The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about the Council providing misinformation when trying to register a death. This is because the Ombudsman would not be able to achieve the outcomes the complainant wants, and because an investigation is unlikely to lead to a different outcome.
- The complainant, whom I refer to as Mrs X, complains the Council provided her with misinformation about how to correctly register her father’s death. Mrs X also complains about the way the Council treated her during this time.
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 further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered Mrs X’s complaint and her correspondence with the Council. I considered Mrs X’s comments on a draft of my decision.
What I found
- Mrs X was required to register her father’s death. When trying to arrange to do so, the Council gave Mrs X misinformation about when an appointment was available, what was required of her to make an appointment, and which documents were suitable.
- Mrs X complains she was upset by the behaviour and actions of those who provided the misinformation. Mrs X also complains that her complaint was responded to by an officer who gave the misinformation, and that her complaint did not receive a timely response.
- Mrs X would like for the Council to consider its behaviour and be scrutinised by an independent person. Mrs X would also like for the Council to meet with her in person and apologise for treating her with contempt.
- The Council acknowledged there was fault with the information that had been provided to Mrs X when she tried to arrange to register her father’s death. It advised that it has implemented training for staff to ensure the same mistakes are not made in the future. It also apologised to Mrs X for the service she had received.
- The Council has acknowledged that it was at fault by providing misinformation to Mrs X, and that Mrs X did not receive the service she expected. I understand this would have caused stress when Mrs X was grieving. However, I do not think an investigation into the matter would achieve the outcomes Mrs X is seeking.
- I do not think an investigation by the Ombudsman would result in different outcomes to those already provided by the Council. It is my view the training implemented, and the apology issued to Mrs X are suitable remedies for the fault.
- Additionally, it is not a good use of public resources to investigate complaints about complaint procedures if we are not investigating the substantive issue. Therefore, I will not investigate the part of Mrs X’s complaint about the complaint handling and delay of her initial complaint.
- I will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely an investigation could achieve the outcomes Mrs X wants, and because I am unlikely to achieve a different outcome to the ones implemented by the Council.
Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman