Ombudsman investigations are “making a difference” and changing services for the better

Last year the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman made nearly 4,000 recommendations to put things right for people who had suffered injustice – it announced in its Annual Report and Accounts 2016-17, published today.

The report details how the Ombudsman is making a difference through its investigations. As well as remedying injustices for individuals, more than 600 of those recommendations were to improve services for the public by recommending councils and care providers make policy and practice changes.

In addition, to help councils and care providers learn from its casework, the Ombudsman published three Focus Reports highlighting key themes and systemic issues it sees. These included issues when health and social care services fail to work together properly; unfairness in how complaints about parking fines are handled; and problems caused by changes to school transport policies. Its Annual Review of Adult Social Care Complaints highlighted a rise in complaints about home care services with nearly two thirds of investigations being upheld.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said:

“We play a vital role in holding public services to account, and I have seen first-hand the huge difference we can make to people’s lives when we resolve serious failures.

“But it is not enough to fix people’s problems one by one. We must harness our unique insight into where things are going wrong to help councils and care providers improve services for everyone’s benefit.

“I am proud of the work we did last year, and the successes are down to the skills and dedication of every member of our staff.”

The Ombudsman is seeing more complaints related to reduced local government resources, and this is sometimes cited as a reason for service failure.

Michael King added:

“For us to alter our expectations in order to accommodate these challenges would be to let down the public and the bodies in jurisdiction themselves. We will continue to hold public bodies and care providers to account against the law, relevant guidance and their own policies; and share our findings to aid scrutiny of services.”

Last year the Ombudsman registered 19,077 new complaints and enquiries. It also dealt with a further 12,848 queries, which it was able to help with at first contact without registering a new case. It upheld 53% of complaints where it carried out an investigation.

As a proportion of its caseload, the Ombudsman received most complaints and enquiries about Education and Children’s Services (18%), followed by Adult Social Care (17%) and Planning and Development (13%). In terms of the number of complaints and enquiries registered, those about adult social care continued to rise, as they have for a number of years; those about housing, and benefits and tax, declined.

The report highlights the Ombudsman’s achievements, including meeting all of its time targets for completing investigations; maintaining customer satisfaction levels; and expanding the reach of its complaint handling training programme.

It completed 79% of investigations within 13 weeks; 92% of investigations within 26 weeks; and 99% of investigations within 52 weeks.

Ombudsman staff trained more than 1,200 council and care provider staff on good complaint handling through its training courses.

Article date: 13 July 2017

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