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Ombudsman’s Annual Report highlights improvements for complainants and local service users

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has published its Annual Report and Accounts 2021-22, which details the success of its work to give more complainants a quicker decision on their case.

Last year (1 April 2021 – 31 March 2022), the Ombudsman focused its efforts particularly on improving waiting times at the early part of its investigation process.

The Ombudsman concentrated on working through cases to reduce its backlog, leading to it significantly increasing the amount of initial investigations it made within 20 working days. Initial investigations are when the Ombudsman decides whether it can and should investigate someone’s complaint in more detail. A marker of the improvement is the Ombudsman more than halved the number of cases where people were waiting for their complaint to be allocated to an investigator.

At the same time, the Ombudsman continued to perform well against its longer time targets, completing 77% of all complaints within three months and 84% within six months.

The annual report also highlights the huge impact the Ombudsman’s investigations have on directly improving the quality of local services for everybody. Councils and care providers agreed to 1,967 Ombudsman recommendations targeted at improving their services. In contrast to putting things right for the individuals that complain, service improvement recommendations typically comprise actions like: changing policies and procedures, reviewing other people’s cases for potential injustice, training staff and enhancing public information about services. 

Last year, the Ombudsman also continued to publish important reports to share the learning from its investigations.

These included a sector-leading report on how councils and care providers responded to the upheavals to service delivery because of Covid-19, which includes some 90 case studies from the Ombudsman’s investigations.

It also published a focus report aimed at councils, urging them to reflect on their services to victims of domestic abuse, to coincide with councils receiving extra duties in law.

The Ombudsman also launched its three-yearly policy vision on how its legislative role might develop and change to help remedy injustice for people currently unable to access redress.

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

“I’m very pleased we made great strides in improving the speed of our initial investigations last year. The quicker we decide whether we can or should look into someone’s complaint, the quicker people have certainty about their situation.

“The plan we introduced, to get our casework onto a sustainable footing, means we can focus on reducing waiting times in the short term, but not at the cost of equally important work to share the learning from our investigations. A fantastic example of how important this work continues to be is the Focus Report we published on Covid-19, which I’m hugely proud of.

“As always, credit must go to our biggest asset – our staff – for their efforts in ensuring we continued to provide an excellent service for the public last year.”

In 2021-22, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman dealt with a total of 49,625 complaints and enquiries from the public. Of this, 32,091 people received help on the telephone without requiring a case to be logged.

Of the 17,534 cases the Ombudsman decided, 6,607 were dealt with by an initial investigation, mainly looking at whether the Ombudsman can and should investigate in more detail. It dealt with 4,253 cases through a detailed investigation, of which it upheld 66% (2,825 in number).

Downloads :  Annual Report and Accounts 2021-22 (2.3MB)

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