The Ombudsman’s annual review of complaints launched today, giving a concise overview of the state of local government complaints over the past year.
As it increasingly focuses on making wide-ranging recommendations to better council services, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has directed more improvements to local councils in the past year than ever before.
And although the Ombudsman’s role is to remedy individual people’s problems, it is increasingly looking at how it can make sweeping recommendations on the back of those complaints to help councils learn and improve services for everyone.
In 2021-22, the Ombudsman made 1,848 service improvement recommendations, with all but a vanishingly small number of councils complying (99.7%).
In one case, a council insisted a family pay a top-up fee for a relative’s care home place, despite not offering one where they did not need to pay extra. Following the Ombudsman’s investigation, the council reviewed its processes and reimbursed a further 29 families.
In another case, the Ombudsman found a council was not paying friends and family foster carers the correct allowance. It asked the council to look at whether other foster carers were being similarly underpaid. Six other families received their missed support, and the council put in place changes to ensure this would not happen again.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said, ‘One complaint can have immense power to change things for the better, and we’re increasingly focusing on to how we, and the local authorities we investigate, take the learning from those complaints and improve service provision.
‘The vast majority of councils agree to the recommendations we make and see them as common-sense ways of providing better services for people in their area. However, this can only happen when councils act swiftly when they have committed to do so.
Adding, ‘Unfortunately we are seeing some councils taking longer to make those changes, which put them at risk of making the same mistakes again. In 18% of cases, we found compliance was late. While I welcome the professional way in which the majority of councils continue to work with us, I would urge those authorities who are having problems to pay close attention to this final, but crucial, step in the complaints process.’
The Ombudsman’s report is published with detailed data for every English authority on how they perform against similar organisations. It also includes resources for councillors and senior council officers to raise the profile of complaints within their organisation.
Cllr Peter Fleming, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Improvement and Innovation Board said, ‘Councils continue to deliver the crucial services that communities rely on, while also managing the ongoing cost of living crisis and the challenges it brings to their areas.
‘We are pleased to see the recognition of the important role that elected members play in the integrity of the complaints process, and It is positive that in 99.7% of case councils are implementing recommendations made, showing that local authorities are determined to make sure these issues do not occur again.
‘Local government is one of the most trusted parts of the public sector with polling consistently showing high satisfaction rates. Councils are always striving to do the best for their residents and deliver first class services.’
People can search for their local council’s data using the Ombudsman’s interactive online map, where they can find details of upheld complaints, service recommendations and their authority’s annual letter, detailing how the council has responded to the Ombudsman’s investigations.
Visit the LGO website to find out more.
In other news, a new study has highlighted the acute financial burden on carers amidst the cost-of-living crisis, with 41% saying they are struggling financially.