Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 20 Jun 2022
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint the Council completed an assessment on his family which is biased and inaccurate which it sent to the court advisory service and has since delayed providing a ‘section 7’ report to court. We cannot achieve what Mr X wants on the original assessment report and cannot investigate actions which are part of court proceedings.
- Mr X complains the Council’s social worker produced, early this year, a children and family assessment which is inaccurate and biased in favour of the mother of his child. Mr X says the assessment contains inaccurate information on the history of the family and the allegations changed. Mr X says he has not had contact with his child for six months. Mr X says the Council assessed the position following a child protection allegation. He says the social worker told him not to have contact with his child while he was doing the assessment and if he did it would go against him in the assessment.
- Mr X complains the Council sent the court advisory service (CAFCASS) a copy of the inaccurate report. The mother of his child applied to court to change child arrangements having been told she could do so by the Council. Mr X says the Council has delayed months in providing the ‘section 7’ report to court and this is likely to delay the hearing. He wants an apology about the assessment report which he can send to court.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- 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)
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered Mr X’s information and comments and discussed the complaint with him by telephone. The information includes the complaint correspondence with the Council.
- I will not investigate for the following reasons:
- We cannot achieve what Mr X wants which is that the Council withdraw the original children and family assessment report and write a letter to the court. The Council appointed a new social worker to complete a re-assessment and provide the report requested by the court. Mr X can challenge the content of an assessment or report at court. Mr X tells me that following the contact from the Council he took legal advice. Mr X knew his legal rights including those on contact. There is also reference to his daughter not wanting contact with him at the start of the year. The Ombudsman could not hold the Council responsible for the mother’s decision to apply to court or the time taken to deal with the case.
- The Ombudsman cannot lawfully investigate a complaint about actions which are part of court proceedings (see paragraph 3 and 4 above). This includes the Council’s social worker’s evidence to court, a ‘section 7’ court report, and recommendations. The court will consider the welfare of Mr X’s child and such matters as the history of allegations and behaviour of the parents. We cannot investigate delay in providing evidence to court.
- The Council’s complaint reply says it was about to provide Mr X with a reply to his subject access request. If Mr X remains concerned about the accuracy of information held by the Council, he can go to the Information Commissioner (paragraph 4).
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman