Complaints to the LGSCO / PHSO

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) investigates complaints about child and adult social care. The Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) investigates complaints about health services. They are the final stage for unresolved complaints. You are usually expected to complain to the organisation you are unhappy with first, so that it has the chance to look into your concerns and, where needed, put things right for you. 

People may have a complaint about services provided by both health and social care organisations. Instead of having to complain separately to both ombudsmen, there is a Joint Working Team that can investigate these issues together.

This gives you:

  • a single investigator who can look at the whole case
  • a quicker and more focused investigation

It also means the different organisations being investigated only have to deal with a single person.

It does not matter which Ombudsman you originally complain to.

The Joint Working Team is managed by the LGSCO but has investigators from both ombudsmen. They are trained to investigate health and social care issues.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO)

The LGSCO (Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman) looks at individual complaints about councils, all adult social care providers (including care homes and home care agencies) and some other organisations providing local public services.

Council Services Covered

Although we are focussing more on complaints concerning SEN issues, it is worth noting that they look at complaints about most council services which include:

Before making a complaint

The LGSCO’s resources explain when you should register a complaint with them and how to do it in the most efficient way. These should be looked at before making a complaint. In addition:

They will investigate complaints against local authorities where the complaint has not been resolved by the local authority’s complaints procedure.

The LGSCO investigates the process by which local authority decisions were made and whether there has been maladministration, rather than examining the merits of a decision which has been properly taken.

The LGSCO will decide whether there has been an injustice to the complainant and/or there is evidence of maladministration. Maladministration can include delay, failure to take action and failure to follow procedures. The LGO does not investigate the merits of decisions which have been properly taken, but which the complainant thinks are wrong, but does look at the decision-making process and the delivery of provision set out in EHC plans.
The LGSCO does not investigate matters which can be appealed to the Tribunal, such as a decision not to carry out an assessment.

The LGSCO can investigate complaints that the special educational provision set out in EHC plans is not being delivered and, in doing so, can investigate what part the school may have played in the provision not being delivered. (The LGSCO cannot, otherwise, investigate complaints about schools’ SEN provision and has no powers to make recommendations to a school.)

In association with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), the LGSCO can also investigate complaints about the delivery of health provision set out in plans. As set out in the previous paragraph, the LGSCO, in association with the PHSO with regard to health, does not investigate the merits of a decision which has been properly taken, but does look at the decision-making process and the delivery of provision set out in EHC plans.

Possible Outcomes

1) Making a decision

The LGSCO will make one of the following decisions:

  • Uphold your complaint and recommend how the organisation should put things right
  • Uphold only part of your complaint
  • Uphold your complaint but not make any recommendations because the organisation may have put things right by the time we decide your complaint
  • Uphold your complaint but not make any recommendations as we consider the fault didn’t have a significant effect on you
  • Not uphold your complaint
  • We cannot or will not investigate your complaint

2) Putting things right

They might ask the organisation to:

  • apologise to you
  • provide a service you should have had
  • make a decision it should have done before
  • reconsider a decision it did not take properly in the first place
  • improve its procedures so similar problems do not happen again
  • make a payment

They do not have legal powers to force organisations they investigate to follow their recommendations, but the organisations almost always do.

Please Note: LGSCO publish all decisions six weeks after the date of the decision, unless they decide it is not in your best interests to do so. In a small number of investigations they find issues that other councils and care providers could learn from, or the public should know about. For these they will produce a detailed report of the investigation and publish it and may also send the report to the media with a press release.

Decision statements and public interest reports do not reveal your identity or that of the people involved, but do name the organisation investigated.

How do I make a complaint?

Complaints can be made to the Local Government Ombudsman via its website. Help in making complaints is available on this number: 0300 061 0614.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

The role of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) is to investigate complaints that individuals have been treated unfairly or have received a poor service from government departments and other public organisations in the UK, and the NHS in England.

The PHSO can investigate complaints about the commissioning and provision of healthcare. The PHSO can conduct joint investigations with the LGO where a complaint includes concerns about the delivery of the health provision in EHC plans. They will normally investigate a complaint only once the NHS organisation has had a chance to resolve the issue first.

The PHSO can also investigate a number of other organisations which have to have regard to this Code: Ofsted, the Education Funding Agency, the Skills Funding Agency, and the Department for Education (including its School Complaints Unit and the Secretary of State for Education).

The PHSO will generally expect the individual to have completed the organisation’s own complaints procedure first. Complaints about government departments and public organisations must be referred by an MP. If someone has any difficulties getting in touch with an MP, they can contact the PHSO for help.

The PHSO can investigate complaints that the Tribunal’s administrative staff have got something wrong or acted in an unreasonable manner, although they cannot look into the actions of Tribunal members or the decisions made by the Tribunal. PHSO would generally expect the complaint to have been made to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service first. These complaints will also need to be referred by an MP.

What you can expect.

You can complain to the PHSO if an organisation has not acted properly or fairly or has given you a poor service and not put things right. If they decide that the organisation got things wrong that have had a negative effect on you, they can recommend what it should do about this. The following is a table taken directly from their website.

What we can recommendWhat we can’t recommend
We can ask an organisation to take action to put things right for you (or somebody else affected). This could mean getting the organisation to acknowledge its mistakes, apologise to you, or pay you back if you have been left out of pocket because of what happened.We can’t make an organisation: fire or ‘strike off’ someone pay compensation, in the way that courts and tribunals can.
We can ask an organisation to look again at a decision it has made, but only if it is clear that it made mistakes, acted unfairly, or didn’t follow its process when making it.We can’t make an organisation cancel or change a decision it is entitled to make as part of its responsibilities (for example, a claim for benefits or other entitlements), or replace its decision with our own.
We can ask an organisation to improve its services to avoid the same things happening again. This can include asking an organisation to review its policies or procedures, guidance or standards.We can’t make an organisation change its policies or procedures, guidance or standards, or replace these with our own.
How to complaint

Please Note: there are time limits to when you can make a complaint to the PHSO.

If you want to the PHSO to consider a complaint follow this guidance