The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: the Council took account of Mr F’s representations and changed the CAF assessment. The Council did not share any of the disputed information with CAFCASS. There was no fault.
- Mr F complains a Child and Family Assessment completed by the Council was inaccurate and biased.
- Mr F complains the Council provided a copy of the uncorrected report to CAFCASS resulting in inaccurate and biased information being used in private family proceedings.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered:
- information provided by Mr F;
- information provided by the Council.
What I found
- Mr F has a young son, B. Mr F and B’s mother have separated.
- B’s nursery made a referral to the Council on 8th December 2016. Mr F and B’s mother were in dispute about a number of matters concerning B’s care. Mr F was concerned that B’s mother should not be allowed to collect B from nursery. Following the referral, Mr F withdrew B from the nursery.
- The Council screened the referral and decided to carry out a Children and Family (CAF) Assessment. The Council completed a CAF assessment on 31 January 2017 and decided that no further action was necessary. The Council closed the case on 6 February 2017.
- Mr F complained to the Council on 27 March 2017. He complained the assessment was inaccurate and biased.
- The Council responded at Stage 1 on 22 May 2017. The Council accepted some aspects of the report could have been better and apologised, although the outcome of the assessment remained the same. The Council said it would update the report. However, there was delay because the case officer responsible was absent from work for 3 months.
- Mr F remained dissatisfied and continued to complain. The Council decided to “roll back” the record to make the changes it had proposed to the assessment. The Council completed the revised assessment in November 2017.
- The changes to the report included reference to:
- Mr F’s views about B’s mother’s parenting style;
- Mr F’s allegations about B’s mother and B’s maternal family;
- Mr F’s response to allegations made by B’s mother;
- information about the care Mr F provided B.
Complaint 1: the Child and Family Assessment was inaccurate and biased
- Mr F complains the Child and Family Assessment completed by the Council was inaccurate and biased.
- In response to Mr F’s complaint, the Council acknowledged that the assessment could have been better and agreed to amend the report. It took longer than the Council anticipated to amend the report due to the absence of a key member of staff. The Council apologised for the delay.
- The amendments did not change the outcome of the assessment.
- Mr F remained unhappy and complained to the Ombudsman.
- I have carefully considered the assessment, Mr F’s complaint and the amendments the Council made following Mr F’s complaint. It is important to remember that the Ombudsman does not reassess Mr F, B or B’s mother. The Ombudsman’s job is to carry out an administrative review and check the Council followed the correct procedure. In this case, Mr F challenged the assessment, the Council considered his comments and changed the assessment as a result. The Council has taken account of Mr F’s views and changed the report. There was no fault.
- Mr F is unhappy with the length of time the Council took to amend the report. The Council explained the reason for the delay was the absence of a key officer due to sickness. I do not consider the delay was the result of fault.
Complaint 2: the Council provided a copy of the uncorrected report to CAFCASS resulting in inaccurate and biased information being used in private family proceedings.
- Mr F alleges the Council provided inaccurate and misleading information to CAFCASS which he believes adversely affected the Court’s view of him when he and B’s mother applied to Court to settle their dispute about B’s care.
- In April 2017, CAFCASS asked the Council for information about Mr F, B and B’s mother. The Council completed a short questionnaire and returned it to CAFCASS. This was before Mr F’s complaint when the Council acknowledged that the assessment could have been better and agreed to amend the report.
- The Council did not send a copy of the CAF report to CAFCASS. The information the Council sent to CAFCASS did not change following Mr F’s complaint. There was no fault.
- I have ended my investigation. There was no fault by the Council as the Council took account of Mr F’s comments and changed the CAF assessment, and the Council did not send any of the information Mr F challenged to CAFCASS.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman