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Ombudsman’s COVID report highlights how councils and care providers coped

The COVID-19 pandemic placed unprecedented pressure on councils and care providers, and a new report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman analyses just how those organisations coped.

The Ombudsman investigates complaints about local councils and care providers in England, getting involved when things have gone badly wrong. Yesterday’s report, which analyses its cases over the first 18 months of the pandemic, shows that, by and large, councils and care providers weathered the unprecedented pressures they were under. But, when things did go wrong it had a serious impact on people’s lives.

Cases highlighted in the report include a woman who died from COVID-19 at a care home with poor infection control procedures which was then compounded by staff later trying to cover up the facts.

Another case involved a homeless family left to sofa surf then sleep in a tent at the height of the pandemic, after different departments of the same council failed to help them.

The Ombudsman’s report focuses on the lessons that can be learned from the complaints it has received about the pandemic and welcomes that, in many cases, councils and care providers are already using their experiences from the pandemic to consider how they can make improvements to services.

The report also offers questions councillors and scrutiny committees can ask to reflect on their own council’s practice during this time.

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

“We have investigated some tragic individual cases over the past months. Each represents poor personal experiences where councils and care providers did not get things right.

“Our investigations have shown that, while the system did not collapse under the extreme pressures placed on it, COVID-19 has magnified stresses and weaknesses present before the pandemic affecting some councils and providers.

“We have always advocated how crucial good complaint handling is in any setting, so I am particularly saddened that, in some authorities, dealing with public concerns and complaints itself became a casualty of the crisis. At a time when listening to public problems was more important than ever, we saw some overstretched and under-resourced complaints teams struggle to cope.

“If evidence was needed, this report proves that managing complaints should be considered a frontline service.”



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