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City of York Council (19 019 915)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 27 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms B’s complaint about a referral that was made by her daughter’s school to the Council. This is because the Information Commissioner’s Office is the body better placed to consider her complaints.

The complaint

  1. Ms B says the Council provided her daughter’s school with inaccurate information about her. Ms B says the information the Council shared was from a closed investigation from 2015. Ms B says her daughter’s school only made a referral to the Council because of earlier information the Council shared. Ms B complains when the Council completed its investigation, it delayed telling her daughter’s school of this. Ms B says it has been stressful and she has now moved her daughter to a new school.
  2. Ms B is also unhappy with the way the Council responded to her complaints about the matter.

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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.
  2. 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 information from Ms B. I shared a draft version of this decision with Ms B and invited her comments.

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What I found

  1. In July 2019, Ms B’s daughter’s school made a referral to the Council. Ms B says the referral happened because the Council shared inaccurate information about her from a closed investigation that took place in 2015.
  2. The Council investigated the concerns and completed an assessment. Ms B says the assessment was completed in August 2019 but the Council delayed letting her and her daughter’s school know. Ms B says she only found out when she called the Council in October 2019.
  3. After receiving a complaint from Ms B, the Council contacted her daughter’s school to let it know the investigation was complete. Although the delay in doing so was unfortunate, it is not significant enough to warrant the Ombudsman investigating.
  4. Ms B says this doesn’t resolve her complaint because she wants the Council to stop sharing inaccurate information about her and her family. Ms B says the Council has ignored key elements of her complaints and it has acted unprofessionally when dealing with her.
  5. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is an independent authority that deals with complaints about public authorities’ handled data.
  6. Ms B says she has contacted the ICO and it is reasonable to let it investigate her complaint. The crux of Ms B’s complaint concerns inaccurate data she believes the Council released to her daughter’s school, and the Council’s processing of information about her. The ICO is better placed to decide if the Council has failed to comply with its duties under data protection. There is no charge for making a complaint to the ICO and its complaints procedure is relatively easy to use.
  7. The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms B’s complaint about the way the Council has considered her complaints. Where the substantive matters do not themselves warrant investigation, the Ombudsman will not normally consider how the Council has responded to a complaint about them. That is the case here.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms B’s complaint. This is because the ICO is the body better placed to consider her complaints.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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