Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 20 Mar 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman should not investigate Mr J’s complaint about an advice and support centre providing services on behalf of the Council. This is because the Information Commissioner is better placed to consider a data protection breach, and it is not a good use of public resources to investigate the other issues Mr J raises.
- Mr J complains about an advice and support centre providing services on behalf of the Council. In particular, he complains about:
- A data protection breach
- A poor standard of care from his caseworker
- The centre’s handling of his complaint.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about councils and certain other bodies. Where an individual, organisation or private company is providing services on behalf of a council, we can investigate complaints about the actions of these providers. (Local Government Act 1974, section 25(7), 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 is unlikely we would find fault, or
- there is another body better placed to consider this complaint.
- We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information Mr J provided with his complaint, and information provided by the Council about its consideration of the complaint. I have given Mr J the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
What I found
- We can investigate a complaint about the centre. But we will not investigate the data protection breach, because it would be reasonable for Mr J to take this matter to the Information Commissioner.
- We do not investigate individual caseworkers. We consider whether the actions of the Council (or, in this case, the centre, on the Council’s behalf) amount to administrative fault. The centre offered Mr J the opportunity to change caseworker, so it is unlikely we would find evidence of fault in its actions.
- It is not a good use of public resources to investigate a complaint about the complaints procedure, if we are unable to deal with the substantive issue.
- The Ombudsman should not investigate this complaint. This is because the Information Commissioner is better placed to consider a data protection breach, and it is not a good use of public resources to investigate the other issues.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman