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10% REDUCTION: Council ‘congratulated’ on complaints record

10% REDUCTION: Council ‘congratulated’ on complaints record

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council building, Image: Google Maps

Knowsley council received a total of 749 complaints last year from people unhappy with the way it operated.

In a report discussed at a brief meeting of the council’s governance and audit committee last night, officers noted this was a 10% reduction in complaints received compared to the previous year.

Of the complaints received by Knowsley Council, 22 were referred to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, with four of those being upheld by the watchdog, leading the council to pay damages of over £1,600.

Speaking about the report at a meeting held at Huyton’s municipal building last night (November 15) Cllr Jayne Aston said: “It’s a good news report to be honest I think.

“If you think of the many thousands of interactions we have with our residents throughout the year, these are very small numbers we’re talking about.”

One of the complaints upheld by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman service in February this year involved a family who had been separated following a safeguarding referral.

It resulted in the council being told to pay the dad, referred to as Mr. X, £750 for distress caused and to offer his family counselling to try to help them repair their relationships after a series of shortfalls in the way the referral was dealt with led the family to being separated for several months.

Following a disclosure at Knowsley school in 2019, a safeguarding referral was triggered for Mr X’s family and a strategy meeting convened the same day which led to the opening of a safeguarding investigation.

Mr X later complained the council had “failed to properly investigate” the referral resulting in him spending time away from the family home and “damaging familiy relationships.”

After the safeguarding investigation was launched, Mr X was told he must stay away from the family home for a period of several months and he said numerous inconsistencies and errors in the investigation caused unecessary delays.

He claimed the council failed to explain the allegations made against him, failed to question conflicting statements produced by the child’s school and allowed the mother but not him to return to the family home 24 hours after the allegations were made without sufficient explanation.

Mr X claimed the council only provided him with 10 minutes notice of written reports ahead of family conferences he should have been provided with three days in advance and that there was an unacceptable eight week delay in interviewing the child.

He also claimed the council failed to consider the opinions and professional judgements of health visitors and a child psychologist, failed to pay any visits at all to the children from early June 2019 onwards and failed to explain why he was at first allowed contact with his children but then forbidden from doing so.

An initial investigation by a council appointed independent investigator upheld some of the complaints, although Mr X claimed the investigation had been flawed leading to a review panel being formed.

The review panel also upheld several of Mr X’s complaints and found fundamental errors in the reports reviewed, including referring to another child at the family home as a university student even though that child was just eight years old.

The ombudsman found the council “at fault causing injustice” and the remedy offered of £250 was insufficient given the distress caused and damage to Mr X’s relationships.

The council was ordered to pay £750 in damages, to check new staff guidance is meeting its objectives and to offer a programme of counselling to the family to help them repair their relationships.

As part of the report into the council’s annual ‘have your say’ review, a letter from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman was attached, which included reference to the number of complaints they dealt with and how many were upheld. The letter noted Knowsley’s 100% compliance rate in responding to recommendations provided.

Speaking at last night’s meeting, Cllr Aston said the letter was “testament to how we deal with complaints from our residents, we certainly learn from them and try not to repeat again.

“It’s a good report and congratulations everyone to keeping these numbers as low as possible.”

 

Words: Lisa Rand, Local Democracy Reporter


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