The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has suspended all casework activity that demands information from, or action by, local authorities and care providers, in light of the current coronavirus outbreak.
It said it had taken this step “in the wider public interest, to protect the capacity of local authorities and care providers to deliver vital frontline services during the current outbreak”.
Describing the move as unprecedented in its 45-year history, the Ombudsman will not be asking councils or care providers to answer enquiries on new or existing cases for the time being, and cases still in progress will be frozen, until normal operations can be resumed.
The Ombudsman’s phoneline and online complaints submission form will similarly remain closed until further notice. “This will reduce the creation of work that neither the Ombudsman nor councils and care providers can progress at present, as well as ensuring complainants are not given false expectation their cases can be progressed during this time.”
The LGO added that when normal services do resume, it would take into account any delays when considering whether or not complaints have been brought to it within the normal 12-month time period specified in the service’s legislation.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “We need to do all we can to support the vital work local authorities and care providers are doing for the communities they serve in co-ordinating the response to the Covid-19 threat. By temporarily suspending our enquiries until government advice changes, we will allow care homes and councils the breathing space they need to deliver those frontline activities without distraction.
"Councils and care providers are far better placed than we are to respond to any local complaints, particularly those that are the most serious and high risk. We still expect local authorities and care providers to respond appropriately to any complaints they receive during this time, but we understand this may look different to their normal arrangements. We will be picking this up with them once we are told normal service can resume.”
People who have already registered a complaint with the Ombudsman will be contacted about their case in due course.