The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman discontinued his investigation of this complaint, about standards of care in an independent living facility. This is because he considers it better for the complainant to ask the Council to carry out a fresh investigation.
- The complainant, to whom I will refer as Ms G, is represented by her mother, to whom I will refer as Mrs D.
- Ms G is disabled and spends much of her time at an independent living facility. Mrs D complains about a number of different aspects of the standards of care and supervision provided by facility staff.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
- 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 would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I reviewed Mrs D’s correspondence with the Council, and a set of evidence she provided in support of Ms G’s complaint.
- I also shared a draft copy of this decision with both parties for their comments.
What I found
- Mrs D approached the Ombudsman to make a complaint about the independent living facility in September 2017. The facility is run by a charity but Ms G’s placement there was commissioned by the Council.
- At that point, we established that Mrs D had not yet formally complained to the Council, meaning her approach to the Ombudsman was premature. We referred her back to the Council to investigate her complaint, to which it provided its response in October 2017. The Council partly upheld Mrs D’s complaint.
- Mrs D then returned to the Ombudsman in June 2018. In December 2018, I asked Mrs D to provide me with an update on the issues she had raised in her complaint. She did so in February 2019.
- As explained at paragraph 3, the Ombudsman generally does not investigate complaints where a person has waited more than 12 months to bring the issues to us. This is because it can be difficult to obtain reliable evidence in such cases, or to provide an effective remedy for any injustice which may have occurred.
- In Mrs D’s case, she returned to the Ombudsman in less than 12 months after the Council’s complaint response, and so this restriction is not strictly applicable. Despite this, I have decided that I cannot effectively investigate her complaint in its current format.
- For example, Mrs D has provided a wide range of evidence about current issues in the facility. While these issues fall under the general theme of standards, as investigated by the Council, they do not appear to be the same specific issues which were addressed in the complaint response of October 2017.
- And, even where they are the same issues as investigated by the Council, it is clear there have been numerous developments in the past 18 months, to the point where the complaint response of October 2017 is no longer a valid reference point for an investigation by the Ombudsman.
- For this reason, I consider it appropriate to discontinue my investigation now, to allow Mrs D to make a fresh complaint to the Council. This will give the Council the opportunity to undertake an up-to-date review of the situation, and put in place any measures it feels necessary to improve the standards of Ms G’s care.
- If Mrs D remains dissatisfied with the outcome of the Council’s investigation, she will then able to return to the Ombudsman with a new complaint.
- I have discontinued my investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman