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Cumbria County Council (19 018 758)

Category : Children's care services > Fostering

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 28 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr and Mrs B’s complaint that the Council has refused to remove false information from their fostering record. This is because we cannot achieve the outcome they are seeking.

The complaint

  1. The complainants, who I will refer to as Mr and Mrs B, complain that the Council has refused to remove false information from their fostering record.

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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 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)
  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 B have said in support of their complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mrs B says she has been a foster carer for 13 years. She and Mr B applied to the Council for assessment as foster carers the Council declined to proceed. Mr and Mr B say that a file note on the fostering file includes false information which is likely to prejudice any further application Mrs B makes in future. They have asked the Council to remove the note from the file.
  2. The Council has refused to remove the note. It has offered to place a record of Mr and Mrs B’s dissenting views on the file. Mr and Mrs B complain about this decision.
  3. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr and Mrs B’s complaint because we cannot achieve the outcome they want. File notes reflect the Council’s views at the time they were written, and the Ombudsman will not ask for their removal. The most we will normally recommend is that a statement of a complainant’s views is added to the file. The Council has already offered to do so in this case.
  4. It is not for the Ombudsman to comment on the accuracy of the disputed note. If Mr and Mrs B believe it is inaccurate and unhappy with the Council’s failure to rectify it, they may bring their concerns to the attention of the Information Commissioner, who is better placed than the Ombudsman to consider such matters. The Ombudsman will not intervene.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because we cannot achieve the outcome Mr and Mrs B are seeking.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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