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Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council (18 019 851)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 14 May 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Miss X’s complaint about a children services social worker’s report. This is a Court ordered report and we cannot investigate legal proceedings. It is reasonable to expect Miss X to complain to the Health and Care Professions Council about the social worker’s professionalism.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Miss X, complains about a children services social worker’s actions including a report they gave 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 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)
  3. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

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

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What I found

  1. The father of Miss X’s children applied to Court for it to decide how the children should be cared for. The Court ordered the Council to provide a report to it on the children’s care arrangements and whether they were at risk of significant harm unless the Council made a Care Order. This is a section 37 report.
  2. Miss X complained to the Council. She said:
      1. The social worker did not carry out the report assessment properly resulting in an unbalanced report.
      2. The social worker is not child centred and had not stated the medical and other needs properly.
      3. The report is an unfair reflection of her.
      4. The report was signed before the social worker assessed the child.
      5. Poor communication.
      6. Lack of transparency.
  3. The Council replied in March 2019 and said it could not investigate her complaint while the Court proceedings continued. It said Miss X could ask the Court to change the report’s author.


  1. We cannot investigate the preparation of, the content, or quality of a section 37 report.
  2. It is reasonable to expect Miss X to tell the Court of her concerns about the social worker’s approach.
  3. Parliament set up the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to consider allegations against social workers about their abilities and professionalism. It is reasonable to expect Miss X to use the HCPC.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not and cannot investigate this complaint. This is because we cannot investigate the preparation and content of a court ordered report. And the HCPC is better placed to consider her social worker professionalism complaint.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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