The Parliamentary Ombudsmen (JO) are appointed by the Swedish Riksdag (parliament) to ensure that public authorities and their staff comply with the laws and other statutes governing their actions.
Pursuant to chapter 1, section 9 of the Instrument of Government, a court shall observe objectivity. During the processing of a child custody case at Malmö district court the child’s mother brought the child to Columbia. In an interim judgement, the district court wrote that the mother probably managed to acquire a passport for the child by forging the father’s signature or by using other false documents. In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen notes that the district court had no basis for such speculations and that the court lacked reasons to make a statement regarding the matter. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen directs criticism towards the judge responsible for the interim judgement, as he failed in his obligation to observe objectivity, pursuant to the Instrument of Government.
A mother, who was the sole guardian of her child, was severely injured in a traffic accident. Her injury resulted in an incapability to care for the child. Malmö City Community Board ‘Innerstaden’ therefore claimed, to the district court, pursuant to chapter 6, section 8 a second paragraph, that the child’s father should receive custody of the child. The board also claimed that the district court in an interim judgment should transfer the custody of the child to the father, during the case’s processing time. The district court did not respond to the claim regarding the interim judgment for seven months. This is, according to the Parliamentary Ombudsmen, an unreasonably long processing time, which can not be considered compatible with the best interests of the child. The district court is therefore criticised.
On several occasions a man contacted the reception unite at Spånga-Tensta City District Administration and declared that he intended to apply for financial assistance. A case officer told the man to return, as he did not fulfil the requirements to receive financial assistance. In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen states that an individual that approaches an administration may not always seek ways to apply for financial assistance, perhaps the approach is merely an enquiry regarding how to be eligible for financial aid. In previous decisions the Parliamentary Ombudsmen has held that an individual’s enquiry regarding financial assistance, shall, even if it is perceived as unclear, be interpreted as an application for financial aid and so forth settled by a formal decision. In the present complaint case, the case officer observed, during a phone call with the man, that he wanted to apply for financial assistance. In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen states that there can not have been any uncertainty regarding the fact that the man did apply for financial assistance, the approach was not merely a request for information. His phone calls to the administration should therefore have been handled as an application for financial assistance, and the board should accordingly have examined his entitlement to assistance and taken a formal decision. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen is critical towards how the City District Board handled this case.
The Migration Agency assigned an unaccompanied minor to Älvsjö City District Board in Stockholm municipality. The minor was placed in Uppsala municipality, in a so-called supported housing, run by a private consultant. The board later concluded that the housing was not suitable for the minor and terminated the accommodation. The board notified the minor and the minor’s custodian that the minor had acquired a new accommodation in a housing for unaccompanied minors in Stockholm. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen note that the minor, who was over 15 years old, had the right to express his views about the new accommodation. When the board decided to terminate the minor’s placement and take a decision on a new placement without notifying the minor or the custodian they overlooked their entitlement to take part in decisions concerning the minor. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen further questions if the board, when neglecting to contact the minor and the custodian, had sufficient knowledge to assess the necessary requirements observed when choosing a new accommodation and if the housing was suitable for the minor, or if the board was capable of conducting an assessment and a determination regarding the best interest of the child. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen directs criticism towards the Social Welfare Board for putting aside the Social Services Act’s general provision regarding how to process cases concerning minors placed in housings pursuant to the provision.
In spring of 2016 a large number of complaint cases arrived to the Parliamentary Ombudsmen where the complainant raised concerns regarding Försäkringskassan’s unit for re-examination, saying the unit’s processing times were far too long. When the Parliamentary Ombudsmen conducted an investigation into one of the cases it appeared that Försäkringskassan, since May 2016, on a regular basis, has handed out information stating that the processing time for cases concerning re-examination could come to be approximately twenty weeks. According to the authority, this assessment was due to the current job situation at the re-examination units. During the Parliamentary Ombudsmen’s investigation it was revealed that Försäkringskassan was well aware of the issue and that the authority had taken measures as well as planned further measures to shorten the processing time. In the decision the Parliamentary Ombudsmen notes that Försäkringskassan’s measures has not yet led to any results as the Parliamentary Ombudsmen continues to receive complaints regarding processing times of around twenty to twenty-five weeks. In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen emphasise that social insurance benefits are, generally, essential for an individual’s support and the need for sufficient processing, in compliance with the rule of law, is therefore particularly important when processing cases concerning such benefits. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen stress the importance of Försäkringskassan’s need to process cases concerning re-examination within six weeks. In this context, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen also notes that a prolonged re-examination process delays the individual’s entitlement to judicial proceedings, which, according to the European Convention on Human Rights, should occur within a reasonable period. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen directs grave criticism towards Försäkringskassan for failing to process cases concerning re-examination within a reasonable time limit.
The decision holds, among other things, that when Försäkringskassan makes a record of taking a decision, without recording the content of the decision, it is not the record of the decision, but the decision sent to the concerned individual that is the documented decision. The date for the decision is accordingly set when the decision is dispatched, and so forth established. The investigation of the case prove that Försäkringskassan has failed in their routines when documenting and dating decisions concerning cases on activity and sickness compensation. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen directs criticism towards Försäkringskassan for these shortcomings.
A police released a police dog on three individuals that ran from a car that the police had followed. The dog caught up with one of the passengers and bit her in the back. In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen note that using a police dog as assistance in a violent situation can lead to serious personal injuries. A police officer should proceed with caution before he or she use their dog in a similar situation. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsmen, it is not proportional to use a police dog in a way that may injure the one that the intervention is for, to further examine a crime where the probable sanction is daily fines. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen also emphasise that a police officer should observe an even greater restrictiveness when releasing a police dog on several individuals when only one of them is the possible perpetrator, as this will expose innocent individuals to injury. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen declare that the intervention occurred without there being any suspicions regarding any other crimes other than traffic offences and carelessness in traffic, and therefore holds that it was not proportional to release the police dog. The police officer’s assessment is not defensible, he is therefore criticised.
U.H. participated in the Public Employment Service’s programme ‘Job and development guarantee’ and received activity benefits. Due to U.H.’s disability, she found it difficult to conduct an activity report. U.H.’s case officer at the Public Employment Service was aware of this and U.H. and her family members were under the understanding that the case officer managed U.H.’s activity reports. The Public Employment Service decided, on several occasions, to withdraw U.H.’s entitlement to benefits. In U.H.’s complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsmen U.H. stated that she was not aware of what she had done wrong. In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen holds that unemployed, enrolled at the Public Employment Service as job seekers, are obligated to conduct an activity report and that there can be no exceptions from this requirement. Reports from the Unemployment Insurance Board reveal, however, that employment officers and job seekers at times agree that there is no need for the job seeker to hand in an activity report, in accordance to what the regulation prescribe. Because of this and due to U.H.’s perception of her own situation the Parliamentary Ombudsmen holds that a case officer should not extend their service obligation as far as to release a job seeker from their statute-regulated obligations. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen further notes that the investigation of the case and reports from the Unemployment Insurance Board prove that regulations covering activity reports are not accurately adapted to persons living with certain types of disabilities. In relation to the fact that the Public Employment Service recently has suggested, to the Ministry of Employment, that the authority should be able to announce exceptions from the requirement to account for job seekers activities, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen does not make any further statements regarding this matter. In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen also states that the Public Employment Service failed in their obligation to communicate and notify the job seeker, pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, when deciding to withdraw U.H.’s entitlement to benefits and also when giving U.H. incomplete information.
The Parliamentary Ombudsmen’s investigation points to significant failures in the placement of unaccompanied minors and the social service’s follow up of the minor’s care.
The Parliamentary Ombudsmen's overall statements for each supervisory area the year 2015/16.
The Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsmen - JOBox 16327 • SE-103 26 Stockholm • SwedenVisiting Address: Västra Trädgårdsgatan 4 AOpening hours: 9.00–12.00, 13.00–15.00