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July 2014 Complaints about ICE to PHSO

Making a complaint about UK Government services
The Parliamentary Ombudsman can carry out independent investigations into complaints about government departments and other public organisations. We would normally expect that the organisation you are complaining about has had the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

This form is to help us decide if we can look at your complaint. We need specific information from you so that we can deal with your complaint as quickly as possible. If we feel that we do not understand your complaint, then we may return the form to you to be completed before we take any action on your complaint.

To help us consider your complaint, we need to see all the evidence that you have about it – in particular letters to and from the organisation you are complaining about. We are happy to copy originals and return them to you.

You will need an MP to sign Section 9 of this form.

If you are unable to fill in the form or you need any advice, you can contact our helpline on 0345 015 4033.

The helpline is open from 8:30am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays.

SECTION 1: About you

If you are complaining on behalf of someone else then they must complete Section 7 of this form if they are able to.

1. About you:

Name: ___________________________________________________________

Address: _______________________________________________________

Postcode: _____________________________________________________

Telephone number:

Email:

How and when would you prefer to be contacted? LETTER __________________________________________________________________

Do you have any special requirements for us to communicate with you? We will make adjustments for you if we can.

NO ___________________________________________________________________

Are you being supported by an advocacy organisation or other representative?

NO
Please provide their details if you would like us to copy them into our correspondence.

__________________________________________________________________

We’ll keep in touch with you in whichever way works best for you. However, we do need to make you aware that with email there is always a small risk of messages being intercepted. If this is your preferred way for us to contact you please let us know by ticking one of the boxes below. As a precaution, and for added peace of mind, we will also password protect any sensitive documents we send you.

To confirm you are content for us to email you, please tick this box

If you do not want us to correspond with you by email, please tick this box

2. Is the complaint on behalf of someone else? NO

If you have answered YES to this question, please also complete questions 3 and 4.

If you have answered NO to this question, please go to question 5.

3. Who are you complaining on behalf of:

Name: _____________________________________________________________

Address: ___________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

Postcode: __________________________________________________________

Telephone number: _________________________________________________

What is your relationship to them? _____________________________________

If the person has died, please tell us the date of death here:

___________________________________________________________________

4. Please explain why the person who has suffered as a result of the problem is not making the complaint. We would normally expect a person to make their own complaint if they are able to. However, you can represent someone to make a complaint if you have their consent.

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

SECTION 2: Information about the organisation that you are complaining about

You can contact us before filling in this form if you are not sure whether your complaint is about an organisation we can consider. Our helpline number is 0345 015 4033.

5. Which organisation(s) are you complaining about?

INDEPENDENT CASE EXAMINER

___________________________________________________________________

SECTION 3: Your complaint

We need to know what happened and why you are unhappy with the response to your complaint. Please attach additional sheets of paper if you need more room to set out your complaint. Please do not just say ‘see attached’ and provide copies of previous correspondence. If the organisation has not addressed all of the issues raised in your complaint, then we may decide that there is further work for the organisation to do before we look at your concerns.

  1. Please briefly explain what your complaint is about:

Parties involved:

Work Programme provider:

1st tier subcontractor:

2nd tier subcontractor:

I disagree with the findings of the Independent Case Examiner’s investigation into my treatment by my Work Programme provider. In a Decision dated 19 June 2014 the Independent Case Examiner dealt with three separate complaints that I made, none of which was upheld:

  1. Since November 2011 WP provider have acted inappropriately in continuing to request telephone communications with you against your wishes [1];
  2. WP provider acted inappropriately by demanding that you sign a document to reclaim travel expenses of £5.10 which you incurred in attending an advisor interview on 14 August 2013 [2];
  3. WP provider took inappropriate action on two occasions in January 2013 when it mandated you to submit your job searching activities [2].

Despite 2 and 3 being two separate complaints that I submitted to ICE on 6 March 2014 and 15 March 2014 respectively, they were allocated the same reference number.

    1. In an email dated 9th May 2012 Work Programme provider acted unfairly by passing information about me to the Independent Case Examiner [2012] which was known to be false by at least one person involved in the handling of my complaint.

