Getting it right
Where maladministration or poor service has led to injustice or hardship, the public body responsible should take steps to provide an appropriate and proportionate remedy.
The public body should:
- ideally, return complainants and, where appropriate, others who have suffered injustice or hardship as a result of the same maladministration or poor service, to the position they were in before the maladministration or poor service took place
- if that is not possible, compensate them appropriately.
The public body should also ensure they keep any commitments to provide remedies, including ensuring they do not repeat any failures.
In many cases, an apology and explanation may be a sufficient and appropriate response. Public bodies should not underestimate the value of this approach. A prompt acknowledgement and apology, where appropriate, will often prevent the complaint escalating. Apologising is not an invitation to litigate or a sign of organisational weakness.[*]
It can benefit the public body as well as the complainant, by showing its willingness to:
- acknowledge when things have gone wrong
- accept responsibility
- learn from its maladministration or poor service
- put things right.
In putting right any injustice or hardship suffered as a result of maladministration or poor service, the public body should assess all the relevant circumstances in a balanced way. This means taking into account both objective evidence and more subjective views of the impact of the injustice or hardship. In some cases, the remedy will be easy to work out; in others, it will be more difficult because of the number of factors to take into account.
Offering remedies should not necessarily be limited to formal complaints. A timely response may ensure that the person decides not to make a formal complaint.
[*] Section 2 of the Compensation Act 2006 states: ‘An apology, an offer of treatment or other redress, shall not of itself amount to an admission of negligence or breach of statutory duty’. This section of the Act applies to England and Wales only.