Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 25 Mar 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We cannot investigate Miss B’s complaint that the Council’s social worker made false allegations against her and lied in the course of court proceedings. This is because we cannot investigate what happens in court, and cannot achieve the outcome Miss B wants.
- The complainant, who I will refer to as Miss B, complains that the Council's social worker made false allegations about her and lied in the course of court proceedings.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- 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)
- 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 we believe we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered what Miss B has said in support of her complaint and the complaint correspondence provided by the Council. I have offered Miss B the opportunity to comment on a draft of this decision.
What I found
- Miss B’s children have been the subject of care proceedings. Miss B complains that the children’s social worker presented false information about her and her family to the Court. As a result, she says the children were removed from her care. She has complained to the Council about the social worker’s actions and says it has failed to respond properly. She wants the social worker removed from the children’s case.
- We cannot investigate Miss B’s complaint. The matters about which she complains relate to care proceedings. By law, we cannot investigate what happens in a court. This includes the evidence given by the social worker. If Miss B is unhappy with the outcome of the care proceedings her recourse is to go back to court.
- It is also the case that we cannot achieve what Miss B wants. It is for the Council to decide which of its officers deal with cases, not the Ombudsman, and we cannot ask the Council to remove the social worker from the case.
- We cannot investigate this complaint. This is because it concerns matters which have been considered in court, and we cannot achieve what Miss B wants.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman