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Stoke-on-Trent City Council (22 000 891)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 03 May 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about the Council using her information without her consent, an officer lying to her and a failure to reply to her complaint. This is because the complaint does not meet the tests in our Assessment Code on how we decide which complaints to investigate. There are other bodies better placed.

The complaint

  1. Miss X says a Council children services social worker lied, used her data without her consent, and the Council did not reply to her complaint.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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 another body better placed to consider this complaint it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  2. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse effect 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 an investigation if we decide the tests set out in our Assessment Code are not met. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Miss X.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. Miss X says a Council children services social worker contacted her and asked her to provide information about herself to be used on an application for her grandchildren’s passport. She says the officer lied to her about the reasons why the Council needed her data. She says the Council has not replied to her complaint.
  2. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights. It promotes openness by public bodies and protects the privacy of individuals. It deals with complaints about public authorities’ failures to comply with data protection legislation. This includes using information without consent.
  3. There is no charge for making a complaint to the ICO, and its complaints procedure is relatively easy to use. Where someone has a complaint about data protection, we usually expect them to bring the matter to the attention of the ICO. This is because the ICO is in a better position than us to consider such complaints. I consider that to be the case here and Miss X should therefore approach the ICO about his concerns.
  4. Our role is to investigate the actions of the Council as a corporate body, not to hold a single officer accountable. If Miss X has concerns about the professionalism or integrity of an individual social worker, it is reasonable to expect her to report her concerns to their professional body, Social Work England.
  5. We will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about the Council’s delay in replying to her complaint as it is not a good use of public resources to investigate complaints about complaint procedures, if we are unable to deal with the substantive issue.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Miss X’s complaint because there are other bodies better placed.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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