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Education authority can pay compensation for comprehensive school pupil's missing shoes for reasons of fairness

Compensation and information practices vary from municipality to municipality

Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja has criticised the City of Helsinki's Education Department for its action in a case where it failed to provide compensation for a pupil's missing shoes. By contrast, the Deputy-Ombudsman can not resolve a compensation matter that comes under civil law.

The mother of a comprehensive school pupil had demanded compensation from the Education Department after her child's new shoes had disappeared from a school lobby during a lesson. Pupils were not allowed to wear or keep outdoor footwear in classrooms.

The City's administrative lawyer had decided not to grant compensation for the shoes. The decision was not adequately reasoned, and instructions for making an appeal had not been appended to it, as the Local Government Act requires. In addition, investigation of the matter had begun only when a report had been requested arising from the complaint.

The lawyer was also of the impression that the Helsinki Social Welfare Department would not pay clients compensation for material losses. However, it has paid compensation for, inter alia, property that has been damaged or disappeared in care services for the elderly.

Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja takes the view that also the Education Department had this compensation possibility and that it should have examined it already on foot of the complainant's demand for compensation. As a general rule, however, it is the person who steals or damages property who bears liability for compensation.

Pajuoja has likewise drawn the attention of the National Board of Education to the fact that the practices that different municipalities follow with respect to paying compensation for damage to or loss of property and providing information about this vary. Also the City of Helsinki should, in the same way as some other municipalities, provide information about compensation on its web site.

Additional info will be provided by Senior Legal Adviser Jorma Kuopus, tel. + 358 (0)9 432 3385.