North Yorkshire County Council (14 018 945)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 31 Mar 2015

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr and Mrs X’s complaint that the Council’s children services’ team failed to share information about Mr and Mrs X’s step grandson. The injustice to Mr and Mrs X is not significant enough to warrant an investigation and they are not suitable people to complain on behalf of the boy.

The complaint

  1. The complainants, whom I shall call Mr and Mrs X, say the Council has not provided information to third parties about their step grandson and they say it should have.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. She must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. She provides a free service, but must use public money carefully. She may decide not to start or continue an investigation if she believes:
    • the injustice is not significant enough to justify the cost of her involvement, or
    • it is unlikely she could add to any previous investigation by the Council. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
  2. The Ombudsman may investigate complaints made on behalf of someone else if they have given their consent. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26A(1)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mr and Mrs X provided with their complaint and the Council’s replies to their complaint which it provided. I have also considered a previous Ombudsman decision on an earlier complaint from Mr and Mrs X. Mr and Mrs X have commented on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr and Mrs X are step grandparents of a nine year old boy, B. They have at times in the past been the primary carer. B now lives with his father in compliance with a Court order and has overnight contact with Mr and Mrs X twice a week.
  2. Mr and Mrs X say the Council has not shared information relevant to B’s care, life and family with other agencies who attended child in need meetings in 2013 and 2014. The Council replied to this complaint and explained to Mr and Mrs X its actions. But in doing so it had to work within the Data Protection Act 1998 and did not have consent to disclose information crucial about the complaint to them.
  3. Mr and Mrs X say the Council has refused to fully reply to their complaint.

Analysis

  1. Mr and Mrs X are not the primary people affected by the fault alleged. Any impact on them is a secondary impact. The Ombudsman usually considers that secondary impacts are not significant enough injustice to warrant an investigation.
  2. Mr and Mrs X are not suitable people to make this specific complaint on B’s behalf because:
    • B’s father is better placed to complain about the Council’s actions which may have affected B as he is B’s primary carer.
    • The Council has told Mr and Mrs X that it does not have consent to disclose the information about this complaint to them.
  3. The Ombudsman will not investigate how the Council dealt with Mr and Mrs X’s complaint as she will not be investigating the reasons why they made that complaint.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not initiate an investigation because it is not warranted by the injustice to Mr and Mrs X and they are not suitable people to make this specific complaint on B’s behalf.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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