Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 21 Mar 2017
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs M’s complaint because there are ongoing court proceedings in which she can raise her concerns. The Health and Care Professions Council is better placed to consider her complaint about a social worker’s conduct.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs M, complains about a social worker’s behaviour.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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 have the power to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we think the issues could reasonably be, or have been, raised within a court of law. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)
- 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 this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information Mrs M provided with her complaint and the Council’s reply to it which it provided. Mrs M commented on a draft version of this decision.
What I found
- Mrs M says the Council allocated a social worker to her family who has upset them. She says the officer acted insensitively and the Council refused to remove them from the case.
- The Council says it can find no evidence on its files to support Mrs M’s allegations. It says there are ongoing Court proceedings for which the officer is preparing evidence.
- The Ombudsman cannot look at the accuracy or preparation of any evidence provided to a Court.
- It is reasonable to expect Mrs M to tell the Court of her concerns if she believes it affects the officer’s evidence.
- The Health and Care Professions Council is better placed to consider a complaint about a social worker’s professionalism.
- We should not investigate this complaint because it is reasonable to expect Mrs M to raise her concerns in Court and there is another body better placed.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman