This was wholly unsatisfactory and I have taken my complaint to the 2nd stage and I wrote the following to the NCC Head of Law on 20.05.08. I have today, had an acknowledgement of the second stage complaint and I now await their proposed action.
I remind everyone reading this that the central issues are:
- Norfolk has a responsibility to disseminate information equally to all its citizens. It should provide equal opportunities for everyone living in the county. It has failed to do this with its preliminary arrangements for LINks. In this area of Norfolk where I live I have seen no public information whatsoever and I still don’t know what the interrim LINks arrangements are in Norfolk.
- All public bodies have a legal responsibilities under their Disability Equality Schemes. By limiting their two preparatory LINks meetings to a venue on the outskirts of Norwich they have excluded many disabled people from participation. THIS IS DISCRIMINATORY.
Thank you for your acknowledgement dated 16.05.08. of my complaint, which I received in this morning’s post. My apologies for the erroneous date. You are right, I did mean to date my complaint letter to you 12.05.08.
Further to my letter of compliant to you I did receive a letter from David Hayman dated 16.05.08. But that letter makes makes no reference to my complaint to him and so a breach of your complaints policy is still extant.
You will see that Mr Hayman’s letter to me (text attached for information) seems to have been written as if feeding back, in general terms, from “the second stakeholder meeting that you attended.” That meeting was on 20.02.08. Mr Hayman’s letter was the first feedback of LINks progress I’ve had from that meeting; a fact which bears out my complaint.
I do not consider the responses I’ve received so far have been satisfactory responses to my original complaint and would now like the complaint taken to the 2nd stage.
The reasons for this are:
Mr Hayman’s letter tells me nothing of any substance - and here, we are talking of information which, according to the legislation, should be freely in the public domain. Indeed, the very general terms of Mr Hayman’s letter amounts to withholding details of that public information, details which should have been available throughout local communities in Norfolk from 01.04.08.
Let me elucidate, Mr Hayman says:
- “Interim LINks support is by Voluntary Norfolk.”
- Voluntary Norfolk?? Who, where, how was this arrived at?
- “The LINks interim group was set up in April…”
- Who, Where, How?
- “There are a useful number of experienced ex PPIF members on this group…”
- Who are they? Which Norfolk communities do they represent? Is there a representative of my own local community?
- “...they have already set up sub-committees…”
- How are these committees made up? Why haven’t Norfolk people had information about these sub-committees and how to feed into them?
- “...as well as working groups to start on crosscutting issues.”
- What are these issues? How are the working groups made up? Do they include mental health services in secondary and primary care; the Disability Equality Duty; childhood autism; learning difficulties/disabilities; HIV; etc? Are links with OSC; Community Cohesion developments with District Councils; Local Strategic Partnerships; and Local Area Agreements being developed?
- “We are endeavouring to ensure that the Norfolk LINk is independent…”
- See 1.1. Are Standards in Public Life (Nolan Rules) being observed?
- “...while being as inclusive as possible.”
- By treating those disabled people living outside the urban areas of Norfolk as I have been treated? See also 11.1.
- “...the interim core group have now issued their first newsletter,…sent to all who attended the stakeholder meetings.”
- Where is it?
- “I also understand they are looking for additional core group members...you may wish to be considered.”
- Indeed, had I been kept informed as requested (as early as last year) I would have wished to be considered. Why didn’t I get any feedback from the stakeholder meeting? Why was I not informed of developments? Could it possibly have been anything to do with my questioning of the procurement process at the stakeholder meeting? See also my last paragraph here.
The DoH LINks Bulletin No. 6 says: “Procurement processes can often be complex to understand, resource intensive and challenging. In addition, a number of myths associated with procurement have surfaced in some areas, including the view that processes will not be fair. It is important that local authorities work hard to explain the processes clearly.” Other central government guides stress the importance of accountability and transparency, i.e. The DoH Guidance document “Local Involvement Networks Explained.” Following the stakeholder meeting referred to above, I requested a copy of the draft host contract when it had been drawn up. Where is it?
Mr Hayman’s last paragraph:
I had previously explained to Mr Hayman that due to my disability I could not a) get to morning meetings; and b) meetings held 20 odd miles away (as the stakeholder meetings were) would not only exclude many disabled people in the county but also those ‘stakeholders’ reliant on welfare benefits. Both the ‘stakeholder meetings’ (the only ones in Norfolk preparatory to LINks) were held in the outskirts of Norwich and in working hours, ensuring an attendance which had to be selective to a substantial degree. An exercise in social exclusion.
The matters above are serious enough. However, in addition, I have a hidden disability within the meaning of the Disability Discrimination Acts (the subject of a successful Employment Tribunal action in 1999). I believe that Norfolk County Council’s failure to provide the information I requested with more than adequate notice and their failure to set accessible venues for LINks meetings caused me detriment by excluding me from the early LINks processes. Further to this I consider Norfolk County Council’s omissions have discriminated against me contrary to disability discrimination law.