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North Somerset Council (19 011 925)

Category : Adult care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 12 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr B complains on behalf of his deceased mother about the Council’s involvement in the care and support she received prior to her death in 2017 and about its responses to his enquiries concerning these matters. The Ombudsman will not investigate the complaint because the substantive issues fall outside our jurisdiction.

The complaint

  1. Mr B complains on behalf of his deceased mother about the Council’s involvement in the care and support she received prior to her death in 2017. He also complains about the Council’s handling of his complaints about these matters, the behaviour of staff and the information provided to him in response to his subject access requests.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. 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)
  3. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal to a tribunal. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(a), as amended)
  4. The Information Commissioner's Office considers complaints about freedom of information. Its decision notices may be appealed to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights). So where we receive complaints about freedom of information, we normally consider it reasonable to expect the person to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. In considering the complaint I reviewed the information provided by Mr B and the Council. I gave Mr B the opportunity to comment on my draft decision and considered what he said.

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What I found

  1. Mr B has lived abroad for a number of years. In 2017 his mother, who towards the end of her life had received care and support from the Council, died.
  2. Following her death, Mr B contacted the Council seeking information about his mother and her care. He made FOI requests to which the Council responded and in doing so it redacted confidential third-party information.
  3. Unhappy with the information he had been provided with and wishing to make a formal complaint about the care his mother had received, Mr B wrote to the Council.
  4. In December 2018 the Council advised Mr B that because his complaint about his mother concerned events that were over a year old, it would not investigate them. The Council referred him to the Ombudsman if he was dissatisfied with its response.

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Assessment

  1. The restriction highlighted at paragraph 3 applies to the part of the complaint Mr B has made concerning his late mother’s care and it therefore falls outside our jurisdiction. Mr B’s mother died in July 2017 and I see no grounds which warrant exercising discretion to investigate these past events now.
  2. The complaint Mr B submitted also concerns his dissatisfaction with the Council’s responses to his FOI requests. We normally expect someone to refer complaints about data protection to the Information Commissioner and Mr B has appeal rights to the Tribunal if he wishes to pursue matters.
  3. Mr B’s complaints about the actions of some Council staff are secondary issues which we will not pursue in isolation of the substantive matters.
  4. I do not know what involvement Mr B had in matters concerning his mother’s care while she was still alive. He says he had difficulties in communicating with the Council about a year after his mother had died. He says this was because he lives abroad and so there were weeks of delay by mail and email and that things would have been different if he had been able to meet with staff face-to-face. However, while I note his comments, I see no grounds which warrant exercising discretion to investigate these past matters now.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the substantive issues fall outside our jurisdiction.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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