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Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council (21 005 241)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 09 Sep 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We cannot investigate Mrs X’s complaint about who should care for her children and the contact arrangements with them. A Court considered and decided these. It is unlikely we could add to the Council’s reply on other day to day care matters.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, complains about the Council’s children service’s actions about her two children.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by 'maladministration' and 'service failure'. I have used the word 'fault' to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  3. We investigate 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 continue an investigation if we decide:
    • there is not enough evidence of fault to justify investigating, or
    • any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
    • we could not add to any previous investigation by the organisation, or
    • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the Mrs X and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. Mrs X had an opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision.

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My assessment

  1. Mrs X says that during the 2020 lockdown, her two children were removed from her care. She says this was wrong. The Court considered the children’s care and decided the Council should care for them. They remain in Council care. Mrs X says she wants her children back. Mrs X has complained about the contact she gets. We cannot investigate these issues as the Court considered them. We cannot achieve Mrs X’s aim of wanting her children back. Only a Court can reverse a care order decision.
  2. Mrs X also complains about:
    • Who the allocated social worker is,
    • Information she receives about the children, and,
    • How a social worker handled a child.
  3. The Council replied to these complaints in a detailed letter of July 2021. It is unlikely our investigation could achieve a different outcome. We cannot investigate professional decisions the Council has a duty to make, such as assigning a social worker to the children, unless there is some fault in the way the decision was made. Mrs X disagreeing with the decision is not fault.

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Final decision

  1. We will not and cannot investigate this complaint. This is because we cannot investigate events and decisions which have been considered and approved by a Court. It is unlikely we could achieve a significantly different outcome than already provided on the other issues.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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