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Bury Metropolitan Borough Council (20 010 496)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 14 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about the Council’s assessment of her as a possible carer for her grandchild and associated matters. The assessment is not separable from the child’s residence and contact arrangements, which have been and can only be decided by a court. Investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted by the claimed injustice.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X said the Council carried out a faulty viability assessment, and that she was made to feel like a criminal for having contact with her grandchild. She said the Council had already admitted a data breach and that a social worker had formed a judgement unsupported by evidence. She wants the Council to compensate her for the legal costs in clearing her name.

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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. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
  3. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide:
  • any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.
  • (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. The complainant has an opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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My assessment

  1. Mrs X says the viability assessment the Council carried out was flawed and that it was wrong for her to be made to feel like a criminal when she visited the house of a family member while the grandchild was present. These issues are ones to do with the residence of the child and who the child may have contact with. Only a court can decide these matters. Mrs X’s legal costs are also for a court to decide.
  2. The Council wrongly told Mrs X’s sister the outcome of the viability assessment before Mrs X. However, while Mrs X should have been told first, the result would have been known to all parties later. A social worker also offered an opinion about Mrs X unsupported by evidence. However, while this clearly caused offence, it did not affect the main issue, which is the differing views of the Council and Mrs X about her contact with her grandchild. The Council’s apology is sufficient for the injustice caused, which does not warrant further investigation by us.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because the main issue is not separable from the child’s residence and contact arrangements, which are for a court. Other matters did not cause sufficient injustice to warrant further investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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