Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 23 Mar 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms B’s complaint about the way the Council responded to a complaint she made on behalf of her mother-in-law’s neighbour. This is because Ms B has not suffered a significant personal injustice to warrant investigation.
- Ms B is unhappy with the way the Council responded to a complaint she made on behalf of her mother-in-law’s neighbour (Mr C). Ms B says the Council failed to follow its own procedure which caused Mr C to receive a response to his complaint two months late. Ms B says the Council’s complaints procedure is discriminatory towards any vulnerable and disabled complainant.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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:
- the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information from Ms B. I shared a draft version of this decision with Ms B and invited her comments.
What I found
- Ms B assisted Mr C in making a complaint to the Council. A settlement was agreed between Mr C and the Council.
- Ms B now complains in her own right the Council failed to follow its complaints procedure when dealing with Mr C’s complaint. Ms B says the Council failed to appoint a senior manager to deal with Mr C’s complaint and it used an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedure when Mr C requested the complaint to be dealt with in writing.
- Ms B says the ADR procedure was discriminatory to Mr C because of his disability. Ms B says the Council’s complaints procedure caused a delay to the outcome and settlement of the complaint.
- The Council responded to Ms B and said it would not engage in any correspondence with her as Mr C’s complaint was resolved.
- Ms B says she is making the complaint because of the implications for other vulnerable and disabled residents who could be subject to the Council’s ADR procedure. Ms B says she has suffered personal injustice because she was making the complaint on behalf of Mr C. However, it was not Ms B’s complaint. Any personal injustice suffered would be to Mr C.
- Even if Mr C was to complain in his own right, the Ombudsman would not investigate a complaint about the Council’s complaints procedure. The substantive matters of complaint are resolved. Where the substantive matters do not themselves warrant investigation, the Ombudsman will not normally consider how the Council has responded to a complaint about them. That is the case here.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms B’s complaint. This is because Ms B has not suffered a significant personal injustice to warrant investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman