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Cumbria County Council (20 011 103)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 18 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We cannot investigate Ms C’s complaint about the involvement of the Council’s children’s services with her family. This is because the issues have been considered in court. The complaint is also late, and we are unable to investigate personnel issues.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I shall refer to as Ms C, complains about how the Council’s children’s services dealt with matters regarding the care of her children. Ms C says the Council’s actions caused her and her family distress.

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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 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)
  3. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
  4. We cannot investigate a complaint if it is about a personnel issue. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5/5a, paragraph 4, as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered Ms C’s complaint and the Council’s response. I have invited Ms C to comment on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. In early 2017, the Council’s children’s services became involved with Ms C’s family after safeguarding allegations were received about the father of Ms C’s children, who I will refer to as Mr Z.
  2. The Council commenced care proceedings in relation to Ms C’s children. The case was subsequently heard in the family court, where the Council obtained a care order.
  3. Mr Z faced a criminal trial relating to the allegations, and he was subsequently sentenced to prison.
  4. In March 2019, Ms C complained about the actions of the social worker involved in her family’s case.
  5. The Council apologised for the way the social worker had communicated with Ms C and her family and said that she was no longer employed by the Council.
  6. In September, Ms C complained again. She complained:
    • About the actions of the social worker prior to court proceedings; and
    • That her views were not properly considered during the court hearings; and
    • That the Council failed to carry out proper pre-employment checks before employing the social worker involved in her family’s case.

Assessment

  1. I cannot investigate Ms C’s complaint about how the Council dealt with her family after safeguarding concerns were raised and that her views were not considered during the subsequent hearings. These matters relate to the Council’s decision to commence care proceedings and were considered in court. The law does not allow us to investigate anything which forms part of legal proceedings.
  2. Ms C’s complaint is also late. The events referred to in Ms C’s complaint happened between 2017 and 2019. I do not see any reason why Ms C could not have brought her complaint to us sooner.
  3. Finally, I cannot investigate Ms C’s complaint about how the Council recruited a social worker. This is because we are unable to investigate complaints about personnel issues.

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Final decision

  1. We cannot investigate this complaint. This is because the issues have been considered in court. The complaint is also late, and we are unable to investigate personnel issues.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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