Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman Complaints

The current number of upheld complaints by the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman against Merton Council investigated in 2020 is 10.

There is a few months delay between the complaint date and the decision publication, so by the current standard, we can expect to see more before the close of 2020 file.

¹⁰ 22-Oct-2020 Special educational needs

Summary: There was delay in issuing an Education, Health and Care Plan and in implementing actions agreed as part of the complaint process. This was fault and unnecessarily delayed some specialist support. Recommendations for an apology, financial payment and service improvements are made.

⁹ 28-Sep-2020 Enforcement

Summary: Mr D says the Council failed to enforce planning conditions on a neighbouring property to prevent a loss of privacy. There is fault by the Council including considerable delay. The Ombudsman has upheld the complaint and completed the investigation. The Council agrees to pay financial redress to Mr D and has given an undertaking to progress the case.

⁸ 21-Sep-2020 Special educational needs

Summary: Mrs X says the Council took too long to issue an EHC Plan for her son, A, and left him without education for several months, costing the family money and damaging its health. There was fault by the Council causing loss of education for A and unnecessary time and trouble for Mrs X. It will apologise, pay Mrs X £2550, and remind its staff that the Council cannot devolve its alternative education duty to a school.

⁷ 07-Aug-2020 Homelessness

Summary: Mr X complains the Council placed him in temporary accommodation outside its area when he became homeless. Mr X says this meant he had to give up one of his jobs as he was unable to travel back to the area for work.

⁶ 22-Jul-2020 Transition from childrens services

Summary: Mrs X complained the Council failed to properly plan for her son, F’s transition from children into adult care services. The Council was at fault. It failed to forward plan for F’s transition to adult care services in line with statutory guidance. This did not cause F a significant injustice as the services were in place before his 18th birthday. The failure to plan did however cause Mrs X distress, uncertainty and time and trouble. The Council agreed to pay Mrs X £150 to recognise this. It also agreed to review its procedures to prevent recurrence of the fault.

⁵ 10-Jul-2020 Fostering

Summary: Mr and Mrs B complain about the Council’s foster for adoption scheme. Mr and Mrs B believe the Council misled them about the likelihood of being able to adopt a child. The Ombudsman has found fault with the Council causing injustice. The Council has agreed to make a financial payment to Mr and Mrs B for the distress they experienced.

⁴ 02-Jul-2020 Enforcement

Summary: Ms J complains about the actions of ‘Merton Enforcement Agents’, an enforcement service operated by the Council that acts for it and the London Borough of Sutton Council. The agents collected three debts from Ms J on behalf of the two Boroughs. Ms J complains:she could not contact an enforcement agent employed by the Council; the Council did not help when she asked for time to pay her debts; the agent discussed her debt improperly with her brother and unreasonably put pressure on him to pay her debt; the agent twice wrongly seized Ms J’s car which she says was essential to her employment as a ‘tool of the trade’; and failed to issue her the correct notices when it seized her car.

³ 28-Feb-2020 Refuse and recycling

Summary: Mr A says the Council has missed waste collections and wants him to contribute towards the cost of a new waste collection point at his home. The Ombudsman has found some evidence of fault by the Council regarding missed collections. There is no fault in respect of the new waste collection arrangements. He has upheld the complaint and completed the investigation because the Council has agreed to drop the requirement for a new collection point.

² 28-Jan-2020 Enforcement

Summary: The Ombudsman found fault on Ms B’s complaint about the Council failing to promptly investigate her report of a failure to comply with a planning condition. The Council failed to show it properly considered whether to use its discretionary enforcement power for a failure to provide sound insulation testing. The agreed action remedies the injustice caused. It was not fault for refusing to act on other parts of the condition or her report of building regulation breaches.

¹ 27-Jan-2020 Special educational needs

Summary: The Ombudsman upholds Mr and Mrs X’s complaint about the delay in issuing an Education, Health and Care plan for their daughter, Y. The Council failed to consult with all the relevant professionals and delayed seeking advice from other sources. It failed to communicate with Mr and Mrs X, missed deadlines and did not keep clear records of decisions. Y missed out on support as a result of the delay. The Council will apologise and make a payment to Y and Mr and Mrs X to remedy their injustice. It will also hold an early annual review for Y and remind staff of their duties in carrying out needs assessments and issuing plans.

Every year the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman compiles statistics for all the Councils in England.  This data is for periods 1 April to 31 March.

The latest data on Merton Council is from detailed investigations for the period between 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020.

They rate three different areas for the complaints upheld against the council.

Complaints upheld – Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman uphold complaints when they find some form of fault in an authority’s actions, including where the authority accepted fault before they investigated. A focus on how often things go wrong, rather than simple volumes of complaints provides a clearer indicator of performance.

Compliance with recommendations – Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman recommend ways for authorities to put things right when faults have caused injustice. Their recommendations try to put people back in the position they were before the fault and they monitor authorities to ensure they comply with our recommendations. Failure to comply with their recommendations is rare. An authority with a compliance rate below 100% should scrutinise those complaints where it failed to comply and identify any learning.

Satisfactory remedies provided by the authority – Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman want to encourage the early resolution of complaints and to credit authorities that have a positive and open approach to resolving complaints. They recognise cases where an authority has taken steps to put things right before the complaint came to them. The authority upheld the complaint and they agreed with how it offered to put things right.

Merton Council scored 78% 👎 of complaints investigated were upheld – this is above the national average.

For Compliance with Ombudsman recommendations, Merton Council scored 100% 👍 of cases they were satisfied the authority had successfully implemented their recommendations, however, they do note that “Failure to comply with our recommendations is rare”.

Finally, Satisfactory remedies provided by the authority for Merton Council scored just 12% 👎 of upheld cases the found the authority had provided a satisfactory remedy before the complaint reached the Ombudsman.  This is below the national average.

A letter is sent to the Chief Executive Officer (Ged Curran) detailing the statistics for the year.  The year ending 31 March 2020 letter can be found here.

london borough of merton

Need to make your own complaint about Merton Council to Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman?

Visit the LGO website for further information.