68% of complaints upheld
The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has published its annual complaint statistics for local authorities for the 12 months to 31st March 2016. Overall there were 19,702 complaints and enquiries, and 4,464 detailed investigations of which 51% of complaints were upheld.
The review breaks down complaints according to individual service areas. For Education and Children’s Services collectively complaints and enquiries were up by 13% to 3,438. 53% of those cases investigated were upheld.
In respect of children’s services, in particular, the review comments on child protection, children’s statutory complaints procedure and child sexual exploitation.
There were 903 registered complaints and enquiries concerning child protection. Where investigations were completed, 68% of cases resulted in complaints being upheld. This is considerably higher than the average for all complaints (51%).
Many complaints received were about or involved councils’ application of the statutory children’s social care complaints process. This is designed to ensure the rights and needs of the child are at the heart of the process and that young people’s voices are heard. Once a complaint has been accepted via this procedure, complainants have a right to progress through each stage: local resolution; investigation; and independent review. LGO said that it regularly saw instances where councils fail to follow the process, or its guiding principles.
The LGO has received only a small number of complaints concerning child sexual exploitation. But, it has seen some instances where a council has taken a lack of consent from a young person to justify not investigating a complaint or for failing to take safeguarding action. This is of concern because young persons may not perceive themselves to be victims or vulnerable to potential exploitation and do not therefore recognise they may be in need of protection.