Public reports and decisions
We publish all our investigation decisions, except where we decide publishing is not in the interests of the people involved in the complaint. In some cases we will publish a detailed public report of the investigation. We will promote these cases in the media and require the organisation involved to make a public announcement. Public reports and decisions do not name the people involved but do name the organisation(s) investigated.
Why do we issue public reports?
There are many reasons why we might issue a public report. The main reason is because we believe it is in the public interest to highlight particular issues or problems. We might also issue a public report because what went wrong is significant or because the impact on you or the person you are complaining on behalf of is significant.
We will always issue a public report if an organisation does not agree with our findings or recommendations, or put things right to our satisfaction. Issuing public reports is one way that we help to ensure councils, and other organisations providing public services, remain accountable to people who use those services. By highlighting the learning from complaints we help to improve services for others.
What happens when we decide to issue a public report?
Before the report is issued, all parties involved in the complaint have the opportunity to see a draft version and comment on it. We will usually give you three weeks to provide any comments. We will consider giving a short extension in exceptional circumstances. If we do not hear from you we will proceed with issuing the report so it is important you provide comments within the timescales given.
Once we have received all the comments and we have finalised the report, we will send it to you and the organisation you are complaining about at the same time. We anonymise reports so they do not include your details or the details of any officers, staff or anyone else involved in the events. We will generally use job titles to refer to senior council officers. However, there may be exceptional circumstances where we decide to name third parties if it is in the public interest to do so (e.g. a care home or care provider).
What happens when the final report is issued?
Our findings in the report can only be challenged by you or the organisation you are complaining about through judicial review. This is not an appeal and the most a court can do, if successful, is to quash the Ombudsman’s decision. The narrow grounds of challenge include illegality, irrationality or procedural flaws. You should seek legal advice if you want to consider a judicial review.
The organisation has three months from the date of the report to formally consider our findings and any recommendations we have made. Where a complaint is about a council, this means the report should be submitted to its full council, cabinet or other appropriately delegated committee of delegated members.
The organisation should send a formal written response to us explaining what steps it has taken or will take to comply with the recommendations in the report.
When we are satisfied with the actions an organisation has taken following a report, we will send a letter of satisfaction to you and the organisation explaining this. We then update our website to show we are satisfied with the outcome of the report.
What happens if an organisation does not comply with the recommendations?
Most organisations agree to our recommendations, often before we issue a public report. However, if an organisation does not, we can issue a further report. A further report will explain that an organisation has not complied with our recommendations.
The organisation can also add its comments to the further report explaining why it decided not to comply. The organisation has three months to formally respond to the further report.
In the rare cases where an organisation fails to respond within the prescribed time or refuses to comply with recommendations in a further report we will ask the organisation to issue a statement of non-compliance. If they do not agree to do so we can publish it on their behalf. This statement explains why we are not satisfied with how an organisation has responded to a report or that it has refused to comply with our recommendations. The organisation can add a statement explaining why it has not complied, and the same rules apply about the press.
How is the report published?
Reports are published on our website. We will advise organisations of the earliest date the report will be published. This will be at least six working days after we send the final report to you and the organisation. You can find recent reports in the News section.
We will usually send a copy of the report with a press release to the media. We often send out the press release in advance of the publishing date under an embargo. This means the media should withhold writing or broadcasting anything until after we have published the report.
It is likely that we will be contacted by national and local media outlets who wish to speak to you. Please let the Investigator know if you are willing to speak to the media. This can help us to raise awareness or issues complained of, preventing them from happening again. Please do not speak to the media before the final report is issued.
We will never pass your details on to the media. If you do wish to speak to the media we can pass you details of reporters or media organisation who are interested in speaking to you and you can liaise with them directly. If you do not wish your details to be made public you can still speak to the media and they may be able to conceal your identity. You should discuss this with the media organisation directly if this is something you think you may wish to consider.
We are not responsible for how the media may choose to report a story. If you have any concerns about this you should speak to the media organisation directly.
How does the organisation publicise the report?
The organisation complained about must place two public notice announcements in local newspapers/ newspaper websites within two weeks of receiving the report. The organisation should also make copies of the report available free of charge at one or more of its offices.