What is an “Ombudsman”? Here is a simple guide. How does it differ from the English Ombudsman? You may be able to decide at the end of this page…..
Those of you not familiar with the machinations of the LGO, here is an overview, which appears on the Houses of Parliament website. Events described on this page endorse this overview.
Also of interest is the Parliamentary debate into the LGO’s activities in 2012, its Report 1, Report 2 and Government’s response.
Of interest is this Parliamentary Briefing, in which it is clearly stated that the LGO cannot compel anyone to do anything.
This Briefing states that ‘The LGO cannot compel an authority to implement its recommendations, although in practice councils almost always act on them. Indeed, why should they not act on these worthless recommendations, generally agreed between the LGO and the local authority, during ”investigation in PRIVATE’. God only knows, what exchanges take place, as the LGO is NOT obliged to publish any of these cozy deliberations.
There is NO right of appeal. Another detriment to fair and democratic process of investigation.
The LGO’s Guide to Jurisdiction, interestingly states that ‘maladministration’ was intentionally undefined. Therefore, it is entirely up to the LGO’s ‘Investigator’ to decide, ‘on the fly’ what constitutes ‘maladministration’, to suit the situation.
It must be remembered that the Job Title of an ‘Investigator‘, is unregulated, meaning that any Tom, Dick, Harry and an itinerant bottle washer, can be called an ‘Investigator’. needing NO academic and/or professional qualifications/experience. It would appear that a previous experience as a Council clerk, cognisant of the Council working may be an asset, but not necessarily so, as alluded to in the Parliamentary document, linked to at the top of this page.
It is a matter of conjecture if any noticeable changes emerged as a result. As long as successive governments find it convenient to keep LGO , to provide a suitable bottomless fetid swamp to flush down any government mis-deeds, very little is likely to ever happen.
However, a question remains, whether the LGO should have taken any action when he discovered that he was in possession of information, not only meant for him, but also protected by in law from such a disclosure. This point is addressed on the report disclosure page.
Not only RBKC, but also other local authorities, as well as the LGO, quote the well worn phrase, quoted ONLY ONCE in the whole Local Government Act 1974, para 29-(2), that ‘….Local Commissioner shall have the same powers as the High Court in respect of the attendance and examination of witnesses, and in respect of production of documents.’, to imply that the LGO enjoys some God-given powers, which are UNDEFINED, in respect of obtaining information.
The crux of the matter is that he has to exercise these powers to have any effect. This is addressed on the Powers of the High Court page.
Interestingly, nobody is able to brag that the LGO has same powers when it comes to the imposition of his ‘decisions’. Because, there are NO such powers. All of the LGO’s decisions are not legally binding and cannot compel anyone to do anything. Powers of the High Court are discussed on this page.
It must be appreciated that the LGO was in NO way involved in RBKC’s disclosure of F’s HIV relevant information to him. He merely asked for ‘copies of the assessment documents and relevant information’. NONE of which reflected F’s medical conditions.
When RBKC could no longer tolerate F’s requests for explanation of specific points relating to the conduct of his assessment, he was told on 18th May 2011 that he should take his complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman, LGO.
On 12th July 2011 F submitted his complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman. LGO.
On 1st August 2011 he was informed by the LGO that Ms Kennedy will be dealing with his complaint.
On 5th August 2011, the LGO wrote to F, carefully and clearly listing his concerns about RBKC’s non-compliance with the assessment guidelines. LGO’s Ms Kennedy told F that she will ask RBKC for copies of the assessment documentation. F assumed that she will also address his concerns about the non-compliance and ask for documentary evidence to rebut F’s allegations.
It must be realised that telling F that he will request copies of documents, in NO WAY constituted F’s CONSENT, to be used by the LGO to contact RBKC and compel them to disclose the requested information.
On 24th August 2011, the LGO sent a request to RBKC for copies of the ‘assessment documents’ and ‘general information’. NO request for medical information was made in this letter.
It can be alleged that the LGO and RBKC had agreed, on the outcome of F’s complaint, during LGO’s ‘investigation in PRIVATE’ and what information RBKC should be asked to provide, in order not to create an embarrassing situation, by asking RBKC awkward questions.
The Request, a requirement, was nothing but a ‘red herring’; to give F and anyone who may be interested, the impression that a democratic impartial process of investigation was under way. In fact, this was nothing but a crass ruse. The matter had already been settled.
This request is what it is: a REQUEST‘ for documents. It must not be confused with para 6.22 of the Department of Health ‘Data Protection Act 1998 – Guidance to Social Services’, which states that ‘Disclosure of other purposes’ – An authority will need to disclose personal information to various bodies, with the power to order disclosure, when ordered to do so. Professional and legal advice should be sought and considered in each case.
However, this Guidance applies, as it says, ONLY to information subject to provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.
As it transpired much later, handling/disclosure of F’s HIV relevant clinical information is subject to provisions of the NHS Statutory Restrictions on data handling, specifically the NHS(Venereal Regulations)1974.
The LGO in his 5th August 2011 letter to F, clearly listed his concerns about RBKC’s non-compliance with the guidelines.
The Department of Health in their statement to F dated 20th June 2014, told him that ‘local authorities MUST comply with the Department of Health GUIDELINES, when carrying out assessments for Adult Social Care. Although page 2 of LGO’s Jurisdiction Guidelines state that ‘maladministration; might include ‘flaws in policies or decision making’ and ‘failure to adhere to or consider properly statutory guidelines’, this fact was intentionally ignored by the LGO in F’s complaint, as it might have taken the complaint in an unwelcome direction and scarper the agreed outcome.
In fact, there is NO documentary evidence that RBKC complied with any of the Department of Health Guidelines.
