Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council
Ms Q complained that the Council refused to tell her about the health and whereabouts of her late partner, Mr X, from February 2021 onwards, and failed to inform her about his death until several months after the event. She also complained that the Council failed to arrange for the administration of his estate, leaving her to attend to matters.
The Ombudsman considered that Ms Q’s desire to receive information about her partner engaged her right to a private and family life under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. The Ombudsman was satisfied that it was not unreasonable in the circumstances for the Council to withhold information about Mr X from Ms Q in the weeks leading up to his death. However, after Mr X died, the Council showed a lack of urgency in establishing that information about his death could be passed to Ms Q. This resulted in a 5-month delay in telling Ms Q that Mr X had died, which was likely to have caused her avoidable additional distress.
The Ombudsman was also concerned that, in the circumstances, the Council should have provided appropriate advice and support to Ms Q in relation to the settlement of Mr X’s estate following his death, in as far as it affected her. As a result, Ms Q was left to resolve matters on her own without support, which put her to avoidable time and trouble.
In the interests of resolving the complaint, the Council agreed to apologise to Ms Q for the failings identified and to make a payment of £750 to her for the injustice and avoidable time and trouble caused to her. The Council also agreed to contact Ms Q to offer her appropriate support and advice (itself, or through an expedited referral to an appropriate external agency) with any ongoing concerns relating to Mr X’s estate.