Number 4 was not accepted as a complaint by ICE. I made the complaint on 17 April 2014 and it was based on evidence that I obtained in response to a Subject Access Request concening an earlier complaint. The complaint was instead treated as a request for a review of the earlier decision [2012] and allocated the same reference number.

A friend has assisted me to put full details of my 4 complaints online (correspondence, supporting evidence and ICE decisions). You can find the relevant information here:

Complaint 1 – icecomplaint.wordpress.com

Complaint 2 – icecomplaint3.wordpress.com

Complaint 3 – icecomplaint2.wordpress.com

Complaint 4 – icecomplaint4.wordpress.com

  1. Why are you still unhappy following the response(s) from the organisation(s)?

Complaint 1

The Independent Case Examiner found it was not unreasonable for Work Programme provider to conduct telephone interviews with me against my express wishes . I provided evidence to ICE confirming that:

A. I did not wish to participate in telephone conversations with the Work Programme provider (subcontractors), and;

B. the Work Programme provider (subcontractors) continued to try and make me participate in telephone conversations AFTER I told them I did not wish to.

In a letter dated 19 June 2013 (Mandatory Activity Notification) I was instructed to participate in a telephone conversation and threatened with a possible cut to my benefit if I failed to do so. Contrary to the view of the Independent Case Examiner, WP provider did not have the legal authority to compel me to participate in telephone conversations. Article 8 of the EHCR guarantees the right to respect for private life, family life, home and correspondence. Additionally, I submitted evidence confirming that WP provider (subcontractor) were aware of my poor telephone signal: a copy of a record made by WP provider (subcontractor) detailing how during a telephone conversation with me the telephone repeatedly disconnected.

Complaint 2

The Independent Case Examiner found that it was not unreasonable for 2nd tier subcontractor to demand that I signed something in order for me to reclaim travelling expenses that I incurred in attending a Work Programme advisor interview. In support of my complaint I submitted details of an FOI response from the DWP Central Freedom of Information Team dated 2nd September 2013 ref. VTR 3940 (3798):

There is no requirement to sign any documents presented by the Provider and no sanction would be applied to a claimant who refuses to do so.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/172590/response/425326/attach/html/3/3940%20response.pdf.html

It is my view that it would have been reasonable for 2nd tier subcontractor to have paid my travelling expenses without requiring my signature.

Complaint 3

The Independent Case Examiner held that 2nd tier subcontractor acted correctly by sending me a letter threatening that my benefits could be cut if I failed to send them details of my job search evidence (Mandatory Activity Notification aka MAN). It is my view that the ICE erred by not considering the sixth data protection principle:

Personal data shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under this Act”

Details of the employers that I contacted seeking employment is personal information. Contrary to the claim of the ICE, I was under no statutory obligation to provide such information to 2nd tier subcontractor.

In my initial letter of complaint to ICE on the matter dated 15 March 2014 I quoted part of a response from the DWP Central Freedom of Information Team dated 10th September 2013 (ref. VTR 4166):

A Work Programme provider may ask you to provide evidence of your job search as part of their support they give you but they cannot mandate you to provide it and you will not be sanctioned if you do not provide it.”

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/174813/response/427937/attach/html/3/4166%20Response.pdf.html

ICE failed properly to consider the relevant evidence.

Complaint 4

I feel that my letter to ICE dated 17 April 2014 should have been accepted as a fresh complaint and not as a request for a review of decision 2012.

8. Has the organisation responded to all the issues raised in your complaint?

If the answer to this question is NO, then please set out below the issues that have not been addressed.

YES – in the sense that : “You may have no new evidence but still disagree with my findings. You can ask a Member of Parliament to approach the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.”

9. How have you, or the person you represent, been affected by what happened?

WP provider caused me considerable distress by insisting that I participate in telephone conversations I did not have to; demanding that I send them personal information I was not required to and, on one occasion, by refusing to pay my travelling expenses. Additionally, I have incurred costs (mainly postage and a couple of bus journeys to obtain information) in bringing my complaints.

It must be borne in mind that WP provider (subcontractor) sent me MANs demanding that I participate in the activites referred to above (1 & 3). In a letter to ICE dated 9 February 2014 I argued that because no cut to my benefit was ever imposed this should not be interpreted as evidence of my not having suffered distress; and that the word could used in the wording of the MAN – Please note that if you do not undertake the activities required in this notification your benefits could be affected – could not be used to dismiss my claim that I suffered genuine distress.

In a Supreme Court Judgment given on 30 October 2013 (R v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) Lords Neuberger and Toulson commented (para. 64):

For the individual, the discontinuance or threat of discontinuance of jobseeker’s allowance may self-evidently cause significant misery and suffering.” (my emphasis)

It is self-evident that WP provider by their actions caused me significant misery and suffering.

SECTION 4: Outcome

Examples of remedies we regularly achieve are apologies, improvements to services, and financial payments.

10. What outcome(s) do you want us to achieve for you?

I wish that you consider each of my 4 compIaints separately. I seek apologies from ICE for each failing that you identify in how my complaints were handled. In a letter to ICE dated 7 April 2014 I requested compensation (expenses and consolatory payments) in respect of complaints 2 (£12.30) & 3 (£19.40). For complaints 1 and 4 I will accept compensation of £9 for each (expenses and consolatory payments).

11. If you are seeking a financial remedy, what would be a reasonable sum of money to remedy your complaint?

Total sum of £49.70. ________________________________________________________________

SECTION 5: When things happened

The law says that a complaint should be made to an MP within a year of you becoming aware there is a problem. We can extend this time limit but only where there are special circumstances.

  1. When did the events occur?

Complaint 1 – Between November 2011 and 19 June 2013

Complaint 2 – 14 August 2013

Complaint 3 – January 2013

Complaint 4 – 9 May 2012

For complaints 1, 2 and 3 the ICE Decision is dated 19 June 2014. For complaint 4 the letter from ICE refusing to accept it as a complaint is dated 8th May 2014.

13. When were you aware there was a problem and when did you complain?

Complaint 1 – 26 June 2013 (1st letter of complaint to Work Programme provider)

Complaint 2 – 14 August 2013 (1st letter of complaint to Work Programme provider)

Complaint 3 – 24 November 2013 (1st letter of complaint to Work Programme provider)

Complaint 4 – 11 July 2013 (1st letter of complaint to Work Programme provider)

  1. If you did not complain straight away, please explain why:

Not applicable

  1. When did you first write to your MP about your complaint?

16 July 2014

16. If there was more than a year between you becoming aware of the problem and you contacting your MP, please explain why you did not complain to your MP earlier. It would be helpful if you could provide relevant dates of when key events happened. For example, the date of your initial complaint and dates of the organisation’s responses.

Not applicable

17. If there is a long time between any of the above dates, please explain what was happening.

SECTION 6: Legal action

The law says that we must consider whether it is reasonable for you to pursue legal action to achieve the outcomes you are seeking.

We may not be able to look at your complaint: if you are already pursuing legal action; or are planning to take legal action; or if we consider that there is a course of legal action open to you that is reasonable for you to pursue.

18. Are you taking, or planning to take, legal action on your complaint? If YES please give details.

NO

SECTION 7: Authorisation
I wish the Ombudsman to investigate my complaint and I consent to the obtaining of all relevant papers for the purposes of investigating a complaint under the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967.

Signature: ______________________________________________________________

Date: __________________________________________________________________

If you are complaining on behalf of someone else, they must sign here if they are able to. If they are not able to, please explain why.

I give my consent for a complaint to be made on my behalf and for the Ombudsman to obtain all relevant papers for the purposes of investigating a complaint under the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967. I understand that this may mean that my representative will be able to access personal information obtained for the investigation.

Signature: ______________________________________________________________

Date: __________________________________________________________________

SECTION 8: To the MP
This section must be completed by the person making the complaint

To (Name of MP) _____________________________________________________ MP

House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

Please consider the complaint described on this form and in any information attached.

Please complete section 9 and send this complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

SECTION 9: From the MP to the Ombudsman
This section must be completed by the MP

To: The Parliamentary Ombudsman, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP

Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms _________________________________________________________

Has sent me a complaint. Please consider this complaint and let me know the outcome.

Signature of MP: ­­­­­_________________________________________________________

Print name: _____________________________________________________________

Date: __________________________________________________________________

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Millbank Tower

Millbank

London SW1P 4QP

Enquiries: 0345 015 4033

Fax: 0300 061 4000

Email: phso.enquiries@ombudsman.org.uk