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Ombudsman releases complaints statistics for all local authorities

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has published details of the complaints it has received about all local councils in England in 2016-17.

The Ombudsman investigates complaints about all local authorities and social care providers in England. Every year it publishes the information it sends to councils to help with transparency and improve local services for residents. This annual summary is the number of complaints and enquiries it has received about the council, and the decisions made about those complaints.

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

“Our annual data release is a great opportunity for the public, councillors and council officers to gauge how their local authority responds to, and learns from, the complaints we receive about them. 

“The best councils use our data to scrutinise the services they provide. I urge all councils to do that to make their services better in future. 

“I want to encourage an open and mature attitude to complaints - one where they are valued within organisations as ‘free feedback’ and learning opportunities. Indeed, how an organisation deals with complaints says a lot about its culture.

“The data we have issued, and wealth of information we publish on our website, are a valuable source of information about complaints handling and council performance. I would urge people to take a look to see how they can use it to improve or scrutinise their authority’s performance."

While issuing the figures this week, the Ombudsman is keen to point out that a high number of complaints does not necessarily mean a council is performing poorly. It may indicate an authority that welcomes and encourages feedback, through a transparent system which signposts people appropriately when its own processes have been exhausted.

This year (2016-17) the Ombudsman received over 16,500 complaints and enquiries about councils. The greatest proportion were about Education and Children’s Services, followed by Adult Social Care, and Planning.

It’s not just about numbers though. What matters is the outcome of the complaints investigated in detail and over the year, across England, the Ombudsman upheld 54%. This is up from 51% in 2015-6, and 46% the previous year. The region with the highest proportion of complaints upheld was London (60%), and the lowest was the East Midlands (44%).

Overall, the Ombudsman was most likely to find fault in Adult Social Care cases (64% upheld), and least likely to find fault in complaints about Planning and Development (35% upheld).

Other statistics from across the country include:

  • 26% of all complaints received over the past year are about London councils (4,230)
  • the highest uphold rate for Children’s and Education Services complaints was in the north east, with 67% upheld, this compares with an uphold rate of 63% nationally
  • Yorkshire had the lowest percentage of Children’s Services complaints upheld, at 58%
  • the West Midlands area had the highest uphold rate for Adult Care Services at 73%, higher than the average of 64%
  • the southern region saw the lowest proportion of complaints about Adult Care services upheld, at 52%
  • the London area saw a higher proportion of complaints about housing than any other area in the country - they made up 23% of the area’s total complaint numbers, compared with a national average of 12%
  • the Ombudsman upheld 61% of those housing complaints in the London area compared with a national average of 54%

One of the Ombudsman’s main roles is to remedy injustice, and try to put people back in the position they would have been in, had the fault not occurred. This year, the Ombudsman made 3,562 recommendations to put things right. This included apologies, financial remedies (for example paying for care which should have been provided) and procedural changes to help improve services for others.

Article date: 02 August 2017

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