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Suffolk County Council (20 012 000)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 22 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We cannot investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s restriction of her contact with her grandchildren. The matters complained are not separable from those decided by a court, which only a court can change.

The complaint

  1. Ms X said the Council restricted her contact with her grandchildren and declined to answer her questions. She finds the separation distressing.

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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 if someone has started court action about the matter. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
  3. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read Ms X’s complaint. I gave her an opportunity to comment on a draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Ms X’s grandchildren’s residence and contact arrangements were decided by a court. They are in foster care, with an intention that they be placed for adoption.
  2. Ms X understandably finds the separation and restriction on contact with her grandchildren very distressing. However, only a court can decide where the children should live and what contact arrangements there should be.

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Final decision

We cannot investigate this complaint. This is because a court has already decided where Ms X’s grandchildren should live and what their contact arrangements should be. The matters complained of are not separable from that decision, which only a court can change.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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