Leeds City Council (20 007 778)

Category : Adult care services > COVID-19

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 19 Jan 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Ms Y’s complaint, made on behalf of Mr X, about visiting arrangements in a care home during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault causing significant personal injustice. It is also unlikely we could add anything to the response Mr X has already received, and we will not investigate concerns about complaint handling as a standalone issue.

The complaint

  1. Ms Y is a solicitor acting on behalf of Mr X, who is a resident of a care home for adults with physical disabilities. Mr X’s place in the care home is funded by the Council – so the care home acts on the Council’s behalf. Mr X complains residents were being ‘visited’ by relatives who were standing on public land which borders the care home’s garden. Relatives and residents were then speaking over the fence which surrounds the garden. Mr X said these visits placed him at increased risk of catching COVID-19. Mr X also complains about how his concerns were dealt with, and a lack of information about the care home’s complaints process.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. This complaint involves events that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government introduced a range of new and frequently updated rules and guidance during this time. We can consider whether the council followed the relevant legislation, guidance and our published “Good Administrative Practice during the response to COVID-19”.
  2. We may investigate complaints made on behalf of someone else if they have given their consent. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26A(1), as amended)
  3. 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:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered Ms Y’s complaint to the Ombudsman and information from the Council and care home. I also gave Ms Y and Mr X the opportunity to comment on a draft statement before making a final decision.

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What I found

What happened

  1. Mr X is a resident of a care home for adults with physical disabilities. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, visits to care homes were limited to certain situations – such as those receiving end of life care.
  2. Mr X complained to the care home because he was concerned relatives were effectively ‘visiting’ residents by standing on public land which borders the care home’s garden. Relatives and residents were then communicating with each other over the fence. Mr X’s bedroom overlooks the garden, and he was concerned the 'visits’ could increase the chance of him contracting COVID-19. Mr X said that staff were not doing enough to discourage the visits.
  3. In its initial response to Mr X, the care home said it was aware some relatives were speaking to residents over the boundary fence. The care home said that while it did not condone the visits, it was doing all it could to ensure the relevant social distancing measures were adhered to. Relatives had been reminded of the relevant guidelines. But if relatives were outside the care home’s boundary, and residents remained on the property, the care home said it was limited in what it could do.
  4. Unhappy with the care home’s response, Mr X asked for his complaint to be escalated. Mr X suggested other things the care home could have done to address the situation – such as writing to residents. Mr X was also concerned other residents would know he had complained. Mr X was unhappy with the time taken to respond to his original complaint. He said there were no leaflets available to residents to explain the complaints process. Mr X was only able to find out details of the process from an ‘Easy Read’ version a member of staff had printed out for him. Mr X took part in a ‘Zoom’ meeting with one of the care home’s regional managers to discuss his concerns. Mr X submitted a further complaint about the regional manager and the meeting he attended
  5. In its response to Mr X the care home upheld parts of his complaint. In its response it said that:
    • When Mr X originally tried to find information about the care home’s complaints process it was not available. This had now been rectified.
    • The regional manager had been assured there had been no breach of Mr X’s confidentiality.
    • Mr X should have been told visitors had been spoken to about seeing residents over the garden fence.
    • The Zoom meeting with the regional manager had been titled ‘appeal hearing’ and on reflection this could have been worded in a better way to ensure Mr X felt at ease.
    • The regional manager wanted to build a positive relationship with Mr X and would like to meet – either face to face or via videoconference.
    • Errors Mr X had raised about the complaints policy had been forwarded to the care home’s quality department and the documents would be reviewed.
    • Mr X would not be treated in any way which would be detrimental to the support he received.


  1. The Ombudsman does not investigate all the complaints we receive. In deciding whether to investigate we need to consider various tests. These include the level of alleged fault and injustice to the person complaining. We also need to consider what more we could achieve by investigating.
  2. I understand how concerned Mr X was by relatives ‘visiting’ other residents during COVID-19. Mr X is also clearly unhappy with the steps the care home took about this issue. But in its response to Mr X, the care home explained it had spoken to relatives and reminded them of their responsibilities. It explained that while residents remained on the care home’s property, and visitors were on public land, its options were limited. Mr X says the care home could have written to its residents. But it was for the care home to decide how to manage the situation. This involved balancing the safety of all its residents with the rights of individuals. The care home explained its actions to Mr X.
  3. Mr X was clearly concerned about the risk of catching COVID-19 - which is entirely understandable. Fortunately, this did not happen, and Mr X’s alleged injustice would seem to flow from the actions of residents and their relatives, rather than any fault by the care home. Based on the evidence available, I do not think there is enough evidence of fault by the care home causing injustice for us to investigate.
  4. In its responses to Mr X’s complaint, the care home has accepted that information about its complaints process was not readily available. It has taken steps to address this and will be reviewing its complaints process. The Ombudsman will not normally investigate complaint handling as a standalone issue, because it is not considered to be a good use of our resources. But even if this were not the case, we would not investigate. This is because Mr X was able to complain and the care home provided what I consider to be proportionate and reasonable responses. It has also acted to make sure information is available to residents and will review its complaints documents. An investigation by the Ombudsman could not therefore achieve anything more.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault causing significant personal injustice, and it is unlikely we could add anything to the response already provided.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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