, and the Information Commissioner’s Office is better placed.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Miss X, says the Council completed an inaccurate assessment of her family.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by 'maladministration' and 'service failure'. I have used the word 'fault' to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. We investigate 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 continue an investigation if we decide:
    • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or
    • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  3. We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Miss X and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. I considered Miss X’s comments on a draft version of this decision.

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My assessment

  1. Miss X says the Council’s children services team produced a child and family assessment without properly checking its records. She says the report was produced because of a false allegation. She says it failed to follow proper procedures.
  2. Miss X complained to the Council. It replied in detail in May and July 2021. It said it could not remove the report as it formed part of the children services records. It also explained it has made the amendments she requested which had overwritten the original version.
  3. We cannot achieve Miss X’s aim of getting the report removed. The Council has a legal duty to hold children services records.
  4. Miss X has the right to request records are ‘rectified’. This means any factual inaccuracies are corrected. If the Council refuses to do so, she can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). There is no charge for making a complaint to the ICO, and its complaints procedure is relatively easy to use. Where someone has a complaint about data protection, the Ombudsman usually expects them to bring the matter to the attention of the ICO. This is because the ICO is in a better position than the Ombudsman to consider such complaints. I consider that to be the case here and Miss X should therefore approach the ICO about his concerns.

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Final decision

  1. We should not investigate this complaint. This is because we cannot achieve the outcome she seeks, and another body is better placed.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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