Hertfordshire County Council (18 015 226)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 20 May 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman should not investigate Mr J’s complaint about children’s services’ involvement with his family, because it would be reasonable for Mr J to raise in court the issues he now raises with us.

The complaint

  1. Mr J complains about children’s services’ involvement with his family. In particular, he says that
    • He has not had contact with his children because of the Council’s actions
    • The Council has taken account of irrelevant information, and not taken account of relevant information, in its assessment of him
    • A social worker wrongly disclosed his current location to his children and their mother.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
    • there is another body better placed to consider the complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the information Mr J provided with his complaint, and information provided by the Council about its consideration of the complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mr J has applied to court to resolve the issue of contact with his children. The court will consider the arrangements for contact to date and going forward. We cannot duplicate or oversee the work of the court.
  2. The court has asked the Council to provide a report, which is likely to be based on the assessment Mr J disputes. So it would be reasonable for Mr J to raise his concerns in court.
  3. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) considers complaints about the disclosure of confidential personal information. So we should not investigate Mr J’s complaint about the disclosure of information to his children and their mother, because it would be reasonable for Mr J to take this matter to the ICO.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman should not investigate this complaint. This is because it would be reasonable for Mr J to raise in court, or with the ICO, the issues he now raises with us.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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