The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Council did not lead Miss X to expect it would find her employment and so is not at fault. The Council is at fault for failing to make reasonable adjustments to how it communicated with Miss X. The Council has agreed to apologise, pay Miss X £200, and take action to improve its service.
- Miss X complains that the Council failed to provide the service she expected when she accessed its Work Match scheme. She says the Council led her to expect that it would find her employment.
- Miss X also says the Council failed to consider and make adjustments for her disability to help her access the scheme.
- Miss X says as a result, she has missed out on opportunities for employment and feels discriminated against.
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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I spoke to Miss X about the complaint.
- I made written enquiries of the Council, and considered its response along with relevant law and guidance.
- Ms X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
What I found
- The Council runs a Work Match scheme to help residents find jobs in the area. Part of this scheme is a programme called Construction Gateway. This programme provides training in industry recognised qualifications. It also supports residents with advice and information about employment skills and access to job vacancies.
- In June 2019, Miss X registered for the Construction Gateway.
- Miss X says she joined the scheme because although she has a degree in a relevant field, she wanted to update her knowledge and skills. She says she saw a flyer for the scheme which said it was “securing jobs for local people”.
- Miss X met with an Officer from the scheme in June. At this meeting, Miss X told the Council she had a disability. She also explained that she had limited access to the internet. The Council agreed to contact her by phone.
- Following this meeting the Council arranged for Miss X to do CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) training. Miss X told the Council her disability might mean it would take her longer to pass the course.
- The Council liaised with the training provider and arranged for Miss X to study from home and without a time constraint. Miss X passed the CSCS in August. Miss X complained to the Council about the suitability of the test centre environment for people with her disability.
- In September, Miss X met with the Council for what it calls Information, Advice, and Guidance. The Council’s records show Miss X brought in copies of her CV and qualifications. Miss X explained the difficulties not having access to the internet at home caused her in finding work.
- The Council’s note of the meeting says it suggested to Miss X that in the short term, she use her licence to drive passenger vehicles. This would allow her to save up for a computer, which would make finding work in her field easier.
- The Council’s note of the meeting says Miss X “seemed keen” and so it referred her for the vacancy. Miss X’s account of this conversation is different. She says she told the Council why recent events in her life made such public facing work difficult for her.
- The Council sent Miss X an email in November with some information about job opportunities.
- In December and January, Miss X complained to the Council about the scheme. She said that she felt she was being denied access to job vacancies because of her race, gender and disability.
- In response to her complaint, the Council said it recognised that “contact with multiple Workmatch officers may have led to some difficulties in receiving clear advice”. It invited Miss X to meet with a new Officer for further support.
- Miss X went to this meeting in March 2020. The Council’s note of the meeting says it talked about updating her CV and the type of work she was looking for. It says the next appointment would depend on how things developed with COVID-19.
- Although it did not uphold her complaint, the Council identified some improvements it could make to its service. This included:
- Considering the challenges for people with limited access to computers and the internet
- Ensuring users of the service know why they have been referred to different members of the team
- Feeding back to the testing centre about Miss X’s experience of the environment.
Purpose of the scheme
- Miss X says the Council’s advertising of the scheme led her to believe that she would be offered a job if she completed the Construction Gateway training.
- In response to my enquiries, the Council provided copies of its promotional materials. None of these suggest that the Council guarantees to find employment.
- There is no evidence the Council raised Miss X’s expectations about finding her a job. Therefore, I find no fault.
- However, the Council may wish to cover this in its Registration Form for the service to avoid any future confusion.
- Miss X says the Council failed to make reasonable adjustments for her disability.
- The reasonable adjustment duty is set out in the Equality Act 2010 and applies to any body that carries out a public function. Its aim is that, as far as reasonably possible, people who have disabilities should have the same standard of service as non-disabled people.
- Service providers have to consider removing or preventing obstacles to people with disabilities accessing their service. If the adjustments are reasonable, they must make them.
- The duty is ‘anticipatory’. This means service providers cannot wait until a disabled person wants to use their services, but must think in advance about what disabled people with a range of impairments might reasonably need.
- The Council properly considered Miss X’s disability when it referred her for CSCS training. As a result, Miss X’s disability did not prevent her completing the training.
- However, the Council’s records show it noted that Miss X needed telephone contact in its first meeting with her. Despite this, it sent her job opportunities by email in November 2019. It did not follow up with a phone call, which it had agreed to do. This was both because Ms X did not have reliable access to a computer and as a reasonable adjustment.
- Therefore, although the Council recorded Miss X’s need for a reasonable adjustment, it failed to meet it. This is fault.
- This caused Miss X unnecessary frustration. Miss X says she may also have missed out on job opportunities. I cannot say whether this is the case, as Miss X may not have been successful in any application. However, this uncertainty is an injustice to Miss X.
Public Sector Equality Duty
- Miss X says she felt discriminated against because of her race and gender, as well as her disability.
- Section 149 of the Equality Act requires public authorities to comply with the public sector equality duty (PSED) to have due regard to the need to:
- Eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation
- Advance equality of opportunity between those who share a protected characteristic and those who do not
- Promote good relations between those who have a protected characteristic and those who do not.
- To remedy the injustice to Miss X from the fault I have identified, the Council has agreed to:
- Apologise to Miss X in writing
- Pay Miss X £200 in recognition of her avoidable frustration and uncertainty
- Provide Miss X the opportunity to access further support from the scheme, should she wish to.
- Remind relevant staff of the duty to make reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities.
- Ensure any need for reasonable adjustments is clearly recorded in a way that is identifiable by all Workmatch Scheme staff.
- I have completed my investigation. There is some fault by the Council. The action I have recommended is a suitable remedy for the injustice caused.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman