Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 13 Apr 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the conduct of social workers and a report they produced. This is because the report was produced for court proceedings and has been used in court. The matters complained about are therefore outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction with no discretion to investigate.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, complains about the conduct of social workers who produced a Section 7 report for court proceedings.
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 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered Mr X’s complaint to the Ombudsman and I gave him the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
What I found
- Under Section 7 of the Children Act 1989, a court may ask a council to provide a report about the welfare of any child who is the subject of court proceedings.
- Mr X complains about the conduct of social workers who produced a Section 7 report about his grandchildren. He says the report was inaccurate and the social workers involved did not properly investigate allegations made against Mr X. He says council officers made false statements in court and is unhappy with the way the Council has dealt with his complaints.
- The law prevents the Ombudsman from considering what happens in court. A Section 7 report is produced at the request of a court and for use in court. It is not the property of the Council and the Ombudsman cannot consider its content or any potential fault in how it was produced. We have no powers to consider what council officers said in court. It was open to Mr X to challenge the report and the testimony of council officers as part of the court proceedings. The Ombudsman has no jurisdiction to consider this matter.
- Mr X is unhappy with the way the Council has dealt with his complaint. But we will not consider a council’s complaint handling if we are not going to consider the matter which led to the complaint. This is because the two matters are often inseparable and applies to Mr X’s complaint.
- If Mr X remains dissatisfied with the social worker’s professionalism, he can contact the Health and Care Professions Council, as the regulatory body for social workers.
- The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mr X’s complaint. This is because we have no powers to look at matters which have been considered in court.
Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman