That letter was in reply to Mrs X’s letter of 19 April in which she had asked specifically to have her case reviewed and she had headed the letter ‘Appeal in connection with grant refusal’. Without asking Mrs X, ACE decided that her letter had not been a formal request for an appeal. Even if they were correct, Mrs X had been entitled to have the assessor look at her case and, if she remained dissatisfied after that, she had been entitled to use the complaints procedure.
The A4E unit’s failure, not only to tell Mrs X of those options, but by refusing to give further consideration to her complaint to go totally against those procedures, again merits my criticism. Mrs X should not have had to wait for her complaint to be referred to the Commissioner before ACE allowed a formal appeal of her case. Mrs X’s case also shows that ACE failed to follow their procedures for dealing with correspondence.
There is no evidence of any acknowledgement or reply to that letter until after the Chief Executive of the local authority wrote to ACE on 20 June. In addition, after the Commissioner had accepted Mrs X’s complaint and the Acting Secretary-General had agreed to permit an appeal, ACE promised to tell the Commissioner’s staff the outcome of the appeal within six weeks.
After the six weeks had passed one of the Commissioner’s staff had to contact ACE before being told that Mrs X’s appeal has been rejected nearly three weeks previously. In response the Acting Secretary-General said that he accepted the criticism of ACE’s failure to follow procedures for dealing with complaints and answering correspondence. He added that, while there had been no intention to deceive Mrs X, he accepted that use of the term ‘independent external assessor’ could have missed anyone who was not a member of the A4E unit or of ACE’s staff.