Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council (20 006 294)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 07 Dec 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the way the Council responded to his request for information. It is unlikely we could find any Council fault which could cause him a direct injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, says the Council delayed in providing him with information and blocked his telephone calls.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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
    • the injustice is not significant enough to justify the cost of our involvement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mr X provided with his complaints and the Council’s replies to him which it provided. Mr X had the opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

Background

  1. Mr X says he contacted a children’s nursery and school in May 2020 and asked for information about his child who attended there. He says it was not provided. He contacted the Council’s schools team and other Council officers.
  2. The Council says that in early June it received a request from Mr X for information. It says its officers told Mr X that he needed to provide two forms of identify proof before it could provide him with the documents.
  3. Mr X then telephoned the Council many times and spoke to different officers. In mid July he visited the Council offices which were shut to members of the public. An officer met him outside, he provided the identity proof and the officer provided the documents to him.
  4. Mr X then complained to the Council about the many telephone calls he had made and having to get a taxi to the Council offices to get the information he wanted. The Council replied, apologised for any none returned calls and offered £5 for the taxi fare. Mr X refused this.
  5. In early August, the Council wrote to Mr X to explain that its officers had received multiple telephone calls from him, some of which had upset the officers. It decided to block his telephone number. It then provided him with a single point of contact. This means it gave him one officer’s number to call if he needed to contact the Council.
  6. The Council says Mr X got round the number blocking by withholding his number and he continued to call other officers rather than his single point officer. In November it wrote again to him and warned him that the single point arrangement may be withdrawn if he did not comply with it and continued to call other officers.
  7. Mr X says the events have impacted on his health.

Analysis

  1. A council can require identity proof before providing documents requested by a person about themselves. Once it has the request, and the identity documents, it has a calendar month to provide that information. It is unlikely our investigation could find the Council delayed in providing Mr X with the documents or that the requirement to provide identity documents was wrong.
  2. The Council is not required to pay a member of the public all the costs they incur in requesting documents.
  3. The Council’s decision to block Mr X’s telephone number and provide him with a single point of contact does not prevent him from accessing any Council services. It therefore has not caused him any direct personal injustice.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we could find fault or that Mr X has been caused any direct injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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