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Ombudsman annual report details further innovation in its service

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has published its Annual Report and Accounts 2019-20, which details how it continued to be innovative in the way it improved its service and increased the value of its investigations.

Examples include the Ombudsman launching its interactive council performance map and the first phase of its online customer complaint portal, in the year ending 31 March 2020.

The interactive map is a UK first for an Ombudsman to publish such detailed information about its investigations. Now anybody can see how their council is performing against key measures such as uphold rate, compliance with Ombudsman recommendations and the service improvements it agreed to make – all with user-friendly charts and statistics. The map also enables comparisons with other councils and against average rates for similar council types.

The map was updated in July this year with the second year of annual data, and it also has weekly updates of service improvements data.

In 2019-20 the Ombudsman also updated its online complaint form, which makes it easier for people to understand how and when to log a complaint with the Ombudsman. It is the first phase of a project to make complaining to the Ombudsman digitally more convenient and secure through an online portal.

In addition, the Ombudsman maximised the public value of its investigations by securing more service improvement recommendations (1,769 in total) and publishing more public interest reports (63) than the previous year.

Service improvement recommendations are when the Ombudsman makes recommendations for councils and care providers to address systemic issues that affect more people than those that complained. They often comprise reviewing or changing policies, training staff and providing correct information to the public.

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

“Our interactive map is helping to increase public scrutiny and accountability of councils, by opening up a wealth of data and intelligence from our complaints. Via a simple tap of a screen, citizens can now see what mistakes their council has made, the improvements it has promised to make, and how it is faring against similar councils.

“The additional information we started publishing this year – especially the recommendations we make to improve local services for everyone – place the spotlight on the wider value our investigations have. I’m pleased to see councils and care providers agreed to make 1,769 service improvements this year.”

In 2019-20, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman dealt with a total of 36,767 complaints and enquiries from the public. 17,142 people received help on the telephone without requiring a case to be logged.

Of the 19,625 cases the Ombudsman decided, 5,913 were dealt with by an initial investigation and 4,455 through a detailed investigation. The Ombudsman upheld 62% of detailed investigations (2,742 in number). This has risen from 58% the previous year.

The Ombudsman met all its time targets for completing investigations. It completed 78% of investigations within 13 weeks, 89% of investigations within 26 weeks, and 99% of investigations within 52 weeks. This means more than three quarters of its investigations are completed within three months.

The Annual Report and Accounts covers the period of 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020, so the COVID-19 outbreak has not had a significant impact on the statistics reported. The report notes the Ombudsman took the unprecedented decision, in the wider public interest, to suspend its casework towards the end of March to avoid adding to the pressures on local authorities to deliver vital frontline services at the time.

Article date: 17 December 2020