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Bristol City Council (18 019 914)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 17 May 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot and should not investigate Mr F’s complaint about the Council’s involvement with his family, because the issues are tied up with the court’s consideration of events.

The complaint

  1. Mr F complains about the conduct of the Council’s officers, and the content of a family assessment, and the impact that these had on proceedings in the family court.

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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 F provided, and information provided by the Council when we asked about its consideration of his complaint.

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What I found

  1. The Council provided a report to court based on the family assessment Mr F disputes. The law does not let us investigate a complaint about what happened in court. So we cannot investigate that part of Mr F’s complaint which is about the content of the court report.
  2. And because the report was based on the family assessment, the court was the correct place for Mr F to express his concern about this. Mr F says he could not challenge the report in court because he did not have evidence at that time that the Council had unlawfully obtained information about him. I do not accept this logic. Challenging the report in court would have enabled consideration of the detail in the report, including the origin of the information used.
  3. We could not investigate the social worker’s actions or conduct separately from the whole matter of what happened in court. And our role is to investigate the actions of the Council as a corporate body, not to hold a single officer accountable. If Mr F has concerns about the professionalism or integrity of an individual social worker, he could consider reporting them to their professional body.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman cannot and should not investigate this complaint. This is because the issues are tied up with the court’s consideration of events.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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