Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten submission from Mrs Lynette Cameron

Summary of Main Points made in Submission to Communities and Local Government Select Committee

1. Is mental capacity an apt subject for advice from the LGO to Councils? Is it within the LGO’s remit?

2. Is the advice given to Councils by the LGO’s Confidential Advice Service to Council Officers always in accordance with “good administrative practice”?

3. Advice given to Councils confidentially by the LGO is not always in accordance with statutory rules Regulations and requirements.

4. Factual procedural matters, known to LGO and Councils, are not published on the LGO website. Bias.

Point One

Is mental capacity an apt subject for advice from the LGO to Councils? Is it within the LGO’s remit?

Summary of the evidence:

1. From a letter to me 13 April 2012, from the Reading Borough Council (“RBC”) I quote one paragraph. (See at paragraph 16).

2. I quote from the Preamble to the Report of RBC-appointed Investigator, Mr Graham to me of 31 March 2012. (See at paragraph 18).

The context:

3. I have Lasting Powers of Attorney for Mrs Notley age 97, very blind and very deaf and with poor mobility. She has short-term memory loss which is well-known to RBC and is tired. I have known her for 30 years. She has only one daughter, living in the USA.

4. Acting under those powers which derive from the Mental Capacity Act and the Office of the Public Guardian, and as Mrs Notley has limited ability to make decisions about her care—at that time provided by the RBC—I made complaints about that care to the RBC. The complaints initially were about wrongly-given medication, removal from her of her hearing aids, lack of feeding. The last complaint was of actions endangering her life.

5. Under the relevant statutory Regulations (Local Authority Social Services and NHS Complaints (England) Regulations 2009 S.I.2009 No. 309), Mrs Notley and I were entitled to a written record sent to us of oral complaints (Regulation 13.2) and to acknowledgements of both oral and written complaints.

6. At the time an acknowledgement was to be sent, we were entitled to be offered a discussion with the Complaints Manager of how we wished the complaint to be handled. “The responsible body must offer ...” (Regulation 13.7)

7. From October 2009—December 2011, we received no acknowledgement or record from RBC of several oral and four written complaints. And thus, no offer of discussion with the RBC Complaints Manager.

8. Recently disclosed documents show the complaints were in the Case Notes.

9. In January 2011, a written complaint was acknowledged but no discussion was offered. In May and June, 2011, a discussion was offered with unacceptable conditions attached. I suggested Mediation. My letter was ignored.

10. On 28 June 2011, I was informed by letter that RBC intended to go ahead with Investigation with or without my involvement or permission and without the mandatory discussion in Regulation 13.

11. Mrs Notley sought Judicial Review of that RBC decision on 29 July 2011.

12. Her application was dismissed on 14 November 2011.

13. But between 29 July and 14 November, Reading Borough Council initiated an Investigation (without my knowledge).

14. And between 29 July and 14 November, Reading Borough Council appointed an external Investigator, Mr Allan Graham.

15. And between 29 July and 14 November, Reading Borough Council asked The LGO for advise.

The evidence in full

Letter of 13 April 2012 from RBC to me:

16. “As Mr Graham (RBC-appointed Independent Investigator) had requested an interview with Mrs Notley on her own, the (RBC) Complaints Manager discussed this with the Local Government Ombudsman who provides a confidential advice service to Council Officers. He (LGO) was of the view, that subject to the independent investigator being satisfied that Mrs Notley was willing to meet with him and that she properly understood the nature and purpose of his visit, then it was a matter for the investigator to exercise his judgement over, about (sic) whether he considered that he needed to meet with Mrs Notley without you being present.”

17. (After 3 January 2011, Mrs Notley’s care was no longer in the hands of Reading Borough Council. Therefore on 15 August 2011, RBC had no right of entry to Mrs Notley’s flat other than for emergencies, which this was not.)

The Preamble to Mr Graham’s subject Report 31 March 2012:

18. “Mrs Notley has been interviewed in connection with this complaint. She told me she was happy with the care she receives but I was left with the strong impression that she suffered with memory difficulties and may therefore lack mental capacity.”

19. I am informed by RBC that the meeting took place in Mrs Notley’s self-contained flat on 15 August 2011.

Point Two:

Is the advice given to Councils on the “LGO Confidential Advice Service to Council Officers” (see Para 16) always in accordance with good administrative practice ?

20. The Local Government Act, 1974 Part III section 23, sub-section 12A would appear to be the enabling section of the Act to allow for this “confidential advice service to Council Officers”.

“(12A) the Commission may, after consultation with the representative persons and authorities concerned, provide to the authorities or any of the authorities to which this Part of this Act applies such advice and guidance about good administrative practice as appears to the Commission to be appropriate and may arrange for it to be published for the information of the public.”

21. Was the advice which the Council reports being given by the LGO (in the letter 13 April 2012 quoted above) “good administrative practice”?

22. The effect of that advice to the Council by the LGO was that the Council could:

Act in defiance of the powers and duties donated to an Attorney under Lasting Powers for Personal Welfare by the Donor, Mrs Notley.

Act in such defiance when it was already known to the Council that Mrs Notley suffered from “short term memory loss”.

Allow the Investigator to breach Mrs Notley’s right to privacy in her Home—Article 8 of the Human Rights Act :-

In order to comply with the LGO’s advice to “satisfy himself that Mrs Notley was willing to meet with him” Mr Graham first had to enter Mrs Notley’s self-contained flat by a master pass key without her permission in order to ask her if she was willing to meet with him.

Age 97, very blind and deaf, she had no ability to prevent him entering or to make him leave.

23. If the advice given in this instance to Reading Borough Council was “good administrative practice”, has it been published by the LGO?

Point Three:

Advice given to Councils confidentially by LGO is not always in accordance with statutory rules and regulations

Summary of the evidence:

24. A letter from E J Winter & Son, Mrs Notley’s solicitors, written to the LGO on 16 April 2012 asking

Summary

(The whole letter is attached in documents.)

25. A letter of 27 April 2012 to E J Winter & Son from the LGO (Assistant Ombudsman, Mr Richard Shaw ).

I quote one passage.

(The whole letter is attached in documents.)

26. A letter from E J Winter & Son, written to the LGO on 4 May 2012 asking

Summary

(The whole letter is attached in documents)

27. The last letter has received no reply from the LGO as at 27 May 2012.

Point Four:

Factual procedural matters, known to LGO and Councils, are not published on the LGO website. This is Bias.

28. The following procedural matters are not on the LGO website:

29. (1.) Councils have immediate access to a confidential advice service for Council officers from the LGO.

(Source: Letter RBC, 13 April 2012 already quoted )

30. (2.) Every single call to the Public Advice Line is recorded and archived.

(Source: Telephone conversation Rob Morris of LGO Advice Line, 7 April 2012)

31. (3.) Letters from the public which may embarrass a Council are not answered promptly or at all.

(Source: Letter from me to LGO, 9 April 2012, concerning my request that the LGO record my refusal to consent to a complaint being referred to the LGO by Reading Borough Council.

This referral the RBC had threatened to make with or without my consent in three letters, one of them to my Member of Parliament.

My letter of 9 April 2012 to the LGO has not been answered. A telephone call was received on17 April 2012 from LGO but when I asked for the assurance in writing, an email on 19 April 2012 said my letter had been “forwarded to the relevant department”.

Since that date, no answer as at 27 May 2012.

32. (4.) Every thing known to the Council about the process of referring a complaint to the LGO ought to be known to the public—nothing ought to be withheld that is known to the Council and the LGO.

33. If the LGO has acted correctly and within her remit in the circumstances outlined above, then the information to be given to the public on the LGO website must include:

the fact that discussions—very specific and with names and events included—may take place between the Council and the LGO on the confidential advice line for Council Officers;

this may happen before a Complaints Procedure has been completed by the Council;

this may happen long before there is any question of a referral to the LGO by the complainant;

and it may happen without the complainant having any right to know what has been said to the LGO by the council about the complaint or the complainant;

and that advice may be given to Councils by the LGO which breaches Human Rights and Statute.

Lynette Cameron

May 2012

Prepared 16th July 2012