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Ombudsman report finds council wrongly accused woman of using abusive language, stopped Care Act assessment

The Royal Borough of Greenwich has been told by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman that it need not compensate a woman it wrongly accused of using abusive language to a staff member.

An ombudsman report recommended a payment of £450 for distress, but the complainant refused this and Greenwich was then told no payment was needed.

Greenwich had accused ‘Mrs X’ of using offensive words to an officer, but had no evidence to support this.

It stopped Care Act assessments on Mrs X and her husband when it should not have done, the Ombudsman said, causing a two-month delay.

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Mrs X asked the council to assess her and her husband but when an officer telephoned Mrs X said the assessor did not identify herself as such and refused to make appointments for the assessment.

Greenwich responded that all assessments were made by phone, at which “Mrs X raised her voice and with another person with her called the assessor ‘a monkey’, ‘a slave’ and ‘a zombie’ who only listened to managers”, before ending the call.

Mrs X denied she had used abusive terms and made a data access request for the recording and transcripts of the telephone calls, which the council denied it held.

She asked for evidence of the abusive language and the council apologised, admitted it could not substantiate this and conceded it should not have referred to it in a letter.

The Ombudsman said: “Mrs X says she would never use the indirectly racist language attributed to her.

“She said the accusation humiliated her and caused her deep distress. She wants the council to amend its records.”

Greenwich should not have stopped its assessment of Mrs X after the disputed phone call, the ombudsman found.

Miranda Williams, cabinet member for health and adults’ social care at Greenwich, said: “The council responded to the Ombudsman’s decision regarding this case, accepting and agreeing to all the findings and recommendations made.

“This included accepting fault for a council officer who incorrectly accused the complainant of using offensive words. The council issued a full written apology to the complainant.

“We also agreed to issue a financial remedy for this as stipulated by the Ombudsman, however, the complainant rejected this. On the basis of this the Ombudsman confirmed with the council that we should not pay the complainant the financial remedy.”

Mark Smulian

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