Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council (20 006 864)

Category : Children's care services > Fostering

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 09 Dec 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint that the Council fabricated a document leading to a foster child being removed from the complainant’s care. This is because the matter has been considered in court. In addition, an independent panel confirmed the Council’s decision to de-register the complainant as a foster carer.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mrs X, says the Council fraudulently altered a benefit application which led to the Council removing a child from her foster care and de-registering her as a foster carer. Mrs X wants us to examine the benefit form.

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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 can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and the Council’s explanation as to why it will not accept a complaint from Mrs X. I read the court decision and the court decision rejecting Mrs X’s appeal. I considered the decision made by the Independent Review mechanism (IRM). I invited Mrs X to comment on a draft of this decision.

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What I found

What happened

  1. Mrs X was a foster carer. Mrs X applied for a disability benefit for a foster child. The Council alleges Mrs X stated on the form many serious illnesses that the child does not have. The Council removed the child from Mrs X’s care.
  2. The court considered the case. The court considered the Council’s assertion that Mrs X had stated that the child has many illnesses that she does not have and/or treated the child as being much younger than she is. The court found that Mrs X had claimed the child had medical conditions that she does not have. The court also made other findings. The court considered the issue of the benefit claim form.
  3. Mrs X sought permission to appeal. The court refused permission to appeal. I have not seen the appeal submission but it seems likely this will have included Mrs X’s submission that the court considered an incorrect copy of the benefit form and a copy that the Council had falsely edited.
  4. Mrs X appealed to the IRM. The IRM is an independent body that reviews decisions about fostering and adoption. The IRM confirmed the Council’s decision to de-register Mrs X as a foster carer. Mrs X disagrees with the IRM decision.
  5. Mrs X wants us to examine the benefit form because she says it was fraudulently edited by the Council. She is also unhappy with the process which led to her being de-registered and says that what happened has had a significant impact on her family.

Assessment

  1. I cannot start an investigation because the benefit application form has been considered in court. Mrs X disagrees with the court’s findings about the form, and tried to appeal, but the law prevents me from investigating any matter that has formed part of the court proceedings.
  2. Mrs X disagrees with the decision to de-register her as a foster carer. But, this issue has been considered by the IRM which is the appropriate body to consider disputes about de-registration. And, the decision to de-register Mrs X is closely linked to the court’s decision and is not one that I could investigate due to the court action.

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Final decision

  1. I cannot start an investigation because the matter has been considered in court and by the IRM.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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