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Help me with my Local Government Ombudsman madness

(79 Posts)
inappropriatelyemployed Sat 20-Jul-13 09:01:06

Many of you will know the sorry story of my battle with the LGO. I know this is long but it helps me to write it all out!!

I made a complaint about failing to arrange provision in March 2011.

In June 2011, the LGO issues a provisional judgment saying LA had done nothing wrong and I was premature in my complaint.

Within two weeks, LA had determined me a 'vexatious complainant'.

I got them to reopen the case as my son's provision had not been in place as they'd asserted. I also asked them to consider the vexatious determination.

In January 2012, they issued another provisional judgment. This said no maladministration still despite a senior Ass Ombudsman promising to amend this. It was clear that they had written only 2 letters in the 6 months before issuing this new judgment.

We challenged this. I had a leading firm of lawyers on my side acting for free and a charity submitting evidence about the wider implications of their stance. My MP also writes to support me. We asked for someone else to take over.

In June 2012, another investigator issues a final decision. Deeply offensive personal comments are made in an accompanying letter alleging that I had essentially been vexatious to the LGO complaint handler and had been copying people into my emails to her. Completely untrue. I challenge this and she says she no longer has the emails!! Lying cow. Judgment is still deeply flawed so I get lawyers to look at it. Have to transfer to public law specialists and pay. They issue pre action protocol letter.

In September 2012, the LGO withdraw their judgment and say they will issue a new one. No further explanation. We ask for different investigator to handle the new judgment.

In February 2013, they issue another final decision. Same investigator who made personal comments is dealing with it. It has barely been altered save to harden their stance and bolster the nasty comments on me, in particular my taking half a sentence from my MP's two page letter and using it against me. It is not clear what they have been doing for the 6 months between judgments. I think the delay is to make you look like you're flogging a dead horse and are a loon for pursuing an ancient complaint.

I write and say I will want to make a complaint about the way this has been handled and the inaccuracies in their judgment but lawyers are considering a judicial review. LGO write and confirm they will await outcome of JR response before dealing with complaint and will give me time to make submissions before doing anything.

Second pre-action protocol letter issued. Leading counsel and lawyers now acting for free. Both agree LGO are wrong. At the end of May 2013, we receive a rubbish response refusing to change the decision. It says, for example, that the duty to arrange provision does not mean that there is a duty to deliver it??? And that, despite SEN COP saying it has to be arranged from the day the statement is issued, it is reasonable for LAs to take 4 or 5 months. Not because of any pressing emergency but just because, well that sounds reasonable....

Lawyers say we will access their complaints/review process and then decide whether to challenge the judgment by JR. They ask for a timeline for the complaints process.

A week later, I get a special delivery one page letter closing the case, telling me a review has been conducted and the LGO are great. I had not filed a complaint!

I write to the ass ombudsman dealing with the case. She ignores me. I contact lawyers who write to their lawyers.

On 28 June, ass ombudsman agrees to let me have time to file submissions - 14 days! She says if you need more time ask.As you know I have DS out of school and have had meetings to organise his provision and have had to completely redraft his statement. I say I can't do it. Give me an extension.

She ignores me. I have to get lawyer to write to her. Ten days later she says you have 7 more days!

I write explaining I am asking only for an additional 14 days as I can only work weekends as I am teaching DS etc. I tell her after a meeting at school last Friday, I needed to redraft statement, get in costings etc before close of term and DS had to come first.

She says 'I don't have time to listen to this'. Tells me her deadline stands.

My lawyer writes telling her she is being completely unreasonable. She ignores her. My lawyers writes again threatening judicial review. She IGNORES her.

Deadline passed yesterday.

I am so shocked by this level of appalling practice. I just wanted to share it all and get it all off my chest.

What do you do? Two and half years and it comes to this. They take 6 months between judgment and do nothing of any note, but I get 14 days when I have a child at home to educate. It's the nastiness in their tone too, really nasty and personal, like I'm shit on their shoes.

To top it all I made a complaint about lack of OT provision for a YEAR to my LA. I didn't go to the LGO because, well, why would you? We paid for OT ourselves. But we had Tribunal proceedings ongoing so we raised it throughout. Then we tried to get DPs for it. We raised the lack of OT there. DPs were refused because the LA have a block contract for OT! Well DS wasn't getting any provision under it. It turns out that the OT we have instructed is also working under this block contract so they instruct her.

So DS could have had OT with her paid by them all along. So I complain. Stage one response says DS did have daily OT administered in accordance with specialist programme designed by OT and delivered by TA. This is news to me, TA, DS and school. I ask for a copy of this programme. They ignore me. I take it to stage 2.

Stage 2 response comes back and says OT attended annual review in march 2012 and no one mentioned the lack of a programme. They ignore the fact that lack of OT has been brought to their attention Tribunal proceediings, by DP application, and by 2013 annual review where it is clear I have paid for OT to attend and NHS OT is nowhere to be seen and doesn't file a report.

They send me a leaflet to go to the LGO!

How do you deal with these people? Really?

bochead Sat 20-Jul-13 10:09:55

Honestly?

You can't. You just have to get to a stage where you can paddle your own canoe.

Having just spent 3 years out of the workforce due to my LA's shenanigans, been persecuted for having the temerity to request my child be educated, done the Tribunal Thang, requested my son's statement be followed, been seriously persecuted for that; I'm throwing in the towel.

We are moving to the other side of the country, so I can be self-employed and buy in the support my child is obviously never going to get from the state. It isn't right or fair but my child only has one shot at life and I'm not willing to see it be totally destroyed by these assholes, when with the right help he could, maybe have a shot at a reasonable adult quality of life.

I have to weigh up the number of hours in the day, the fact that each day that passes without appropriate support my son gets a day older and the resources I have to hand. Sadly there isn't room for yet another protracted battle. It's a question of priorities.

That makes a good 'story/article'!?

Sorry.

When I look at stories like mine, Claw's and others here, the hour of utter despair usually comes before a major breakthrough.

Hope you are able to find away to make this all okay whether this is another challenge or to stop.

I don't know whether they all see themselves as victims or have found ways of justifying their behaviour. I like to think that regardless of your outcome or their 'public' response, this has been an incredibly uncomfortable journey for them and it HAS made them question their own practice.

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 20-Jul-13 11:09:08

Thanks. I did write in response to the LA stage 2 response and tell them how awful their papering over failures in provision was. I asked them to share this with their SEN team and said this type of practice must stop and they must start working with me for DS's sake.

Of course, they write back and remind me to go to the LGO if I don't like it so I think they don't give a shit actually.

As for the LGO, they have been even worse than the LA if anything as what is it to them? Why do they care about protecting the LAs so much?

If there was a decent councillor round here I would approach them but they don't want to know.

Boc, the problem is DS is settled where we live and DS2 loves his school so moving is probably not an option. If we had the money I would just get the help we need and do it myself. I was just going to ask for a bit of money for some tutoring now I have an extensive package put to them by optimistic advocates/lawyers who work on the basis that he is entitled to so much more. But actually, they don't know this shower of corrupt shits who would argue about an extra hour of provision rather than concede.

bochead Sat 20-Jul-13 11:16:39

I rang the NAS last week, they are getting used to cases like mine from my LA. It seems my LA work to a formula. WTF are they doing not screaming in the national press about it? Some very nice individuals there but as an organisation they've lost sight of their original charitable purpose imho.

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 20-Jul-13 11:19:54

Boc this is the frustration I have had with starting a campaign and the blog etc. Certain organisations out there know this is happening but sit comfortably alongside Gov, getting their funding, keeping their mouth shut. Others want a seat at the table, so quietly commiserate with you but won't do anything to publicly rock the boat.

The trouble with that is that you silence parents. So we are battling these massive public institutions AND the organisations who are supposed to be advocating for us and who should be shouting loudly about this.

bochead Sat 20-Jul-13 11:21:12

"If we had the money I would just get the help we need and do it myself."

this!^^

I think I've accepted that not only are we not going to get the help, but that the fun of the witch hunt has become a key objective for certain profs. I'm leaving behind my whole life, family (inc a SN sibling) friends etc, etc not through choice but because I can't sit and watch them destroy a child. At this point it's about survival, education etc is no longer the top priority. A child needs to be safe before they can learn anything.

bochead Sat 20-Jul-13 11:25:20

They aren't the only org, I've experienced this from either in recent months. Words can't describe my disgust that major organisations KNOW kids are being treated like this and don't scream about it.

Only ONE of the key charities has been willing to stick their necks out.

Our children are NOT commodities upon which to base your next promotion. The general public would I'm sure refuse to donate if they knew the half of what some (not the NAS this time) are willing to cover up.

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 20-Jul-13 11:47:32

I know Boc. People sit on fat salaries as directors of these organisations too but prioritise their own organisation's or personal image as a 'mover and shaker' with the well-connected above children's rights.

The number of organisations who have not even considered the implications for children's rights of the SEN pilots is shocking, simply shocking. That they should be seen to be 'our voice' makes me frustrated beyond belief.

I am glad that you found even one organisation to be worth it's salt!!

I agree about the fun of the 'witch hunt'. I believe the LA perceive this all as a very personal battle with me and that they want to teach me a lesson. That they should also see themselves as 'victims' annoys me beyond belief.

Silencing people when they are being bullied like this is unforgivable.

ouryve Sat 20-Jul-13 12:54:10

All I can say, IE, is that I admire your stamina. It seems completely relentless.

And that, despite SEN COP saying it has to be arranged from the day the statement is issued, it is reasonable for LAs to take 4 or 5 months. Not because of any pressing emergency but just because, well that sounds reasonable....

What might take several months is big things like recruiting staff (they may have to give notice and not be able to start until the following term, specialist provision may have to wait until someone already on payroll has a free slot etc), arranging and attending training (tend to be fixed dates, whole school training would need an INSET day etc) or ordering resources which aren't available off the shelf. What is utterly inexcusible, though, is doing absolutely nothing and pretending that the doing nothing is justified and within the spririt of the law.

ouryve Sat 20-Jul-13 12:58:52

As for the LGO, they have been even worse than the LA if anything as what is it to them? Why do they care about protecting the LAs so much?

Funnily enough, I was reading about something similar re drug companies and drug regulators in Bad Pharma, last night. Firstly, they're all mates. They may have worked together in the past and they may get pally through the course of their negotiations. Secondly, people working for the regulators find it very difficult to be even slightly heavy handed with those that they're regulating because they don't want to scupper their chances if they ever want to get back into the industry, directly.

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 20-Jul-13 13:34:40

Ouryve - this is it. If they came back and said, yes it's taken x months but this is because the LA did x,y and z. You might think 'fair enough'. It would be a lie, but fair enough.

But they have offered no reason just that it is reasonable for provision to take months to set up per se.

This is why we were challenging it. Be warned, the LGO is not looking for reasons - in my case they never even asked to see the LA file. In two and a half years, they sent 2 letters (1 to school and 1 to the LA) but they never even asked for the file or asked what did you do to set this provision up?

The LGO just change the judgment every time we challenge to take the obviously unlawful bits which demonstrate how they've reached their reasoning unlawfully and without evidence but the decision remains the same and this must be affected by the flawed reasoning.

For example, in their first decision they said it always takes time in every case so a few months delay is to be expected.

Also, there is a very strong argument that the whole SA and drafting of the statement process takes months so it is not as if LAs are taken by surprise when a statement is issued so that they suddenly have to start instructing SLTs etc! There is a strong legal argument that, to act in accordance with the law, the LAs should be putting in place arrangements for the beginning of the statement as the law allows no 'best endeavours' defence for the lack of statement provision.

But this is where the LGO distinguishes between 'arranging' and 'delivering'. On their reasoning, it is fine if the LA simply write letters and arrange appointments. They are not interested at all in whether this actually leads to the child receiving the service. It's a totally insane situation which effectively deprives a child of its rights.

I think they are also scared of upsetting LAs and once they have taken a position it is easier to piss of the complainant and hold fast to their untenable position than to change that position and piss of the LA.

Also, they know jack shit about education law. The woman who did the two final decisions actually said in her covering letter for the first, if you appeal to Tribunal, it is reasonable for LAs not to put provision in place until the Tribunal case has been dealt with.

This is a senior investigator whose report, by that time, must have gone through senior staff.

What a crock of shit

IE, What are you trying to achieve?

I ask because dh and I were talking about your story today and he asked and I wasn't sure.

He suggested that it was like you had gone underground to a dark network of caves world full of dodgy dealings and as you passed through each one you were switching a light on.

When you do, the light sometimes shows a hidden passageway you didn't know about, so you go there and turn the light on too.

Those in the caves, now exposed, act like mad people trying to hide what they were doing and create shadows. They'll never admit to what they were doing because they don't even like to admit it to themselves.

He suggested that though you are frustrated at the LGOs refusal to give you more time and ignoring of your communications, the request and subsequent refusal was another light you had turned on and that actually, it was a fortunate opportunity. If you follow that passage-way who knows what you'll find. Possibly more than you expected, probably more secret passageways.

The key question then, is who is taking this opportunity to 'see'? Or who might do should you continue to turn on lights? And is that all you want - people to see? (aside from the usual boring stuff about your child being safe and having access to an adequate education etc.)

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 20-Jul-13 19:14:49

There are three motivators really:

1. Challenging wrongness and unlawfulness because it should be challenged, because if you don't, the bullies get an even easier ride then they get at the moment - not enough of a motivator to drive you on this journey by itself perhaps, but it is one for me. Standing up to bullies, because you should stand up to bullies.

2. Trying to expose unlawfulness but realising that the whole system is against you so this is not easy. I share here because that is a way of exposing this and there will be other ways. Not easy, but I look at Hillsborough and people died there.

3. I have to stand up for my child. This won't go away even if I ignore the unlawful practices and pay for things myself without complaint because the LA won't let it go away. They act, constantly, unlawfully. I would move but I can't. DS has friends and DS2 loves his school. So I am stuck. If there is no flight, I can only fight.

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 20-Jul-13 19:27:08

And every time you don't cover your back or fight, they will shaft you. They lie, lie, lie, lie all the time. It doesn't matter if you have school, EP, SLT and OT all on your side, they will find a way of making you fight.

So what else can I do? Everything is cause and effect. The LGO's failure to find maladministration initially led to the vexatious determination. Evidence about the vexatious determination undermined me with oversight bodies. The LGO's incompetence has also empowered the LA to do what it wants and lie with abandon and complete disregard as to whether DS has any provision.

So, if I am in a network of tunnels, I was put there. There is an interlinking chain of lights and each is set off by the consequence of the last poor or deceitful decision. Consequences that I have to suffer. So the lights don't expose shadowy figures (I suspected them to be there anyway). Those shadowy figures are turning on the lights. The lights shine on me and my son - making sure I know that they have the power and all I need to do to get out of the uncomfortable spotlight is run away.

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 20-Jul-13 19:30:12

But run to where? Another shadowy cave where the light will still find me?

They want you to run away?

When will this be over? Or are you keeping it ticking along until you see a chance at something that will make an impact?

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 20-Jul-13 19:45:15

It will never be over. Realistically, there is no way out.

All I can do is stand and fight. But I am trying to find constructive ways of doing that as you know.

Yes.

TBH I don't think it can ever be over for many of us. I've been lucky (fought hard and made sacrifices for my luck, but still lucky) to have secured a lull but the past is still following me, and there will be shit to face soon enough.

I don't know when you realise it. Probably some way into year 2 of fighting you understand that a win isn't even a win, and that your journey will never be over.

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 20-Jul-13 20:15:35

I know. We are in Y4 now of 'the fight' and I know I can't change the systemic deceit and the lies and the incompetence. But I know that I can't just take it because it will have consequences.

WetAugust Sat 20-Jul-13 22:58:35

Hi AE

My own battle with the Ombudsman took almost 3 years (I can't remember the actual time length as it's starting to blur nicely in my memory).

I met with the same refusal to acknowledge SN law as you did. One of the farces was about the Year 9 transition review. My son did not have one as the full extent of his SNs were not revealed until Year 10 - so he missed the Year 9 review. As soon as I knew the extent of his problems I asked for a transition review. I was told I couldn't have one as they are only held in Year 9. The whole bloody point of holding them in Year 9 is to give all the agencies plenty of time to plan post-16 provision. If a child's needs are not identified until after the Year 9 then the need for planning becomes even more urgent - or so I thought. LGO thought otherwise - no SNs in Year 9 = no transition review post Year 9. Totally pedantic and completely missing the spirit of the SEN COP.

But forcing your point to the LGO is like talking to the terminally thick sad

I don't need to tell you that most LGO are ex-LA (with a mindset to match).

I applaud your reasons for continuing this battle but feel you are wasting precious time on this that you could be enjoying with your child. You are legally trained and have had a huge amount of assistance (comparatively) in fighting you case - and they still won't budge. Why not? Because they quite simply are bomb-proof.

The Govt has no wish to uncover the full extent of SEN failings. The charities have no appetite for a long costly legal battle. Parents cannot single-handedly change the system. They just pick you off.

I too wondered if the LGO had ever read the SEN COP. I had to send them the relevant sections of the SEN Toolkit as it seemed a stranger to them.

And even if you do "win" you end up with a couple of hundred pounds and a grudging apology from the LA - if you're lucky.

The only way to change this stinking corrupt system is from 'without', i.e. via the European Court and human rights law. So failure to make provision would fall under the 'right to an education' and cases could be taken to Strassbourg.

Can we not do that now and bypass the LGO?

WetAugust Sat 20-Jul-13 22:59:54

Sorry - I meant IE

inappropriatelyemployed Sat 20-Jul-13 23:04:22

Wet, have you seen the judgments on the right to education? Not helpful - see A v Essex County Council here

I know what you mean and believe me, I am not trying to get 'justice' through this battle. I have other things I am doing as many on here know to raise awareness about broader issues and to campaign and to research and publish academically.

It is not about winning. I long gave up home of that. But these bastards are still messing with my family and this will be used against me as it always is.

You fought for three years. Why did you not walk away?

bochead Sat 20-Jul-13 23:22:32

The Czechoslovakian gov is taking the UK to court over our family court & care system in Europe. If they win it will affect ALL children in the UK, not just Czech's. I think we breach what they consider to be some fundamental human rights that other EU countries do respect.

I wonder if the way forward is to find a willing non-UK passport holder and a friendly European lawyer to act as a test case for some of the key areas of the SN system too.

Tell me if you think I'm being daft as I'm no legal eagle, but it's become obvious that this isn't a fight that can be won "from within". I'm increasingly starting to feel that the SN industry needs an outside spotlight shone on it as the only way forward towards real progress.

WetAugust Sat 20-Jul-13 23:29:41

I didn't walk away because I promised the bastards that when DS was finally provided with a residential placement (funded by the LS&C) that I would "have them". I even told them that in writing [grim]. It would have disappointed them if I'd gone quietly grin

I also had quite a bit of free time when son was boarding and I was still as mad as hell about the way I'd (he'd) been treated.

I saw it as a sort of game of tennis when we convened every month or so for another game or, if the correspondence was flowing freely, we might play a full set grin They too tried to take their bat and ball home a couple of times by attempting to force their decision on me - so had to fight those off.

I also had a very pressing ulterior motive as I was building a legally-aided case for educational negligence in parallel with the LGO complaint. The solicitors were handling the litigation and I was handling the LGO case on my own.

The way it panned out was that the LGO found in my favour just before we submitted the letter before case (I think it was called that). By that time we'd had all the specialist medical assessments etc done so were ready to file our claim. I felt that if the LGO upheld my complaint it would strengthen the negligence case. I don't know if it did or not but it told the LA that I was not a pushover and having battled them for 3 years via the LGO, I would take the legal action as far as I could. They settled as soon as they received the Letter before claim.

My LGO action also kept the LA solicitors busy for a few years - time they would have otherwise spent intimidating other parents. grin

It did take its toll. I have suffered constant ill health since the SN battle started 10 years ago: anxiety, insomnia, gall bladder op, knee trouble and finally the cancer. I can't help thinking that those early years of prolonged stress, anxiety, frustration and anger may have caused some of my lasting illnesses.

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