However, when requesting RBKC for information, these specific concerns were NOT mentioned. They were expertly buried, NEVER to surface again.
The LGO did NOT ask RBKC to provide evidence to specific allegations made by F, even if to provide a documentary rebuttal.
The LGO’s drawing a distinction between ‘ assessment’ and ‘re-assessment/review, is irrelevant, as the guidelines are same for both.
For a ‘re-assessment/ review’ to be of any credibility, should have been carried out by a properly accredited Occupational Therapist/Physiotherapist, as F suffers from physical and sensory impairments.
This professional should look at the situation afresh, without any recourse to any past needs, which are often outdated. Current and any future needs should be considered and provided for.
On 11th January 2012, the LGO issued his “Final Decision” stating that NO ‘INJUSTICE‘ was caused. As this term in UNDEFINED, it is entirely up to the Investigator’s colourful imagination to decide. NO LEGAL, ETHICAL or MORAL considerations play part in these flights of fancy. Any possible precedents can be and are, ignored.
These decisions, HAVE NO LEGAL WORTH and ARE NOT IMPOSABLE ON ANYONE; they can be, and are ignored with impunity. The Courts are in NO WAY obliged to take note of them; if the matter is brought to Court, the Judge will look at the matter afresh, irrespective of what the LGO may have waffled on about.
These decisions may cause concern to the complainants, but not to local authorities, who agree in private, with the LGO the desired outcome; having no reason to complaint about it.
In fact, NOBODY WILL EVER KNOW, whether INJUSTICE, whatever that means, was caused or not, as the actual assessment document was not subject to scrutiny. Furthermore, RBKC’s non-compliance was never addressed.
How could have the LGO’s Investigator decide that the assessment document, crucial piece of evidence and subject of the complaint, was properly completed and appropriate scoring of the questions made, when there was no benchmark, or an independently commissioned assessment made, to produce proper scoring.
Simply, because the LGO is NOT obliged consider anything at all. He is entitled to decide as he feels fit. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS. In fact, the ‘complaints process’ is NOTHING but a piece of sad, sordid, amoral theater, designed to give the impression that due process of investigation was undertaken. Whereas, this is far removed from reality. It is a sham.
According to the Disability Law Advice Service, who told F that the unverified and unsigned assessment documents should have NEVER been taken into consideration, in a decision making process involving F’s wellbeing, independence and quality of life. The document was faulty and unreliable.
.The LGO dismissed F’s concerns about the unverified and unsigned ASAQ, on the grounds that it was NOT a part of the original complaint. Ms Kennedy conveniently chose to forget that the ORIGINAL UNSIGNED ASAQ was NOT available at the time of his complaint. It came to light only on 11th February 2012, some months after the end of LGO’s investigation.
With the help of a Legal Aid solicitor, on 10th May 2012 F asked for a ‘review’. LGO replied on 23rd May 2012, refusing to conduct the review, because the request was LATE
The subsequent disclosure of F’s confidential medical information, without consent, requirement or order, is chronicled on the Disclosure of Information page.
One consideration is still unresolved: After the incident at the Soho HIV Clinic, F realised that disclosure, or even reference to HIV, is very serious matter and he was right to have his concerns.
When the LGO received the documents from RBKC, he must have discovered that F’s HIV+ status and relevant clinical details were on the Care Plan Reviews NOT requested from RBKC. These were submitted on a whim, that it was NECESSARY to do so, by Ms Parker.
As the LGO should NOT have received this information, should he have reported this breach of Confidentiality? On 11th September 2015, F asked the LGO.
In her reply on 14th September 2015, LGO’s Ms Pook told F, that NO contact was made with the ICO, as NO disclosure had occurred. This page clearly shows F’s HIV details, which should have been deleted, had RBKC complied with his Information Sharing Agreement/Notice on May 2010.
Ms Pook told F in this letter that Ms Kennedy told F what she was going to ask RBKC to provide.
Ms Pook stated that ‘The Council sent us the information requested. Indeed, copies of the Assessment documents, were provided, which DO NOT state, as they should NOT, any of F’s medical conditions, as these are NOT required by the legislation to carry out an assessment. In addition more than 130 confidential documents, IRRELEVANT to the assessment itself were provided.
It should be recalled that F’s complaint centers on what did not happen during the ‘assessment’ process’, RBKC’s non-compliance with the Guidelines, which was NOT addressed by the LGO, as RBKC obviously did NOT have credible explanations and cajoled the LGO into omitting any questions during his investigations. What happened after the issue of the ‘decision letter’ is irrelevant to F’s complaint.
LGO claimed that ‘Providing information requested to the Ombudsman did not amount to disclosure.‘ Of course it does. Just have a look at the Statutory Restrictions on data handling. These provide that HIV specific information CAN ONLY be disclosed, as provided by this EXEMPTION, to specific medical professionals for specific purpose of treatment and/or preventing of the diseases spread. Should LGO claim that these Restrictions do NOT apply, F’s HIV information, which is subject to STRICT RULES OF CONFIDENTIALITY, must NOT be disclosed.
In hindsight, it is evident that F was very naive indeed about the LGO’s powers and what they can do. Very much like the members of the General Public, who believe that the LGO has some magical powers.
This is evident from F’s complaint, in which he suggests that his assessment should be declared null and void, SOME FAT CHANCE of this ever happening. Also, he expressed his concern about assessments carried out for other residents of the Borough. How naive! Even if the LGO could, it would NEVER ever suggest for this to happen.
Conclusion: Complaining to the LGO is nothing but utter waste of time. Our findings endorse the statement made to the Houses of Parliament in 2012.