Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 05 Jan 2022
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s treatment of him in supervising his daughter in the care of his grandchild. This would be unlikely to find further fault or achieve a greater remedy or different outcome.
- Mr X said there was fault in the Council’s treatment of him as a supervisor of his elder daughter in her care of his grandchild. This concerned three specific areas:
- Preventing a planned trip;
- Failing to pay expenses properly; and
- Failing to deal properly with his complaint.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide:
- there is not enough evidence of fault to justify investigating, or
- we could not add to any previous investigation by the organisation, or
- further investigation would not lead to a different outcome.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by Mr X and the Council.
- I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
- I considered Mr X’s comments before making a final decision.
The planned trip
- Mr X intended to take his daughter and his grandchild to a property he owned in another area some distance away during the February 2020 school half-term holiday. However, councils with child safeguarding responsibilities must approve such trips, and this involves visiting any accommodation. The evidence shows Mr X gave the Council only a few days’ notice of the intended visit. It would not therefore have been fault for the Council to refuse to authorise the visit.
- The complaint correspondence shows there are three elements here. First, the Council accepted in its final response to Mr X it had not yet paid him £350, being £50 per week for seven weeks when he supervised his daughter’s care of his grandchild away from home. That sum was part of the amount if offered him with its final response.
- Second, the Council confirmed that it would pay a mileage rate of 16.4p per mile for Mr X’s transport costs it approved, which was the rate it pays for non-employees who incur transport costs. Mr X said the Council should pay him 45p per mile because that was the rate paid to other employees. Mr X was not an employee of the Council. It would not therefore be fault for the Council to pay him 16.4p per mile.
- Third, the Council told Mr X it would not pay for 1,320 miles for trips to another area some distance away as it had not approved these visits as necessary. Without evidence that the Council approved the visits that caused the mileage or isled Mr X into believing they were approved, refusing to pay would not be fault on the Council’s part.
- The Council accepted its handling of Mr X’s first complaint about the trip was poor. It used the wrong process, then abandoned it and refused to escalate the complaint. It was only after Mr X approached us that the Council dealt properly with the complaints he had made. The Council offered a total of £200 for the time and trouble this caused him. That is similar to the sum we would have recommended had we investigated.
The remedy desired and offered
The Council offered Mr X an apology for the fault found and offered him a payment of just under £700. This was made up of the £350 owed for seven weeks supervising care away from home, £200 for time and trouble caused by poor complaint handling, and just under £200 for agreed mileage. Mr X wanted a larger sum based on his view that he was an employee of the Council and that the 1,320 extra miles should also be paid. He also wanted disciplinary action against, and re-training of the social worker involved.
- Were we to investigate, it is unlikely we would find further fault or recommend a significantly different remedy to that offered by the Council.
- We will not investigate this complaint. This is because :
- We would be unlikely to find further fault;
- We would be unlikely to recommend a significantly different remedy; and
- It is unlikely investigation would achieve a different outcome.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman