Complaints to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman can investigate complaints against local authorities or adult social care providers and issue recommendations.

This content applies to England

Role of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) considers complaints against local authorities regarding homelessness decisions, some housing allocations, housing improvement grants, housing benefits and social services. The LGSCO was formerly the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) until its name (but not the service) changed on 19 June 2017.

The LGSCO can investigate cases of injustice caused through maladministration in connection with actions or inactions by a local authority or provider of adult social care (including care that is privately funded without local authority involvement[1]). Maladministration may include neglect and unjustified delay; malice, bias or unfair discrimination; providing inaccurate or misleading advice. The LGSCO may investigate complaints and, if they find in favour of the complainant, may require the authority or care provider to remedy the injustice and/or compensate the complaint.

The Ombudsman is independent and impartial. The service is free of charge.

LGSCO jurisdiction

The LGSCO can consider complaints against local authorities or adult social care providers relating to specific maters.

Complaints about local authorities in respect of their landlord function are dealt with by the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS).

Housing allocations under Part 6

The LGSCO can consider complaints about housing allocations under Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996, such as the:

  • treatment of applications, whether dealt with by the local authority or any other organisation acting on its behalf

  • assessment of applications, the award of points, banding or a decision that the application does not qualify for reasonable preference

  • operation of choice-based lettings schemes

  • the suitability of accommodation offered

Complaints for applications for transfers by existing tenants that fall outside Part 6 are dealt with by the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS).

Homelessness

The LGSCO can consider complaints about homelessness functions under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996, such as:

  • the treatment of applications for assistance, whether dealt with by the local authority or any other organisation acting on its behalf

  • homelessness advice and homelessness prevention

  • decisions about the entitlement for and allocation of interim and temporary accommodation

Examples given in the Homelessness Code of Guidance are where the local authority:[2]

  • took too long to do something

  • did not follow its own rules or the law

  • broke its promises

  • treated the applicant unfairly

  • gave the applicant wrong information

General housing advice

The LGSCO can consider complaints about:

  • general advice about housing options

  • the handling of reports from tenants of private landlords about unlawful eviction, harassment and other matters

Housing benefit

The LGSCO can consider complaints about:

  • delays in processing a claim

  • delays in making payments

  • failure to properly notify an applicant of a decision or of the right to appeal

Grants

The LGSCO can consider complaints about:

  • applications for mandatory and discretionary housing improvement grants

  • provision of advice, processing of applications, preparation of schedules of work, payment of grant and other decisions on grant eligibility and entitlement

  • actions of social services occupational therapy services with regard to assessment and eligibility for disabled facilities grant

Antisocial behaviour

The LGSCO can consider complaints about antisocial behaviour which does not fall within the remit of a social landlord (and which are under the jurisdiction of the HOS).

Noise nuisance

The LGSCO can consider complaints about statutory noise and other nuisance to environmental health services.

Sale or disposal of land on housing estates

The LGSCO can consider complaints about:

  • applications or requests to buy land owned by local authorities

  • sales processes for properties owned by local authorities

  • right to buy and right to acquire for local authority tenants

  • planning and building control at properties owned by a social landlord

  • applications for planning permission

  • planning enforcement

  • applications and enforcement under the building regulations

Social care services

The LGSCO can investigate complaints about adult social care. Joint investigations with the Health Service Ombudsman can be carried out if the health service is involved.

LGSCO complaint procedure

A complaint to the Ombudsman can be made if it appears that maladministration has taken place or that something went wrong which caused injustice to a person. The Ombudsman expects people to give local authorities or adult social care providers the chance to deal with complaints first, and will not usually investigate a complaint unless the complainant has used the organisation's complaints procedure.

The Ombudsman will not normally investigate a complaint until the applicant has exercised the right of internal review, where this is available, or the matter has been, is, or could be the subject of court proceedings, for example an appeal to the county court under section 204 of the Housing Act 1996. The Ombudsman will not investigate matters the applicant has known about for more than 12 months, unless the Ombudsman considers that it is reasonable to do so.[3]

Ombudsman findings

If an investigation proceeds to a full formal report,[4] the Ombudsman will publish its decision three months after it is made, unless it is not in the complainant's best interests to do so.

Where the Ombudsman upholds a complaint, the report will contain recommendations that the local authority or adult social care provider should follow. These could include:

  • paying compensation

  • providing a service that should have been provided

  • making a commitment to improve procedures in the future

Most local authorities and adult social care providers do comply with recommendations in the Ombudsman's report. The Ombudsman does not have the legal power to intervene or compel the organisation to reassess its decisions.

If a council does not agree to a settlement proposed by the Ombudsman, the Ombudsman will issue a public interest report, naming the council. It must be made available to the public, and advertised in the local press covering the council's area.

Where a council does not agree to carry out recommendations in the Ombudsman's report, a further report will be issued. If the council still does not act on the recommendations, the council must publish a statement in a local newspaper explaining why.

Where a care provider does not agree to carry out the recommendations in the Ombudsman's report, the Ombudsman will issue an adverse findings notice.[5] The notice will be shared with the Care Quality Commission (which regulates health and social care in England) and the care provider will be required to publish it appropriately. Where this is not done, the Ombudsman will publish the notice.

The Ombudsman housing reports summarise its findings from complaints made.

Who can complain to the LGSCO

Any member of the public affected by actions or inactions of a local authority can complain to the Ombudsman. Councillors can help their constituents to make a complaint, but they cannot make a complaint against their own local authority themselves, except about any services they receive in common with other service users.

Voluntary bodies and advice agencies can complain on behalf of their clients with their client's consent. Consent is also required when a person is complaining on behalf of friends or relatives.

If a complainant employs a professional person, such as a solicitor, to make a complaint on their behalf, the Ombudsman will only ask the council or care provider to pay the fee in exceptional circumstances because people do not usually need a professional to complain.

Making a complaint to the LGSCO

To make a complaint to the Ombudsman, a complaint form must be completed. The LGSCO has also produced a number of useful complaint fact sheets.

Complaining to the Ombudsman during the Covid-19 pandemic

On 29 June 2020 the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman resumed existing casework and taking on new complaints. The LGSCO proceedings were temporarily suspended in March 2020 in response to the pandemic.

For more information about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on housing see Coronavirus (Covid-19) and housing.

Last updated: 19 March 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.34B Local Government Act 1974 inserted by Sch.5(1) Health Act 2009

  • [2]

    para 19.42 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [3]

    paras 19.43 and 19.44 Homelessness Code of Guidance, MHCLG, Feb 2018.

  • [4]

    s.30(4) and (5) Local Government Act 1974.

  • [5]

    s.34I Local Government Act 1974 inserted by Sch.5(1) Health Act 2009.