Social Services

Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Dear Sir or Madam,

Since 01 April 2000 please identify by Council for each each year.

1 The number of complaints against each Council involving Social Services.

2 The number of complaints against each Council involving Social Services that were investigated identifying the Ombudsman responsile

3 The outcome of the LGO's investigation (M, MI, LS, OD. OJ, P etc), identifying which Ombudsman made the decision

If possible please additionally identify if the complaints related to Adults or Children.

Further identify by each complaint if the Ombudsman raised concerns with any other regulator of a Council (please identify by Council) or sought legal advice.

Yours faithfully,

Stuart Hardwicke Carruthers

Hilary Pook, The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

Dear Mr Hardwicke Carruthers

This is to acknowledge receipt of your email request, received on 15
December.

I will aim to reply within the 20-working day target (which would be by
15 January 2009). If I am unable to do so, I will write to you again
explaining why.

Yours sincerely

Hilary Pook
Communications & Records Manager
Local Government Ombudsman's Office
Tel: 020 7217 4734
www.lgo.org.uk

NOTICE - This message contains information intended only for the use of
the addressee named above. If you have received this message in error
please advise us at once and do not make any use of the information.

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Foi Officer, The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

2 Atodiad

Dear Mr Hardwicke Carruthers

I attach two letters in response to your request below - one from myself
and one from Nigel Karney.

Yours sincerely

Hilary Pook
Communications & Records Manager
Local Government Ombudsman's Office
Tel: 020 7217 4734
www.lgo.org.uk

NOTICE - This message contains information intended only for the use of
the addressee named above. If you have received this message in error
please advise us at once and do not make any use of the information.

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Local Government Ombudsman's handling of my FOI request 'Social Services'.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/so...

Attached is additional information:

Dear sirs,

This is a response to the letters of the Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary of the Commission for Local Administration in England (CLAE) related to generic issues (unsigned), and specific issues related to a request for information about Social Services provided by Hilary POOK, Communications and Records Manager.

GENERIC ISSUES

CS/08/0114/NJK

Could I refer the Commission for Local Administration in England ['CLAE'] to s1 and s2 of the Freedom of Information Act, as well as the Information Commissioners own guidance on the public interest test (version 2).

The CLAE shall be aware that the Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary to the Commission has previously identified that they have been authorised to determine FoI requests using the 'public interest test' by the Minister and their Department and that the LGO's are not independent in response to an FoI request. This issue is with the ICO. The Minister has provided no clarification as yet despite a member of the CLAE responding for the Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary. The member of the CLAE failed to identify if they could rely on the public interest test. They are aware that this is disputed as the CLAE specifically appears to be excluded from a number of provisions. This is understandable, as the CLAE needs to be open and transparent as an independent statutory body (i.e. all but unaccountable).

The LGO has identified that the authorisation of the the Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary to the Commission by the Secretary of State shall be made available through one of the FoI requests, that the Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary to the Commission is seeking to identify as being vexatious. It is believed that Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary to the Commission is placing their private interest above the public interest.

The LGO's have failed to identify if they are independent or are guided by staff to whom they delegate their decision making who have through a certificate identified that they are under the control of a Government Minister and their Department.

It is rather ironic that on return from holiday at the start of 2009 the Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary to the CLAE should suddenly identify that the individual who made the request where the CLAE and the College of Ombudsmen that run it identified that they were not independent might be vexatious, and that the Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary to the CLAE now requires proof that this not the case before meeting the CLAE's duties under FOI.

Could I also point out that through the Whatdotheyknow site I have actually made 48 FoI requests to the LGO between July and December 2008 and not 42. The number of requests is higher than others. However, the number of successful requests (i.e. resulting in information being freed from the CLAE) is also much higher than others. There have been additional FoI requests made to the Coventry Office on separate issues on behalf of others. The majority of these FoI requests made on my own behalf were for documents that should have been easily accessible from the CLAE through its website as part of its publication scheme.

a) Finding's of maladministration and injustice against a Council are removed from the CLAE site after three years. Removal of the information makes it difficult for an individual to base a complaint on a case where there has already been a determination. It also supports Council's to make mistakes in record keeping. This supports inconsistency in determining what constitutes maladministration by the LGO's.
b) Annual Reports and Accounts are available for only a year. Again these contain a great deal of background information.
c) The CLAE minutes and papers section on the CLAE Website has been under development for several years.
d) Tri-annual reviews, management documents, studies etc are not available on the Website. The LGO have identified that they were given permission not to produce a 2006 Tri-annual Review by the Secretary of State and their Department. The Secretary of State and their Department have to date denied that there is any record of them identifying this to the Chair of the CLAE or any other member of the CLAE.

There is no dispute that the CLAE is a small organization. As such it is in its interests to be as transparent as possible. Ten years worth of data enables changes in the understanding of both maladministration and injustice by the LGO's to be identified. There is a paucity of data publicly available. The Whatdotheyknow web site, and external websites now carry more information generated by the CLAE provided in response to FoI requests than the CLAE's own.

Three years worth of data merely identifies what the current college of Ombudsmen who are all former local authority chief executives identify what they believe maladministration and injustice to be - and not if they have through their experience as local authority chief executives (who have rejected findings of maladministration and injustice) changed the understanding of these terms. The LGO's through the CLAE website only publish a years worth of data. Council's have a very different understanding of the LGO's decisions to the CLAE.

The CLAE is an independent statutory body that provides an infrastructure to support the Ombudsmen ['LGO'] appointed by the Crown to carry out investigations into complaints of maladministration and injustice. The LGO can make a determination if there has been maladministration. The determination is discretionary. There is acknowledgement that there are significant problems with independent statutory bodies as they are all but unaccountable. These issues were most recently manifested through the retirement of Sir John Bourne (Comptroller General) following identification of 'junketing' by himself. This issue is another covered by an FoI request that the Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary to the Commission has identified they wish to identify as being vexatious.

There is an acknowledged lack of understanding as to what is both maladministration and injustice. This is determined by the LGO. There appears to have been changes in the LGO's understanding of what constitutes maladministration following former Council Chief Executives only being recommended to the position of LGO by the Secretary of State and their Department (Communities and Local Government). Most FoI requests to the CLAE could be avoided if it actually provided access to the information it holds on its website.

There would have been very little need to make FoI requests if the CLAE was not seeking for whatever purpose to not make information available. None of the activities or information resources of the CLAE appear to be subject to any exemption under FoI. The CLAE would not be subject to FoI requests if it actually published the information under its control and made it accessible.

It would appear that

* at least one current LGO and the Council they represented rejected an former LGO's finding of maladministration and injustice.
* one of the current LGO's and their Council had more findings of maladministration and injustice against them prior to their appointment as an LGO than any other Council and Chief Executive in the country.
* one of the LGO's has knowingly and deliberately it would appear to have chosen not to undertake a tri-annual review in 2006 (despite the Cabinet Office having identified that it was desirable that the Office of the LGO should be 'abolished' in 2000). In 2005 a Select Committee recommended that the Secretary of State and their Department should identify the progress that had been made in achieving the 2003 tri-annual review recommendations;
* there is considerable consumer disatisfaction with the service provided by the LGO's (this is identified by its own surveys)
* staff of the CLAE identify that they are authorised to determine FoI complaints by the Minister and their Department and apply the public interest test;

Not surprisingly there appears to be:

a) inconsistency as to what actually constitutes maladministration and injustice by the LGO's;
b) habitual rejection of the findings of the LGO's by Council's;
c) lack of trust and confidence in the LGO's and the CLAE that provides services for them by consumers of Council services that have a complaint. The Council's themselves have acknowledged that in most cases their complaint systems are not fit for purpose;

There appears to be an acknowledged need for reform of the Local Government Ombudsman system. Indeed the LGO is the subject of a consumer movement seeking reform of its activities. In the LGO's risk strategy it states:

Ombudsmanwatch acts as a focus for critics of our independence, fairness and thoroughness

The main issue that you raise appears to fall under s12 of the FoI rather than s14 in that the requests are burdensome for the CLAE This is not vexatious.

This is not that surprising as government has reduced the budget available to the CLAE. The requests have not previously proved burdensome. There is extensive evidence from the CLAE's own responses that they did not view the enquiries burdensome until:

a) spending cuts were introduced;
b) the CLAE responses to FOI identified significant management failings, and that the CLAE is in a state of disarray (i.e. uncertain if it is run by a Government Minister and their Department or by a College of Ombudsmen), and is unable to provide documents identifying that it has permission to breach statute;
c) the CLAE also appears to have problems in producing a Counsels opinion identifying that it was desirable for the CLAE to seek a change in the law;

The information released through the FoI requests has been extensively used by those seeking reform of the Local Government Ombudsmen and Council Complaint's systems. The issues have been reported in the press, and ministers have been questioned on the issues by Members of Parliament. In many cases the information released by the Whatdotheyknow site has been instrumental in engaging the public interest.

There is no requirement under FoI that I should seek to explain the reasons for a request. It simply states that if the public body holds the information that it should communicate it. It is believed that the Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary of the CLAE is seeking to disguise other failings by making their allegation that the requests lack any serious value or purpose.

a) failure to transparently publish information held by the CLAE so that most FoI requests are not needed, and that would enable the independence, fairness and thoroughness of the LGO to be subject to transparent scrutiny;
b) breach of statute (i.e. 2006 Tri-annual Review that would have identified what steps the CLAE proposed to secure their 'abolition' as recommended by the Cabinet Office in 2000);
c) staff of the LGO seeking to identify that they are under the control of Ministers, and are able to claim that information should not be released in the public interest when no such exemption exists.

The above three issues are not FoI issues. However, the justification for these acts and/or any failure to act by the CLAE are FoI issues. It is possible to have the information released, or the CLAE to identify that it supports acts that in a world not filled with maladministration would be untenable by not producing documents.

As judge you must stand higher than those that you judge. It is not for me to judge.

However, I would have anticipated that the CLAE would have sought to transparently publish as much information as possible in a user friendly format rather than seek to state that requests for the information are vexatious. If I was the Minister and their Department with responsibility for nominating appointment of a person to the position of Ombudsman to the Crown - I rather think I would be seeking clarification from the CLAE as to why they have allowed this sorry state of affairs to develop.

It is merely believed that the Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary of the CLAE is aware that publication of the information and / or meeting the requirements of FoI will enable it to be further identified that the CLAE is in a state of disarray. This is a private interest of the Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary of the CLAE. It has no bearing on their allegations or demand that proof of the serious nature of the question be provided..

The Specific Social Services Question raised by Hillary POOK

CS/08/0114/HJP

1) A petition has been raised with the Prime Minister in relation to Child Protection issues (http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/LGO-Har...) seeking reform of the Ombudsman. The issues are discussed here: http://www.amv3.com/forum/viewtopic.php?...

2) Christine GILBERT the former CEO of Tower Hamlets and a friend of the Chair of the CLAE has identified failings in the activities of OFSTED. GILBERT has further identified that about 3 children a week die as a result of abuse. A significant number of these children are under the 'supervision' of Council Social Service Departments. It is reasonably clear that systems are defective, and that inquiries and findings are ignored by Council's. This is straightforward in the Haringey case. There are about another 150 authorities within the LGO's jurisdiction that provide the same services as Haringey.

3) There have been complaints to the LGO in relation to Child Protection, and it is within the LGO's jurisdiction to determine if there has been maladministration and injustice associated with a complaint, and to provide training to the Council's on development of complaints systems that are fit for purpose.

4) Response to the question will enable it to be identified if there is a 'gap' in the system, or if the LGO has through their determination as to what constitutes maladministration and injustice contributed to what should at least in some cases have been avoidable tragedies, and supported Council's to have defective systems. The question will further enable it to be identified if there is a difference in approach by the different Ombudsman Offices.

Conclusion

It is believed that the Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary of the CLAE has a questionable understanding of the FoI act, and has sought to use s14 to support private interests. s12 is not available as otherwise the issue would already have been raised. The management failures are already apparent. It is for the CLAE if they choose to put them right. They will obviously be subjected to FoI questions to determine if they have and/or if they should act unreasonably. Would the CLAE please identify if my understanding is correct.

Internal Review is requested - and according to the CLAE's own documents this should not be conducted by the Deputy Chief Executive and Secretary of the CLAE in relation to their 'blanket decision'.

I expect the information requested in relation to all requests submitted to be provided.

Yours faithfully

Stuart HARDWICKE CARRUTHERS

Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Dear Sir or Madam,

Could you refer Mr KARNEY to the CLAE Minutes of 09 September 2008

'Nigel Karney highlighted the high number of Freedom of Information requests received by corporate services during the period (28). The Commission commented that all references to people making requests should be anonymised. '

Yours sincerely,

Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Foi Officer, The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

1 Atodiad

Dear Mr Carruthers

I attach a letter relating to the request below.

Yours sincerely

Hilary Pook
Communications & Records Manager
Local Government Ombudsman's Office
Tel: 020 7217 4734
www.lgo.org.uk

NOTICE - This message contains information intended only for the use of
the addressee named above. If you have received this message in error
please advise us at once and do not make any use of the information.

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Foi Officer, The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

1 Atodiad

Dear Mr Hardwicke Carruthers

Please find attached a letter in response to your request of 12
December.

Yours sincerely

Hilary Pook
Communications & Records Manager
Local Government Ombudsman's Office
Tel: 020 7217 4734
www.lgo.org.uk

NOTICE - This message contains information intended only for the use of
the addressee named above. If you have received this message in error
please advise us at once and do not make any use of the information.

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Local Government Ombudsmen's handling of my FOI request 'Social Services'.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/so...

Mr KARNEY as part of the review is requested to identify in writing if he is authorised to make refusal for the Secretary of State and apply the publuc interest test.

Yours sincerely,

Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Dear Sir or Madam,

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/42...

Internal review Completed on 10 February 2009 (above link), and refused.

The LGO fails to understand that since 2000 all council's in England have operated with written constitutions.. and that any breach of their constitution would in a country used to having a written constitution be classed as maladministration..

Findings of maladministraton highlight to the democratic process its failures. Local Government in the UK is now based on the Napoleonic Code for some reason it still seems to consider that the common law applies to its acts. Adoption of the Napoleonic code is fundamental if government (and the political parties that control it) is not to be able to abuse the rights of man.

Would the ICO please determine if the Secretary and Deputy Chief Executive of the CLAE is placing their private interests above the public interest. It is my reasonably strong belief that this might be the case.

Yours sincerely,

Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Foi Officer, The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

Dear Mr Carruthers

Are you expecting a response to this, or is it just for information? I'm
unclear whether it is addressed to us or the ICO.

Hilary Pook
Communications & Records Manager
Local Government Ombudsman's Office
Tel: 020 7217 4734
www.lgo.org.uk

NOTICE - This message contains information intended only for the use of
the addressee named above. If you have received this message in error
please advise us at once and do not make any use of the information.

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Dear Foi Officer,

For you it is just for information.

For the ICO it enables them to see the admin tricks being deployed by the CLAE.. However.. they don't determine if it is maladministration and also to access the documents all in one place

Yours sincerely,

Stuart Hardwicke CARRUTHERS

Gadawodd Ben Harris anodiad ()

The requestor appears to have complained to the Infomation Commissioner about the handling of the request, and the Commissioner's Decision Notice (reference FS50234236) is now here:

<http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/d...>

The important paragraphs read:

35. The Commissioner’s decision is that the public authority correctly applied section 14(1) to the request for information in accordance with the Act as the complainant’s request can properly be described as vexatious within the provisions of the Act.

36. However, the Commissioner has also decided that the public authority failed to comply with section 17(5) of the Act because it did not inform the complainant that its refusal of his request as vexatious was in accordance with section 14(1) of the
Act.

Gadawodd Francis Irving anodiad ()

Post on BBC Open Secrets blog about this request:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/opensecrets/2...