This is a factsheet for bodies within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction explaining what the Ombudsman expects from them in relation to the recommendations he makes in his reports or the actions he agrees with them to resolve a complaint without a formal report being issued. It does not cover every detail of our procedures.
The Ombudsman’s role is to consider whether a complainant has suffered an injustice as a result of maladministration or service failure by a body within his jurisdiction. If the Ombudsman finds that the complainant has suffered such an injustice, he can make recommendations aimed at putting matters right.
The Ombudsman’s recommendations are not binding on the body; however, it is generally accepted that bodies will comply with them unless there are exceptional reasons not to.
There are two types of recommendations made by the Ombudsman. The first type is aimed at addressing the injustice to the complainant. These might involve actions such as an apology, providing a service that the complainant is entitled to, fixing something, or financial redress. The second type is aimed at improving the body’s processes so that the problem does not happen again. These might involve actions such as introducing or updating a policy or providing staff training.
The Ombudsman is pleased to be able to put things right for a complainant at an early stage. If it appears from our initial review of a complaint that something has gone wrong and there is an obvious solution, the caseworker will often contact the body and ask it to carry out one or more actions to resolve the matter. If the body agrees, then the case will be closed without an investigation. In most early resolution cases, we will not follow up the actions agreed, but we may ask the body to provide evidence that it has done what it has said it would in certain cases (for example, if the complainant is vulnerable).
When the Ombudsman investigates a complaint, he will usually conclude the investigation by issuing a report or by discontinuing it as a result of action agreed by the body. In both these cases we will ask the body to provide us with evidence that it has carried out any recommendations made or actions agreed.
Before issuing a final report or discontinuing an investigation, the Ombudsman will always offer the complainant and the body the opportunity to comment on and, in the case of the body, agree, any proposed recommendations. This is the body’s opportunity to provide any comments on the proposed actions and the timescales for carrying them out, and it is therefore important that the body considers them carefully. In particular, it is important that the body shares the proposed recommendations with the staff or teams who will be responsible for implementing them to establish whether the recommendations are likely to be useful and practical to implement. Bodies should also let us know if proposed recommendations duplicate actions which have already been taken or are in the process of being taken. If the body has already taken (or is taking) effective action to resolve a problem, then there may be no value in the Ombudsman making a further recommendation on that point.
The Ombudsman is keen to ensure that his recommendations are effective, so if the body considers that the proposed recommendations can be improved, it should let us know. The caseworker will be happy to discuss any questions or comments the body has about proposed recommendations. Occasionally, if the proposed recommendations are likely to be complex or technical, the caseworker may contact the body before issuing the draft to discuss them.
If the body agrees the recommendations it should let the caseworker know within the deadline set. The final decision will then be issued. Bodies should not implement the recommendations before the final decision has been issued, unless otherwise agreed with the caseworker.
If the body does not agree one or more of the recommendations, it should provide reasons. We will then consider these carefully, together with any comments received from the complainant. We may need to make further enquiries or seek professional advice depending on the comments received. If the recommendations change substantially as a result of comments, it is likely that we will issue a further draft report to both parties to allow an additional opportunity to comment. If, however, after carefully considering the comments, the Ombudsman believes the recommendations should stand and the body still does not agree, then he will consider issuing a public report.
Once the recommendations have been agreed, the Ombudsman will issue a final report or decision letter to the complainant and the body. This will set out the agreed recommendations/actions and the timescales for informing the Ombudsman that the actions have been carried out. The timescales stipulated will be for informing the Ombudsman that the actions have been completed, not for actually carrying out the actions.
The body should provide evidence to the Ombudsman within the timescales set that each individual action has been completed. It is not sufficient to simply state that the recommendations have been implemented; we will need to see evidence that they have been.
Often it will be straightforward to provide evidence that a recommendation has been completed (for example, a copy of an apology letter sent to the complainant, or a copy of an amended policy together with evidence of approval from the relevant officer or committee). In more complex cases, the caseworker will set out what evidence is required and will be happy to discuss if it is not clear.
Responses to recommendations should be sent to our dedicated email address email@example.com
If for good reasons the body is unable to provide the evidence within the previously agreed timescales, it should notify the caseworker as soon as possible before the deadline. The caseworker will then decide whether to extend the deadline.
If no response is received from the body within the agreed timescales, then an automatic chase email will be sent.
Once the body has provided all the evidence relating to the recommendations, the caseworker will consider it. If the Ombudsman is satisfied that the recommendations have been met, a letter or email will be sent to the complainant and the body confirming that the action taken meets the recommendations and that the matter is now closed. We aim to do this within a reasonable period of time from receipt of the final evidence, however, this may not be possible if there is a large amount of evidence to be considered.
If the evidence provided is unsatisfactory, the caseworker will contact the body and ask it to provide the required evidence. The caseworker will explain what is needed and agree a new deadline for provision of the information.
Very occasionally there will be good reasons why a body cannot comply with the recommendations made, for example, if circumstances change or the complainant decides they do not want the previously agreed actions to take place. In these cases the body should discuss the matter with the caseworker who will decide whether to treat the recommendation as met.
If the body does not carry out one or more of the recommendations and there is no good reason for this, the Ombudsman will consider issuing a special report to which publicity will be given.