We are grateful for the comments of one of our readers ‘C’ who has not had a good experience of social work intervention, nor found that his complaint was dealt with either quickly or competently. He eventually took his complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman and found their response unhelpful. What happens when you have reached the end of the complaints process but you still don’t think you have achieved resolution of your complaint?
For discussion of the various legal remedies against mistakes or poor performance of a public body, see this post.
When bad mistakes have been made, a kind of bureaucratic protectionism kicks in.
What can you do when things go wrong?
One of the greatest inhibitors in terms of application for Judicial Review is that the decision must almost always be challenged within 90 days – otherwise the judge may rule you out of time.
Individual social workers or hospital professionals registered with Health and Care Professions Council can be investigated by them for malpractice. All members have a duty to follow a code of ethics. So it is worth pursuing things there.
With regard to Freedom Of Information requests, I would discuss the best way forward here, with the Information Commissioner’s Office. There are exemptions to your receiving personal information but these can be considered and overruled by the (ICO).
If names were altered and logged inaccurately, etc. then these are breaches of the Data Protection Act which the ICO are supposed to police. They are toothless and pettifogging… but if you persist and manage to drill your way through to the upper levels of management, you can get a more sympathetic ear as they are interested in any cases of flagrant data injustice which might end up in them getting stronger powers in data protection from the government. You can sometimes get access to Data Subject Access Request information that is exempted, if the data may be required for future legal proceedings.
Contact the ICO on 0303 123 1113 and open a case with them. Press them to investigate it. Copy everything to your MP. [The professionals] will not want to appear uncompliant in the eyes of the ICO as the ICO is able to hand out hefty fines to corporate bodies. Force them to acknowledge your issue.
Do your best to be clear and concise in your dealings with these people. Remember they are dealing with this stuff all day, every day… and have limited patience for your emotion. Even though of course your outrage is entirely justified, it may just become an extra burden for them – and thus hamper your progress.
Why do things go so wrong?
In terms of [descrbing professionals as] lying, cheating and betraying – I realise that it is more likely unconscious, systematised behaviour and so defining it as lying, cheating and betraying may be pejorative. It is inept in the sense that a broken food processer throws food all over the room. The result is a mess: the solution is to fix the processor. Or to throw it out and go back to chewing.
Isn’t simple human error still misfeasance, when those errors represent breaches in frameworks that they are supposed to comprehend and follow?
I see how chronic ineptness can be portrayed as simple human error, and is not necessarily ‘conscious’. Mind you, being in a stupor is no defence when driving – so it is difficult to appreciate why it should be admissible when administering the law..
And what are the consequences?
The experience of ‘C’ has been that the available remedies are either subject to strict timescales or depend on being able to prove bad faith on the part of professionals, which is difficult to do.
This is a steep track to negotiate with limited funds. It ain’t justice as anyone unaccustomed to bureaucratic process and unlimited time to play with other peoples lives and money, would recognise.
And the consequences are the destruction of any constructive professional relationship and a sense of despair for the parents left without a remedy.
I think bitterness at injustice and lack of closure makes one deaf to rational argument. It is somewhat remarkable that [some parents are] still exploring legal routes, and not investigating home bomb-making, or kidnapping strategies…
As for being a victim, the unfortunate truth of post-capitalism, is everywhere that you pay with your attention. In my complaint, I have helped justify their existence, improved their systems of control, and helped guarantee their salaries. There is no comfort in that.
My heart goes out to [families in a similar position] – and I fear for them. They seem distorted by unassuageable pain. Whatever the justice of their case, or the LA’s actions, the fruits are only bitterness and despair for everyone except those employed to purvey the misery, and uphold the myth of adversarial justice.