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Investigation Manual

34. Decisions and decision reasons

Decisions must be sent to the BinJ and the complainant, and to any person or organisation who has been invited to comment on our draft decision. We will ask the BinJ to send a copy of the final decision statement to those concerned. We will not require evidence that it has done so. However, if we have decided that the contractor should be named in the decision statement, we should also send it a copy of the final decision directly to it.

Decisions should normally be sent electronically. If correspondence has been by letter, decisions should not normally be made until two days have passed since the deadline for responses, in case of postal delays. For cases where we have used the Online Complaints System (OCS), the day after the deadline is reasonable. The decision, together with the covering letter, must demonstrate we have considered key points made in response to the draft decision as well as matters raised previously.

Guidance on using our discretion whether to start, continue, limit or end an investigation is set out in the Guidance on Jurisdiction.

An investigation is complete when we can reach a balance of probabilities decision whether there has been fault and a balance of probabilities decision whether any such fault caused the complainant injustice. We should reach conclusions on events which go to the heart of the complaint: it will be rare for us to conclude ‘we cannot say’, but in such circumstances the balance of probabilities does not tip in favour of the complainant.

Recommendations may only be made in a decision statement (and recorded in ECHO) if we have found fault.  In other circumstances, any informal suggestions for improvements (if appropriate) should be contained in the covering letter.

For clarity: 

  • Where we have found fault that has the potential to cause future injustice, this may suggest BinJ policies and procedures are inadequate. While we cannot recommend a personal remedy where we have not identified any injustice caused to the complainant, we can still make service improvement recommendations if we conclude someone else may be affected by the same fault.
  • Investigators may decide to stop investigating if new information comes to light which indicates that the complaint is outside jurisdiction. As the investigation has begun, the status would be ‘discontinued’, and the detailed decision field would be ‘outside jurisdiction’. The council would receive an ‘outside jurisdiction’ decision. 
  • There is an option ‘not investigated’ in ECHO when the case clearly should not have come to Investigation (signified by ‘not to investigate’ in the LGA Investigation status box in ECHO). This can only be used with the Assistant Ombudsman’s agreement. A note of the reasoning must be kept in Notes & Analysis.
  • Investigators can, in exceptional circumstances, decide a complaint is premature. Guidance should be sought from their Assistant Ombudsman before doing so. If agreed, it will be recorded as ‘not investigated’ with a decision reason as ‘Premature open new case if resubmitted’.

Where we decide to complete a Part 3A case:

  • If we want to make recommendations, or have made recommendations which have not been accepted or implemented, we issue a statement with recommendations (recorded in the SOCR section in ECHO). This can lead to an adverse findings notice if we are then not satisfied with the care provider’s actions.
  • If we do not want to make recommendations, or they have been accepted and implemented to our satisfaction, we issue a statement of our conclusions.

There is more information about types of decision (including when to use different decision reasons) on the intranet.