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Increase in systemic problems sees Ombudsman make 12% more service improvement recommendations in 2019/20

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman made more wider service improvement recommendations to councils in 2019-20 than ever before as it saw increasing systemic problems in people’s complaints.

In its Annual Review of Local Government Complaints, the Ombudsman said it had made more than 1,600 recommendations to improve services for the wider public – up 12% on the previous year.

Service improvement recommendations are when councils agree to review policies, procedures and staff training, to avoid other people being affected by the same fault in a case.

The annual review also revealed that:

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  • In 2019-20 the LGO registered 17,019 complaints and enquiries compared to 16,899 in the previous period.
  • The Ombudsman upheld a greater proportion of the complaints it investigates, up from 58% last year to 61%.
  • There was a higher number of cases where the LGO agreed with the way the council had offered to put things right before the complaint got to the Ombudsman. This figure increased from 11% to 13%.
  • 99.4% of the Ombudsman's recommendations were agreed and carried out by councils.
  • There were 2,039 cases in which the Ombudsman made recommendations to put things right (up 6% on 2018-19).
  • 3,748 recommendations were made to remedy personal injustice (up 6% on 2018-19).
  • Children and Education services made up the largest proportion of its workload (21%). The Ombudsman is now upholding 72% of those complaints it investigates in this area.
  • Other areas with higher than average uphold rates include Adult care services (68%), Housing (66%) and Benefits and Tax (65%)

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “While we are seeing more and more complex cases beset by systemic problems, we are also increasingly working with councils to identify the root of those problems and making recommendations to improve the underlying policies and procedures causing them.

“These service improvements highlight the power one single complaint can have – when dealt with properly – to prevent problems reoccurring and improve services for others."

Mr King added: “The cases highlighted in my report reflect the reality of local authority life prior to the Covid-19 crisis, but I believe it is all the more important now to deal with complaints properly and to harness this free public feedback.

“Councils’ readiness on the whole to work with us to implement our practical recommendations to improve the services they provide, demonstrates the sector has a mature attitude to complaint handling - one which we have advocated throughout our work.”

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