To consider a report from the Chief Legal Officer (Monitoring Officer).
Members considered a report from the Executive Director – Corporate, Customer and Community Services which provided the Committee with information relating to complaints made to the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LG&SCO) regarding Cumbria County Council for the year ended March 2021.
The Head of Legal and Democratic Services provided a summary of the report explaining that there were 46 complaints made to the Ombudsman but decisions on 50 complaints were received as there was a holdover of complaints from the previous year. Of those 50 complaints, 21 detailed investigations were carried out and 14 complaints were upheld. 7 cases were not upheld which is resulted in a 67% rate of upheld cases and 33% rate of cases not upheld. Members heard that compared to the previous year, the percentage of cases upheld had decreased from 75% to 67% which fell below the average rate for similar authorities which was 71%. Further to that, 1 complaint was satisfactorily resolved before the Ombudsman received the complaint, but this was still recorded by the Ombudsman as an upheld complaint.
The Head of Legal and Democratic Services then highlighted that 56 % of logged complaints were closed after inquiries found them to be incomplete or invalid. Members were informed that the Ombudsman had reported that all recommendations made to the Council were implemented.
The Head of Legal and Democratic Services provided an update on the pilot initiative and quoted the feedback received from Alan Park, the LG&SCO which detailed the pro-active work carried out by the Council and its Extended Leadership Team.
Members discussed the importance of understanding the full picture regarding complaints raised which never reach the ombudsman. The Information Governance & Risk Manager responded by explaining that the report which focused upon the Ombudsman’s Annual Letter meant that it did not present a full picture of cases that go through the Children’s Services process or Adult Social Care process for example.
There was a suggestion that training for members be provided on how to approach statistics so as to ensure that the statistics used in reports were meaningful and helpful. The Chair followed this by commenting on the result of the pilot initiative, it was stated that the process of dealing with complaints appeared to be improving as a result of this work. However, the Chair observed that there may be trends and themes to issues which then go on to become complaints and it would be interesting to be presented with an analysis of these trends. The Information Governance & Risk Manager provided assurance to the Committee and detailed the process followed by the Information Governance team to respond to complaints in a timely manner.
The Executive Director – Corporate, Customer and Community Services provided a word of caution with regards to drawing conclusions from percentages when dealing with such small numbers. Members heard that improvements in this area had been a focus for the organisation over the last 3 years alongside work to improve the overall experience of the customer.
RESOLVED that, members note the contents of the report.