Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 15 Jan 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s delay in paying invoices for social care services provided on its behalf and arrangement of alternative service provision for its clients. This is because it would have been reasonable for Mr X to go to court.
- The complainant, Mr X, complains the Council delayed in making payments owed under a contract for the delivery of services to vulnerable adults. He also complains about the Council’s removal of service users from his charity. Mr X says that as a result of the Council’s actions the charity had to close.
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:
- it is unlikely we would find fault, or
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
- there is another body better placed to consider this complaint.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I reviewed Mr X’s complaint and the Council’s response. I shared my draft decision with Mr X and considered his comments.
What I found
- Mr X runs a charity which provides services to vulnerable adults. The Council contracted with the charity to provide services on its behalf, which it did for several years, but Mr X says it delayed in paying the charity’s invoices. The Council also refused the charity’s proposed increase in its rates in 2019.
- Mr X engaged a solicitor to assist with the dispute over payment of the charity’s fees and took action in protest against the Council’s refusal to agree to its proposed increase. The charity also wrote to service users to inform them it could not continue to provide services to them at the rate paid by the Council and may therefore have to close.
- The Council has a duty to ensure eligible social care needs are met. This involves assessment of an individual’s needs and arrangements for the provision of services to meet those needs. Where a service may end the Council has a responsibility to arrange alternative provision to ensure the individual does not go without.
- As a result of the charity’s statement and because of its concerns about the impact of its actions on service users, along with concerns raised by parents about arrangements for transporting them, the Council carried out needs reviews and arranged alternative services to meet the needs of the vulnerable adults. Mr X believes this was wrong and says it led to the closure of the charity’s site.
- The relationship between the Council and the charity was contractual. If therefore Mr X believed the Council’s actions amounted to a breach of contract it would have been reasonable for him to take the matter to court.
- The Council had an obligation to ensure the vulnerable adults continued to receive services to meet their needs and if there is any concern over the alternative provisions made for them they may raise their own complaints.
- Mr X is also unhappy with the way the Council dealt with his complaint. But it is not a good use of public resources to look at the Council’s complaints handling if we are not going to look at the substantive issue complained about. We will not therefore investigate this issue separately.
- We will not investigate this complaint. This is because it would have been reasonable for Mr X to take the matter to court.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman