Complaining to the Local Government Ombudsman
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If someone has been through all three stages of the children’s services complaints process but is unhappy with the outcome, they can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman. If this has not provided a satisfactory result, the Ombudsman can agree to look into the complaint (see section 26(5)).
If someone has been through the process for complaining about a child protection conference, then they can complain to the Ombudsman too. Easy to follow information about this is available in the Complaining about a child protection conference section of our Child protection page. It includes a template letter to support families in making complaints about child protection conferences.
What exactly is the LGO and what can they decide?
The Local Government Ombudsman is an independent organisation. It is appointed by Parliament to investigate complaints of injustice made by individuals against local government bodies. This includes complaints against children’s services. The law about making a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman can be found in the Local Government Act 1974.
It is always for the Ombudsman to decide if the complaint is the kind of complaint that the team should investigate.
A complaint to the Ombudsman should be made within 12 months of the problem that is being complained about.
The Ombudsman can extend this time limit if they think it would be fair to do so (Section 26(4)).
What can a complaint to the Ombudsman be about?
The Ombudsman deals with complaints against children’s services’ services such as:
- They failed to provide the service that is needed by a particular child or family. This means they must have done something wrong or have failed to do something that they should have done
- Their decision making was biased, didn’t keep to the timescales, or failed to take into account important evidence
- They did not follow their own procedures properly. The Ombudsman looks at whether the way in which a decision was reached was sound or properly made.
But the Ombudsman:
- Cannot question whether a decision/action by children’s services was right or wrong simply because you disagree with their decision and
- Cannot deal with complaints about court proceedings, either during the court case or after it is finished.
Complaining to the Ombudsman is a free service.
How does the Ombudsman deal with a complaint?
The Ombudsman has access to all the relevant files and records held by children’s services. And has the power to get other documents and get witnesses to help them with their investigation.
Following the investigation, the Ombudsman:
- Will prepare a report that will be sent to you and to children’s services. If there has been a failing by children’s services, it will set out how the Ombudsman thinks children’s services should sort out the problem
- Publishes the report but without the names or details of the family involved. A statement about the findings must be published in the local press
- Can make a recommendation (not an order) that children’s services should pay you compensation if your complaint is upheld.
If you need more advice on how to make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman you can:
- Telephone the LGO Advice Team – 0300 0610614 (calls charged at no more than calls to 01 and 02 landline numbers)
- Go to their website where you can find on-line fact sheets, and details of how to make a complaint on line.