Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 10 Jan 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Ms A complains about the way the Council completed an assessment of her children. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the matter has already been considered by a court.
- Ms A complains about the way the Council completed an assessment of her children. She says the Council has not included all the relevant information about risks from the children’s father. She says there was a personal relationship between the children’s father and the social worker which influenced the assessment. Ms A also complains about the way the council has handled her complaint.
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’. 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 we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- 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 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 read the complaint sent by Ms A to the Ombudsman. I also gave Ms A chance to comment on a draft and considered her response before reaching a final decision.
What I found
- The Council assessed the welfare of Ms A’s children between February and April 2017. Ms A says she shared lots of information with the social worker and it was not included in the assessment.
- The social worker left the Council shortly after the assessment was completed.
- Ms A says she complained to the Council about the assessment in June 2017 and received a response later in the same month. The complaint was not upheld.
- Ms A says she asked the Council to escalate her complaint to the next stage of its procedure but it failed to do so.
- In November 2017, Ms A and the children’s father began court proceedings to decide the contact arrangements for the children.
- The social worker’s assessment was shared with the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) which completed a report at the request of the court.
- Ms A says the lack of information in the assessment has resulted in the children’s father being allowed to have contact with them and this is having a harmful effect on them.
- Ms A had an opportunity as part of the court proceedings to challenge the content of the report written by Cafcass. We cannot investigate the accuracy of information given to a court on which it relies to reach its decision. Ms A could ask the court to look again at the contact arrangements for the children if she has concerns.
- It is not a good use of public resources to investigate complaints about complaint procedures, if we are unable to deal with the substantive issue.
- The Health and Care Professions Council, as the social worker’s professional governing body, is better placed to consider complaints about a social worker’s professional conduct.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the matter has already been considered by a court, and Ms A could have raised the relevant issues in the court proceedings.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman