Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 13 Apr 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr A’s late complaint about the Council’s actions regarding him and his daughter, B, in 2015. This is because Mr A could have come to the Ombudsman sooner, and, the Ombudsman could not achieve the outcome Mr A wants by investigating.
- The complainant who I shall call Mr A says the Council instigated child protection proceedings in 2015 based on false and inaccurate information. Mr A says he and his daughter, had illegal and unlawful restrictions placed on them because of the Council’s actions and he was unable to work for nine months because of this. Mr A says staff should be reprimanded for the lies and false accusations and he should have his property restored.
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)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information and documentation Mr A and the Council provided. I sent Mr A a copy of my draft decision and discussed his comments on it with him.
What I found
- Mr A was unhappy with the actions of the Council and the restrictions it placed on him and his daughter in 2015.
- The Council responded to Mr A’s concerns in October and November 2015. However, it did not escalate his concerns to stage three of the statutory complaints procedures nor advise him of his right to come to the Ombudsman.
- Mr A remained unhappy and met with the Council at his home on 9 September 2016. The Council’s letter to him dated 16 September 2016 says he was aware of the restriction about unsupervised access between his daughter and her mother even though there was no formal letter advising him of this. Mr A disputes this and says there were no restrictions. The letter also advises Mr A of his right to ask the Ombudsman to consider his complaint.
- The law says a complaint should be made to the Ombudsman within 12 months of the issue complained about being known.
(1) Subject to subsection (3), a complaint about a matter under this Part of this Act must be
in writing, and
before the end of the permitted period.
(2) In subsection (1)(b), “the permitted period” means the period of 12 months beginning
- the day on which the person affected first had notice of the matter, or
- if the person affected has died without having notice of the matter—
- the day on which the personal representatives of the person affected first had notice of the matter, or
- if earlier, the day on which the complainant first had notice of the matter.
- Mr A says he was forced to sign the child protection plan in 2015 agreeing to his daughter having supervised access with her mother under the threat of the Council removing his child from his care. It is unlikely the Ombudsman would find fault with the Council in this instance. If Mr A believed the restrictions placed on the plan were based on inaccurate and false information, he should not have signed the agreement but challenged it through the courts if necessary.
- The Ombudsman cannot reprimand staff nor can he tell the Council to reprimand its own staff. It is for the Council to decide how to deal with its personnel matters.
- Mr A could have come to the Ombudsman in 2015 if he was unhappy with the Council’s actions and responses to his complaints at the time, and although he was not advised to come to the Ombudsman in 2015 he could have come in September 2016. There is no good reason to disapply the law in this case because Mr A could have come to the Ombudsman sooner, and could have challenged, in court if necessary, his concerns about the inaccuracies and false information he says are contained in the statements.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this late complaint. This is because Mr A could have come to the Ombudsman sooner and the Ombudsman could not achieve the outcome Mr A wants by investigating now.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman