Average length of time to carry out a review

Sofía Tate made this Freedom of Information request to Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

The review outcome letter below is dated 10 April 2019 and appears from other contents of the letter that the process took 11 months to complete.

http://s000.tinyupload.com/index.php?fil...

How long normally is a person aggrieved by the handling of their complaint by the Ombudsman expected to wait for an outcome of a review?

Yours faithfully,

Sofía Tate

informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Thank you for contacting the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s (PHSO) Freedom of Information and Data Protection Team. This is to confirm we have received your request.
If you have made a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or Environment Information Regulations 2004, we will respond to your request within 20 working days in accordance with the statutory time frames set out in both Acts.
If you have made a request for personal information held by the PHSO, your request will be processed as a Subject Access Request under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018 and will be responded to within one calendar month in accordance with the statutory time frame set out in the Act.
We may contact you before this time if we require further clarification or if we need to extend the time required to complete your request.
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J Roberts left an annotation ()

'You say you have evidence, but we would not be able to complete an investigation with evidence from only your perspective.'

In one sentence your evidence is deemed not worthy of consideration.

A public authority, it would seem, has only to claim that it holds no relevant information for PHSO not to consider a complainant's evidence.

M Boyce left an annotation ()

11 months to consider whether to conduct a review or not. Absolutely astonishing. Where does this leave a complainant in respect of pursuing a judicial review of the final decision, bearing in mind that they have just three months from the date of the final decision to apply for JR? It leaves them with no chance at all. The review process is a false prospectus - a complete and utter sham.
The PHSO repeatedly state 'our decisions are FINAL and the only way to challenge a decision is by judicial review'. A decision is final and CANNOT be challenged by the PHSO review process because it is final. So, if the review process cannot challenge a final decision - which is FINAL - then what is the review process designed to achieve? It is designed to prevent a complainant having recourse to judicial review by massively timing them out of the three-month JR application window. Even in the extremely unlikely event that a review was granted and conducted, the outcome of that review could not be amenable to judicial review - and the PHSO have stated so themselves.
The only fair way to deal with a complainant who is unhappy with their final decision is for the PHSO to conduct another proper and full fresh investigation, without any of the sham review process acting as a diversionary dead-end.This would then produce another final decision, which itself could then be amenable to judicial review.

Sofía Tate left an annotation ()

J Roberts left an annotation (14 April 2019)

'You say you have evidence, but we would not be able to complete an investigation with evidence from only your perspective.'

One of the many instances in the Independent Case Examiner's (ICE) report where the DWP claims to have no record of events is highlighted in para 74 of the extract below (the complainant's evidence follows).

http://s000.tinyupload.com/index.php?fil...

How can that be classed as evidence from only the complainant's perspective when it indisputably contains a reply (and admission) from the public body.

M Boyce left an annotation ()

And that's why it is known as the SHAM review process. It does what it says on the tin. Did you ever consider judicial review? I know it is really expensive and the chance of success is slim.

Sofía Tate left an annotation ()

Not sure about judicial review but have taken a bit of interest in this:

Attorney General's Reference No. 3 of 2003 [2004] EWCA Crim 868 (07 April 2004)

Paragraph 61
https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Cri...

InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

3 Attachments

Dear Sophia Tate

 

RE: Your information request: R0000658

 

I write in response to your information request sent to the Parliamentary
and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) dated 14 April 2019. Your request has
been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

Request

 

How long normally is a person aggrieved by the handling of their complaint
by the Ombudsman expected to wait for an outcome of a review?

 

Response

 

Since 1 October 2018 we aim to complete 90% of our work on reviews
(complaints about decisions) within 40 working days. Complaints received
before 1 October 2018 took longer because we had a queue.

 

Below is a list of breakdowns for the average days to close reviews and
review requests which provides context around improvements our Review and
Feedback Team (RaFT) have made:

 

164 average days for reviews and review requests closed in April 2018 to
September 2018.

122 average days for reviews and review requests closed in October 2018 to
March 2019.

142 average days for reviews and review requests closed in April 2018 to
March 2019.

 

36 average days for reviews and review requests closed October 2018 to
March 2019 that we received since 1 October 2018.

 

Please note that the above is based on days and not working days.

 

If you believe we have made an error in the way I have processed your
information request, it is open to you to request an internal review. You
can do this by writing to us by post or by email to
[1][Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman request email]. You will need to specify that the
nature of the issue is and we can consider the matter further. Beyond
that, it is open to you to complain to the Information Commissioner’s
Office ([2]www.ico.org.uk).

 

Yours sincerely

 

Freedom of Information/Data Protection Team

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

W: [3]www.ombudsman.org.uk

 

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M Boyce left an annotation ()

All this seems typical of the unfairness in PHSO processes.

Someone who asked for a review on say 30 September 2018 had to wait an average of 4 months, but someone who asked for a review on 2 October 2018 had to wait an average of around 1 month. More recent requests are clearly being prioritised over older requests, which are just being parked.
That is hardly fair.

Dear InformationRights,

Thank you for providing the data relating to average days.

If it is possible I would also like data relating to the minimum and maximum number of days (for the given periods).

Yours sincerely,

Sofía Tate

Informationrights@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Thank you for contacting the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s (PHSO) Freedom of Information and Data Protection Team. This is to confirm we have received your request.
If you have made a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or Environment Information Regulations 2004, we will respond to your request within 20 working days in accordance with the statutory time frames set out in both Acts.
If you have made a request for personal information held by the PHSO, your request will be processed as a Subject Access Request under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018 and will be responded to within one calendar month in accordance with the statutory time frame set out in the Act.
We may contact you before this time if we require further clarification or if we need to extend the time required to complete your request.
For Subject Access Requests, we will send any personal information via secure email, unless you instruct us differently. To access the information on the email we send, you will need to sign up to our secure email service. Details can be found on our website using the link below:
www.ombudsman.org.uk/about-us/being-open...
If you require us to post your personal information to you instead you will need to inform us of this and confirm your current address as soon as possible.

InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

3 Attachments

Dear Sophia Tate

 

RE: Your information request: R0000704

 

I write in response to your information request sent to the Parliamentary
and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) dated 19 May 2019. Your request has
been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

Request

 

Thank you for providing the data relating to average days.

 

If it is possible I would also like data relating to the minimum and
maximum number of days (for the given periods).

 

Response

 

Please see table below providing the minimum and maximum number of days
for the specific time periods:

 

Time period Average days Min days Max days
April - September 2018 164 0 576
October 2018 - March 2019 122 0 631
April 2018 - March 2019 142 0 631
October 2018 - March 2019 (since October
2018) 30 0 147

 

If you believe we have made an error in the way I have processed your
information request, it is open to you to request an internal review. You
can do this by writing to us by post or by email to
[1][Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman request email]. You will need to specify that the
nature of the issue is and we can consider the matter further. Beyond
that, it is open to you to complain to the Information Commissioner’s
Office ([2]www.ico.org.uk).

 

Yours sincerely

 

Freedom of Information/Data Protection Team

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

W: [3]www.ombudsman.org.uk

 

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Sofía Tate left an annotation ()

"M Boyce left an annotation (15 April 2019)

And that's why it is known as the SHAM review process. It does what it says on the tin. Did you ever consider judicial review? I know it is really expensive and the chance of success is slim."

In for a penny......
http://s000.tinyupload.com/index.php?fil...

Sofía Tate left an annotation ()

This email ...has been securely delivered using Egress Switch and was decrypted on 19 June 2019

This message has been classified as Sensitive.

Thank you for your email dated 14 June 2019, with attached letter.

As it relates to proposed legal proceedings, it has now been passed to me and I shall endeavour to respond as soon as possible.

However, as you will appreciate, strict time limits apply to judicial review proceedings so I should respectfully suggest that you seek independent legal advice as soon as possible, if you have not already done so, in the event you do wish to issue proceedings against the Ombudsman.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any queries in the meantime.

Kind regards

Senior Solicitor

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

M Boyce left an annotation ()

Sofia Tate,

If you do proceed with applying for a judicial review I really wish you the best of luck. It is very difficult and the odds are severely stacked against you - not because you don't have a strong case, but because the judiciary can't always be trusted to be fair. I speak from bitter experience. I would never try to persuade someone from not applying for judicial review, but I would ask them to think very carefully.
My advice would be: never start a battle you cannot afford to lose.

Sofía Tate left an annotation ()

Thanks for the encouragement. I quoted your message in an above annotation only because it seemed an appropriate intro to the link to the letter before action (my decision to proceed was not influenced by it). Regarding not being able to trust the judiciary it's just unbelievable how much I have experienced the unfairness of it (and worse) and the length of time these officials are prepared to prolong it.

M Boyce left an annotation ()

I notice that you are wanting to judicially review both the final decision and the review decision. This is interesting and potentially very important. If you do proceed, your case could be a test case in relation to judicial review of PHSO review decisions. I came very close to applying for judicial review of my review decision, and the PHSO were egging me on to do it (I had previously had a JR of the final decision), but I decided not to proceed because of the financial risk. A decision I somewhat regret. You must do what you think is right, but I think you could really open a can of worms with this and it would run alongside my current case with the First-tier Tribunal on the legality or otherwise of the PHSO review process.
All the best.

phsothefacts Pressure Group left an annotation ()

How have they drastically reduced review times in the last three months? They must have done so by changing the criteria or the process.

M Boyce left an annotation ()

That's a good question phsothefacts.

It's also not just how, but why now? Have they suddenly put more resources into the review process? Have they significantly changed the process? This is a dramatic reduction in time and there must be a reason or reasons for this. But If there is one thing we know for certain about the PHSO, that is they don't like to be open and transparent - not even when it's clearly in their interest.

Sofía Tate left an annotation ()

The Ombudsman's legal team response to the Pre-Action Protocol letter (http://s000.tinyupload.com/index.php?fil...) was handled as you would expect objectively with not even a hint of bias:

http://s000.tinyupload.com/index.php?fil...

M Boyce left an annotation ()

As you say, handled with complete objectivity and no bias whatsoever!

Do let us know if you do decide to apply for judicial review.

phsothefacts Pressure Group left an annotation ()

I can't find the reply from PHSO?

J Roberts left an annotation ()

Click on the green text- 'PHSO reply to judicial revew...'

M Boyce left an annotation ()

Sofia Tate, did the PHSO ever inform you of the following?

'If you want to appeal the Ombudsman's decision then you have a period of three months in which to issue judicial review proceedings, this is from the date of the final decision in your case which is the date of the final report. This is not extended if you request that the decision is reviewed. If you go over the three-month period YOU ARE LIKELY TO BE CONSIDERED BY THE COURT AS OUT OF TIME.'

The above is EXACTLY what they told me. It led me to apply for judicial review before the PHSO had decided to conduct a review and with all the serious consequences that then followed.

Be very careful as the Ombudsman may well be leading you into a similar trap. If you apply for judicial review and it is deemed by the High Court to be out of time then the PHSO will hit you with the costs of their acknowledgement of service, which will be thousands of pounds.
They play dirty - very dirty.

Sofía Tate left an annotation ()

Can't see any reference to time limits nor any mention of a right to appeal to the high court on any correspondence.

I did see this though (para 77):

"Service Model Policy and Guidance: Review and Feedback Guidance 7.0"

https://www.ombudsman.org.uk/sites/defau...

77. We understand Judicial Review applications need to be submitted promptly and usually no later than three months of a decision being made. We therefore will not usually challenge an application made to the courts on the basis of delay if we received an application for a review within our one month timescale, and we took more than three months to reach a decision.

M Boyce left an annotation ()

They may not challenge/oppose a late application that is their fault, but they know that it is likely to be out of time with the court.
The other issue is whether or not the Ombudsman is functus officio at the final decision. If you do proceed with a judicial review that should answer that question.

M Boyce left an annotation ()

Sofia Tate

If you are wanting to try and judicially review your review decision (and presumably the 'final' decision) then you are running out of time. You only have three calendar months in which to issue proceedings. Your review decision is dated 10 April 2019, so you have less than a week to apply for JR if that is what you want to do.

Please don't miss the boat if you do want to get on it.

Sofía Tate left an annotation ()

The legal team responded to the Pre-Action representations with exactly the same bias as the Ombudsman responded to the complaint, however, the legal representative is answerable to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). If a complaint was made to this body and it found that the SRA Principles 2011 were contravened there is the potential for the professional complained about to be struck off.

Remembering that a solicitor has a duty to act with integrity and uphold the rule of law and proper administration of justice (they have not only a duty to their client) there is clearly a public trust issue arising from the obvious unfair handling of this matter by the Ombudsman’s legal team.

From a brief look at the Principles it is clear that at least two violations can be shown. A solicitor would be in breach of Principle 2 if he failed to act with integrity and if he failed to behave in a way that maintained the trust the public placed in him and the provision of legal services, this would contravene Principle 6.

Having said that, I have it on good authority that a solicitor whose client is a public authority can rely on the SRA having a blind spot when considering whether the conduct raised is something it can investigate and of course it can be relied on not taking any action. The Ombudsman's legal team will know exactly what it can get away with and if it knows that a complaint made to the SRA would result in a guaranteed finding of no breach of its Code it most likely has a similar assurance from the judiciary that an appeal would be refused.

I think it could be pretty much guaranteed that proceeding would be putting several thousand pounds in the hands of the legal profession given the circumstances.

M Boyce left an annotation ()

I totally agree with what you say. Sadly, the chances of winning are very slim.

If it is any consolation, your case may well prove important in my case to the Tribunal. You were clearly serious about wanting to apply for judicial review, and this was not just a possibility, but a realistic prospect. That means your case can be referenced (just mentioned) in relation to the doctrine of partial disclosure. In short, that means that the PHSO are now less likely to be able to maintain legal professional privilege over their withheld legal advice on the legal status of their review process. The review process is a sham from start to finish, as you are all too aware.