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Surrey County Council (22 000 661)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 27 Apr 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We cannot investigate this complaint about the effect on Mr X’s contact with a child of an alleged improper connection between a social worker and the child’s mother. This matter is not separable from matters concerning the contact arrangements for the child, which are subject to court proceedings.

The complaint

  1. Mr X said a social worker is improperly giving advice to the mother of a child. He said this had resulted in him losing parental rights to his child. He wanted contact with his child.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate a complaint if someone has started court action about the matter. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
  2. 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)
  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 considered information provided by the complainant.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. It is clear from Mr X’s complaint and the Council response to it he supplied that the issue at the heart of the complaint is contact with a child. Contact with a child can only be decided by a court, and it is clear there is or has been court action. We cannot consider anything connected with the court case, including any advice given by a person who might be doing so improperly. Any alleged improper relationship would be for Mr X to report to the court. Should the court decline to consider it, that would not create jurisdiction for us to do so.

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Final decisiothe matter

  1. We cannot investigate Ms X’s complaint because the matter complained of is not separable from matter where there has been court action, or where Mr X has or had a right to raise those matters in court it would be reasonable to use.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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