The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s decision to prosecute the complainant for his daughter’s poor school attendance. This is because there is no evidence of fault in the way the Council made its decision.
- The complainant, who I refer to here as Mr K, says that the Council is unfairly trying to prosecute him for his daughter’s very low school attendance.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and service failure. I have used the word fault to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), 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. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information provided by Mr K and by the Council. I have also sent Mr K a draft decision for his comments.
What I found
- Mr K’s daughter, D, is 14 and has very low school attendance. This is an on-going issue since 2015.
- Mr K says D has Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and that this prevents her from attending school.
- However, the Council says Mr K has presented no medical evidence either that she does has IBS or that it hampers school attendance. It says IBS does not usually prevent someone from living a normal life, and that medical evidence would be needed to show that in this case, it does.
- The Council has been monitoring D’s attendance since 2015 and has warned Mr K on several occasions that it would move to prosecution unless he provided medical evidence supporting his view of D’s health.
- The Council has now said it will prosecute Mr K for D’s non- attendance, as her attendance has dropped to 51% and no medical evidence has been provided.
- Mr K has sent the Council a letter from the GP, but it only says that the GP has been told that D has IBS. The Council does not regard this as supporting medical evidence. It has asked Mr K for consent for it to request further details from the GP, but will not rescind the decision to prosecute unless firm medical evidence is received.
- The Ombudsman cannot challenge a properly made decision by the Council. In this case, the Council has made the decision to move to prosecution after a significant period of monitoring and requesting medical evidence, which has not been received. It has taken the circumstances into account and I have found no fault in how it has made its decision.
- I will not investigate the complaint as there is no evidence of fault in the way the Council has made its decision to prosecute.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman