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Surrey County Council (21 005 041)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 12 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s children’s services involvement with the complainants family. This is because it is unlikely we could add anything to the investigation the Council has carried out.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will call Mrs X, complains about the Council’s children’s services involvement with her family. Mrs X says the social worker allocated to the case provided inaccurate information which was shared with the courts, failed to safeguard her children and did not properly communicate with Mrs X.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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 we could not add to any previous investigation by the organisation. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
  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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered Mrs X’s complaint and the Council’s responses.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. The complainant now has an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I will consider their comments before making a final decision.

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My assessment

  1. Mrs X complained to the Council about the involvement of its children’s services with her family. Mrs X complained that the Council had provided inaccurate and biased information to the courts, failed to safeguard her children, failed to provide her with copies of meeting notes and had not properly communicated with her.
  2. Mrs X’s complaint to the Council was considered under the three-stage statutory procedure for children’s services complaints, and was upheld in part. Mrs X does not accept the complaint findings and wants the matter investigated further.
  3. I will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint. It is not the Ombudsman’s role to re-investigate complaints which have already been upheld, and I note that the Council has accepted where it has been shown to be at fault and has apologised. 
  4. Regarding those aspects of the complaint which were not upheld, Mrs X was able to give her view of the Council’s actions. At stage two and stage three the independent Investigating Officer and the members of the Review Panel considered the evidence before them and there is nothing to indicate fault in the way they did so.
  5. Mrs X says that an incorrect date was included in the stage three report. I have considered this point but note that the correct date was included in the statement of complaint and in the stage two report. I therefore do not consider that this had any impact on the outcome of the stage three panel.
  6. Without evidence of fault in the way the Investigating Officer and Review Panel reached their conclusions, the Ombudsman cannot criticise the outcome or intervene to substitute an alternative view. Investigation by the Ombudsman would therefore be unlikely to add to the investigation already carried out.
  7. Even if it could be shown that the outcome of the Council’s investigation was flawed, we could not investigate Mrs X’s complaint that inaccurate information was provided to the courts. This is because the Ombudsman cannot investigate any matters that have been subject to court proceedings.

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Final decision

  1. I will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely, we could add anything to the Council’s previous investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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