Councils should remedy without delay – Ombudsman

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has been compelled to highlight two cases where a council has not acted to put things right in good time.

Bury Metropolitan Borough Council has taken too long to carry out the Ombudsman’s recommendations in two separate education complaints, leading the LGSCO to publish reports on both cases.

In the first case, the council agreed to update its transport to education policy for young adults with Special Educational Needs. Despite agreeing to this in 2022, the process is not expected to be complete till Spring 2024.

In the second complaint, the council agreed to improve the service it provides to children who are being home educated, and whose parents want them to return to school. In this case the council failed to apologise to the family who complained, or provide them with a sum for additional tutoring to make up for the missed education.

In both cases, the council has now agreed to fresh recommendations to improve its services along with carrying out the previously agreed actions.

Paul Najsarek, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

"It's essential that councils put in place our recommendations and we will take action to highlight where this is not the case.

“In both these cases the council agreed to our recommendations – and timescales – to put things right for families in its borough, and at no time did it let us know these would not be achievable. These failures can only have compounded the dismay felt by these families following their initial complaints.

“It should not have taken the threat of publicly highlighting these failures for the council to take more urgent action. However, I am pleased the council has agreed to the further recommendations I have made to put things right and will be paying close attention to ensuring these are carried out without delay."

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In the first case the council has agreed to provide the Ombudsman with evidence to show it has carried out actions to issue a revised post-16 transport policy by the end of May 2024.

In the second case, the council has apologised to the family and provided the required payments to them. It has also introduced a range of new measures, including a new policy on elective home education. The team responsible for this service has since been restructured and additional staff employed.

It has introduced additional support for families who want their children to be re-integrated into school and provided staff training on good complaint handling.

Article date: 11 January 2024

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