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Torbay Council (16 016 567)

Category : Children's care services > Fostering

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 21 Mar 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr and Mrs A’s complaint about the Council’s retention and alleged disclosure of confidential information. The Council has upheld the complaint about retention and the Ombudsman could add nothing significant by investigating. Mr and Mrs A may bring their complaint about disclosure to the attention of the Information Commissioner.

The complaint

  1. The complainants, who I will refer to as Mr and Mrs A, complain that the Council has failed to remove false information from their records and has passed the information to a third party.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or there is another body better placed to consider the complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  2. 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 have considered what Mr and Mrs A have said in support of their complaint and in response to my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr and Mrs A were Council foster carers. They made a complaint to the Council in 2012. In settlement of the complaint, the Council agreed to remove certain information from their records.
  2. Mr and Mrs A state that they have been threatened by the mother of a child they fostered. They say the mother told them that the Council had informed her that they emotionally abused her son. They complained to the Council about the failure to remove information from their records and that this information had been shared with the child’s mother.
  3. In response, the Council confirmed that it had not removed some documents which should have been removed. It apologised and said that it had now done so. It denied sharing any of the information with third parties. Mr and Mrs A do not accept the Council’s response.
  4. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr and Mrs A’s complaint. Their complaint about the failure to dispose of information has been upheld and the Ombudsman could add nothing significant by investigating it.
  5. Disclosure of personal information is not normally a matter for the Ombudsman. If Mr and Mrs A believe the Council unreasonably disclosed confidential information it may be appropriate for them to bring the matter to the attention of the Information Commissioner. The Ombudsman will not intervene.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr and Mrs A’s complaint because she could achieve nothing significant by doing so.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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