Following on from the post, last year, in which the customer care (!) team at Cyngor Gwynedd council advised contacting the Ombudsman for Wales to discuss our concerns regarding our stage 2 complaint, we did indeed contact the Ombudsman.
Their initial response appeared to imply that we could raise a formal complaint into our formal complaint and so, seeking more clarity we sent the email below –
“We were somewhat confused by your response. We have no in depth knowledge of the statutory policy and procedure in such matters and have sought advice from the Council as to our and the Council’s rights during the process. So far without success….
We do know however that the handling of our complaint and us as complainants by the Senior Management Team and Customer Care is just plain wrong.
Your office has repeatedly stated that the Ombudsman is independent of both complainants and public bodies and from your own email the other day – ‘He is not an advocate for either party and his function is to investigate complaints put to him, reaching a view on the evidence presented, in an impartial manner’.
May we remind you that the Ombudsman has made decisions on our case purely on ‘new information’ – not evidence based – provided to them by the council in the past without allowing us sight of said information or allowing us to comment and rebuff such ‘information’.
We also remind you that the Ombudsman’s office has given us assurances in the past which have transpired to be false and we have challenged the Ombudsman’s past decisions in this case as inadequate and nonsensical.
Indeed we feel that had the Ombudsman’s original decision been adhered to, that the Council were to undertake the Original Stage 2 complaint, then some of the current situation may well have been avoided.
We contend that the Ombudsman’s methods do not allow for fairness and transparency when only one side is allowed free and unfettered access to his office and can present information that the complainant is told nothing about and so cannot counter argue. How on earth is this fair or acting in ‘an impartial manner’ ?
This whole process of dealing with the Ombudsman and the Council is exhausting and is causing considerable upset and anguish. We are reasonably intelligent and due to the life we lead have learnt to be mentally resilient, yet we are suffering – we know that so many others in similar situations give up in despair, worse is the fact that both the Ombudsman and the Council appear to have forgotten completely the needs of the child in all this….”
…We are at present pondering on whether to make another complaint with the Ombudsman or put in a formal complaint with the Council in regard to their handling of our current Stage 2 complaint. But our experiences tells us that this whole process is flawed to the extent of not being fit for purpose.
Please inform us whether submitting another Stage 2 to the Council, or raising a complaint with the Ombudsman’s office will in any way further delay or interfere with our current Stage 2 complaint.”
They replied –
“…If you wish for this matter to be considered by the Ombudsman, you would need to submit a complaint, by completing the online form on our website. I am unable to speculate whether submitting a complaint to this office would affect the Council’s current Stage 2 investigation. The decision whether or not to approach the Ombudsman at this stage is yours and I am unable to advise you in that regard. However, please be aware that we normally expect you to exhaust the Council’s complaints procedure before approaching us.”
Now the Ombudsman’s use of the word ‘speculate’ caused my spider senses to tingle.
So we contacted the Gwynedd customer care (!) and asked the question –
“… if we were to raise a formal complaint into how the council and the customer care department have been dealing with our formal complaint would this, in any way, interfere with or cause any further delay to our formal complaint first raised with you on the 25th May, 2017 ?”
Such a convoluted and insane question to ask a county council, but eh.
The council has fallen silent.