Investigation into Ministry of Health offer of ex gratia payment
On 27 October 2016, I concluded an Ombudsmen Act investigation into a complaint by Cliff Robinson about the decision of the Ministry of Health’s Individual Review Panel to reduce Mr Robinson’s Funded Family Care from 40 hours a week to 29.5.
On 5 December 2016, the Director, Service Commissioning, Ministry of Health, wrote to Mr Robinson acknowledging the maladministration by the Ministry in reducing Mr Robinson’s funding, but declining to offer him backpay in redress. Specifically, the Director advised Mr Robinson:
'The Ombudsman investigated the decision to reduce the hours allocated to your son John and for which you are the paid family carer. The Ombudsman concluded that the Ministry’s decision was unreasonable and in response the Ministry has reinstated the payment of 40 hours of care.
'I have given careful consideration to your complaint about back-pay and believe that the Ministry has a moral obligation to correct the mistake in reducing those hours by way of an apology and an ex gratia payment.
'I apologise for the mistakes made by the Ministry, initially through Disability Support Link and subsequently by the National Review Panel. Neither mistake should have occurred. The Ministry has taken steps to strengthen the review process to ensure that similar mistakes do not occur in the future.
'Additionally, for the distress caused to you and John, and the lengths you have had to go to seek redress for the mistakes, I am prepared to offer $8000 as an ex gratia payment.'
Mr Robinson then complained to me, as Ombudsman, concerning his dissatisfaction with the decision.
Based on the information provided to me, I formed the opinion that the Ministry’s offer of $8000 as an ex gratia payment failed to give sufficient recognition for the amount of care Mr Robinson provided for his disabled son John during time his funding was reduced. For this reason the offer was inadequate.
I asked the Ministry of Health to consider increasing its offer of an ex gratia payment to Mr Robinson from $8,000 to $14,000.