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 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.
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 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)
How I considered this complaint
- 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.
What I found
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman