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Help me with my Local Government Ombudsman madness(79 Posts)
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?
sigh...... it's never ending mymatemax!
No my son is out of school.
That has nothing to do with a complaint to the LGO. It was not about a school place.
so your son has a school place?
You have far more stamina than me good luck I hope you get a favourable resolution
Yes, I am sure it looks very old and pointless to some.
My dispute with the LGO is because they still haven't dealt with the complaint filed two years ago properly.
Their failure to find maladministration two years ago had a significant impact on us and our ability to fight for our son for all the reasons I have set out.
When you go to these bodies, their decisions live on I am afraid. Especially when you are left dealing with the same LA.
IE, i'm being a bit dopey.
Are you still in dispute because your ds still has not got an appropriate school place or because along the road you have been treated unfairly (understatement I know)
Case review request and complaint gone in. Ass Ombudsman is just ignoring us now - it's so unprofessional.
received my LGO review report and just as in your case the officer completely agrees with everything the initial investigator found and fails to mention the differing views of the tribunal in relation to failure to make the provision in part 3. LGO blames school in its report, tribunal places responsibility on the LA in its Order. Child in the middle losing out!
So......... Email sent to solicitor asking for JR pre proceedings protocol letter to be written. I feel like walking away but like you am reluctant to let this drop without a better explanation as to why they refuse to even address the issues raised.
How are you getting on with progressing yours?
No, it's not. This is the problem.
Two weeks ago at a meeting at school that the LA finally bothered to turn up to, it was agreed that they would address provision for DS who has been out of school since May. They would do this by end of July.
Of course, they were forced to do this but it makes them look so reasonable. I know it was crap and, sure enough, today I get an email from education officer saying it had all gone to 'senior officers' but it was holiday time and cos of annual leave, they wouldn't get round to looking at it for 'some weeks'.
I email back and say this isn't good enough we need a timeframe.
Get auto response saying education officer is no longer working for the council. No contact details for anyone else. He must have sent it and buggered off.
So two weeks later, no further forward, if I keep chasing, they'll just count letters and call me vexatious again. Look at all the letters/emails you have written, how dare you!
I have sent this to the LGO and the stuff about the OT crap and said, come on, what am I supposed to do about these twunts.
If I had a hat, I'd take it off to you IE. Although I'm currently in a post-tribunal haze of wanting to back off to lick my wounds and recover, when I read your messages, you fire me up again! Then, just when I think the crap (for me, for the time-being) is over, I have days of Working Document hell with the LA using the wrong mark-up formatting indicating that we'd agreed to stuff at the Tribunal which we hadn't.
I guess this crap is never over.
Yes it can and we can still consider it after their review. Don't want to say too much more on a public site.
IE, Could you not JR the LGO decision? The same crap happened to me and my solicitor was going to JR it, the problem is the funding was denied because the stupid solicitor didn't make certain information/evidence clear to the legal aid folk, and when i pointed this out she said "well I cant challenge the Legal aid people" I was so annoyed, but the point I am making is that the LGO can also be JR for this madness (unless the recent changes have effected this)
Star is right. The fact that I won't let it lie (and that is what I am like but it is not necessarily the best way to be in life for sure!) doesn't mean that if you need to move on and put it behind you for the sake of your own sanity, you should NEVER feel bad about that.
The only people who have anything to reproach themselves with are the people who do this to us.
And yes, your story is not one which is easily forgotten and it definitely informs my determination and everything I do. As do the stories of all the brave women on here.
Yea, I suppose stories like mine, will help IE in the long run and im glad of that at least.
I think I have moved on Star, maybe not in exactly the way I would have liked to have moved on, I have had to compromise where compromises shouldn't have had to be made, but it is the past now.
Claw You will do it. You DO do it.
Perhaps not on the impressive scale of IE, but you chip away too now and then. Sometimes on here, sometimes with a conversation in a park with a stranger. It makes a difference.
You'll get to know people at the school gates who you can point to IE's blog. You'll complete a survey, write a story. Not now perhaps, but one day.
I hope that you do move on from this and can distance yourself from the nightmare, but at the same time it will never leave you. How could it?
I've had to instruct lawyers and rely on their good will to deal with the LGO. But they are still ignored!
I've had to pay for that too Claw as even though I'm a lawyer, they don't listen to me! Neither the LA or LGO. In fact, as you say, they ignore your lawyers complaints and the LGO have not even responded to mine.
So this has brought me no advantage but it has brought a lot of frustration.
Ok having more knowledge or the tools to deal with it ie your training. What happened to us was wrong, I had to pay for someone with that knowledge and I simply couldn't afford to do it anymore.
Claw, its really not about being smarter or more principled or anything else. It's about not being able to let it go, because, it's wrong and I didn't train as a lawyer to deal with rights issues so that I can do that in my work life but ignore it when it happens outside work.
Like witnessing racism, or sexism, or seeing someone punched in the street, I can't walk away and say nothing and feel I have any credibility to be the person I purport to be.
Good for you IE, you really are a pioneer and I am in awe of you. I took the easy way out and let my principles fall at the road side! for a few reasons really a) im really not as smart as you b) I couldn't afford to do much else, financially, emotionally and in ds's best interests to keep him safe.
I really hope you have success.
This is not about getting my son the right provision. I can do that myself by home schooling.
There are broader rights and wrongs at play. If I can't get the LGO to accept that, then I can at least make the point and expose my experience.
I can also write and research in the area.
I think the two things are linked, they lie because they don't want to put in place appropriate provision. And every time they are vindicated they get worse.
However, I think it is a natural reaction (self-preservation!) to walk away to protect your sanity when your child has suitable provision.
But I also think this is why these bodies act the way they do and why they have gotten away with it for so long.
So I am here for the long haul, for as long as far as it can go, no matter what happens with schooling. Because this is about unlawful practices and depriving children of their basic rights.
There is more to challenging this than complaints policies and shining a light on it is key in my book so I do what I can in that regard too as so many 'parent' groups and charities aren't remotely interested in talking about the bad stuff.
IE, all I have been met with at a much lower level than where you are at, is lies despite overwhelming written evidence that it is a lie, covering up, paperwork disappearing etc, then unfounded allegations against me and the fact I can prove these allegations are unfounded ie I have written evidence, they have nothing other than 'we say it happened'
I really don't know how you deal with it or how any parent can win when people are prepared to lie and cover up.
I have made complaints, all totally ignored, not even acknowledged through both myself and my solicitor at the time. My complaints have never been dealt with. However my complaints have changed the way I am dealt with from NOW.
Would you be happy if none of your complaints were ever dealt with properly, BUT your ds started to receive appropriate support from this moment forward?
That is what I settled for.
This is my huge frustration. Their lawyers are either deliberately avoiding dealing with this issue or they don't have a clue. I would suggest the latter given what they have written which is clearly wrong in law.
So what do you do when the lawyers are wrong? The LGO try to suggest that this is some complicated legal question or some personal dispute between myself and them. But they are so far away from the correct position in law it is clear that they are failing lots of children.
The comment about not putting provision in place because there is a Tribunal pending is sheer nonsense, demonstrating a complete lack of understanding. It was retracted after I paid for a pre-action protocol letter. But why should I pay to tell them the law?
This comment was by a senior investigator on the schools team under the oversight of an Asssitant Ombudsman.
They haven't a bloody clue and it s scary because you end up having one of those ridiculous conversatiins where they suggest 'we will have to agree to disagree' but you know they are clearly wrong in law.
So I managed to put submissions together by working a 12 hour day at the weekend. Not what I would hav written if I'd had time. Is been filed one day after the arbitrary deadline, so can't have caused any prejudice or inconvenience by being slightly late. Let us see if they even read it.
In particular, I would like them to explain how making a vexatious determination as 'last resort' as required by the LA policy is complied with by issuing the determination out of the blue. The LGO just will not address this as it makes it clear the LA did not act in accordance with their policy. Why didn't they? Well because it was not about 'focussing correspondence' (if it was you just ask someone before labelling them) - this was about vilifying me before a Tribunal.
I suspect agreement was reached with the LA about how this matter would be settled via a local settlement and LGO have not wanted to unpick it so have produced ridiculous statements to support their position. I have asked for information from the case file but they have ignored me.
As fro the new complaint about failure to deliver the OT and the lies about that, I wrote to the LGO yesterday and said - there you go, LA is lying and won't deal with me, refuses to discuss it or meet and sends me an LGO leaflet. What would YOU do about an LA who acts like this? Interestingly, going back through my emails, I actually wrote to the LGO at the time of the provision failure and asked for advice. They said issue a new complaint and I didn't as we were only 12 months into our battle on the last one but I copied to them the letter sent to the LA telling them what was not in place.
A letter the LA have forgotten about when its writes at stage 2 complaint level and said no one ever mentioned it to them.
IE: But Agnes, SEN COP already says at 8.109 that LAs must arrange the special educational provision...from the date on which the statement is made.
The LGO just say 'arrange' does not mean 'deliver'.
Oh, FGS. What the hell do they think the purpose of SEN provision is? Why do they think the legislation says that LAs have an ongoing duty to identify and meet SEN needs? Taking that to its logical conclusion, LAs would never have to provide what's in Part 3, they could go for years saying "We've arranged it but we just haven't got round to delivering it, too bad, get lost."
And don't they realise that, by definition, if you've had to go to tribunal and have achieved an improved statement as a result, that must mean that the child has been wrongly deprived of the correct provision ever since the statement was put in place? So that maybe it's quite important to get the correct support in place quickly?
As for that idea that it's a waste of time to organise support if the parent is appealing, just how often do they imagine that tribunals actually decide that, say, speech therapy is totally unnecessary and take it away? They're far more likely to order that it be increased.
Sorry, I know that I'm ranting to the converted, but really the total lack of logic here makes me want to shout, and to shake those officials warmly by the throat.
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