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Stoke-on-Trent City Council (20 011 539)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 19 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about an alleged breach of the General Data Protection Regulation by the Council. This is a matter for the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The complaint

  1. Miss X said the Council breached the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by wrongly sharing the contents of a psychological assessment with her employer. She said this led to her dismissal by her employer. She wants all restrictions about contact with her children removed.

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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 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 there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  3. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) deals with complaints about breaches of the GDPR.
  4. The courts have said that where someone has used their right of appeal, reference or review or remedy by way of proceedings in any court of law, the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction to investigate. This is the case even if the appeal did not or could not provide a complete remedy for all the injustice claimed. (R v The Commissioner for Local Administration ex parte PH (1999) EHCA Civ 916)
  5. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read Miss X’s complaint and checked a previous decision in case 20 004 476. I gave Miss X an opportunity to comment on a draft decision and considered her comments.

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What I found

  1. The Council carried out a child protection investigation as it had concerns about Miss X’s children. She worked with people under 18 in another area. The authority on the other area held a meeting chaired by its Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) for safeguarding. The Council sent an officer to the meeting. Miss X’s employer also attended.
  2. Miss X said the Council officer disclosed information about a psychological assessment she should not have done at the meeting, breaching the GDPR, and leading to her employer dismissing her from her position.
  3. Complaints about alleged breaches of the GDPR are for the ICO, not the Ombudsman.
  4. We have already considered Miss X’s complaint about the Council’s safeguarding action in case 20 004 476. We decided the matter was outside our jurisdiction because a court had decided where Miss X’s children should live.
  5. In response to the draft decision, Miss X said the Council had breached a court order. Breaches of court orders are matters for a court, not us.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because the ICO is better placed to consider the alleged breach of the GDPR. We have already considered Miss X’s complaint about the Council’s safeguarding action and there is no good reason to do so again. This matter and that of the alleged breach of a court order are also ones where it would be reasonable for Miss X to return to court.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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