London Borough of Lewisham (18 005 238)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 21 Sep 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Ms X’s complaint about a Council report produced by it for a Court, as the law prevents us doing so. There are other bodies better placed to consider the other aspects of her complaint.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Ms X, says the Council produced an inaccurate family assessment, administered its production poorly and delayed in providing a report to a Court.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. 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 there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  3. 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)
  4. We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Ms X provided with her complaint and the Council’s replies. Ms X had an opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Ms X says she complained in December 2017 to the Council about its children services team’s actions. This included the conduct of an officer visit to her home, the production of a child and family assessment report and its content.
  2. The Council replied in early February 2018. It accepted it had delayed in providing the report. But it did not uphold many of the points Ms X made about the report’s content. Ms X requested the complaint reply be reviewed at the Council’s next stage. She wrote in early March. In June, the Council replied and said she had requested her complaint escalation too late.
  3. In March 2018 Ms X sent the Council a separate complaint about the production and content of a report it had given a court. The Court was, and now is again, considering her children’s care arrangements. The Court had ordered the Council to produce a report on the children’s welfare to assist it with its decisions.

Analysis

  1. We cannot investigate the content or the production of a report a Court ordered a Council produce.
  2. It is reasonable to expect Ms X to tell the Court of her views on any inaccuracies in the Council’s evidence. These will probably overlap with the child and family assessment report Ms X complains about.
  3. Ms X says the Council wrongly assessed the risks and harm to the children. It is reasonable to expect Ms X to tell the Court about this.
  4. Parliament established the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to decide if the Data Protection laws have been broken. It is reasonable to expect Ms X to complain to the ICO about any other inaccuracies in the Council’s report which is not contained in the Court report.
  5. Ms X complaint includes allegations about the professionalism of the social worker who completed the assessment and report. Parliament established the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to consider allegations against social workers. They are better placed to consider the officer’s actions which are not connected to the Court report.
  6. Because we are not going to investigate Ms X complaint, we also will not investigate how the Council replied to her complaint.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not and cannot investigate this complaint. This is because it partly relates to Court reports and the others aspect are better suited to the ICO and HCPC.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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