A number of public interest reports published by a government agency within the last year point to serious failings by local authorities across England.
Documents from the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) detail a number of failures by local authorities which lead to significant issues for members of the public.
A pregnant homeless woman was left to sleep on a hard floor, children with special educational needs missed out on schooling, and people with social care needs were not adequately supported, according to reports published by the LGO.
What is the Local Government Ombudsman?
Thousands of complaints are made against local authorities each year, with many of these complaints escalated to the LGO - a government agency which is tasked with monitoring local authorities and making recommendations where there have been failures to provide adequate services.
While many of these complaints relate to fairly minor issues, such as parking fines, planning errors or refuse collection, some highlight serious failing on behalf of local authorities to carry out their duties and provide services.
Part of the LGO’s remit is to publish Public Interest reports on investigations and cases which are deemed to be of particular interest to the public.
According to the LGO, common reasons for these reports being published are “significant injustice, systemic issues, major learning points and non-compliance with our recommendations.”
Here are some examples of these failures.
Domestic abuse victim not support properly when she became homeless
A recent report found that it took “at least eight months too long” for Wandsworth Council to offer a domestic abuse victim interim accommodation after she became homeless.
After fleeing the home she had shared with her abuser to stay temporarily with family, a woman approached Wandsworth Council for support, but was initially refused.
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said: “The woman had suffered a brutal assault and the council’s failures meant she continued to live in an area where she was at risk of violence.”
Elderly man suffers after being separated from wife of 59 years
An elderly man became “very low, did not eat or drink properly and lost weight” after Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead council separated him from his wife of 59 years, in what the Ombudsman described as “a prime example of the council losing sight of the real people behind its busy caseload”.
After receiving treatment in hospital, the man’s wife had been discharged to a care home, but he was left at home, despite warnings from family that the separation would have a detrimental effect on him.
The husband’s condition quickly deteriorated, according to the report, and he died a few weeks later.
Pregnant homeless woman left to sleep on hard floor
Tower Hamlets council was criticised after an LGO report highlighted the case of a pregnant homeless woman who was left to sleep on the floor of an unfurnished flat, due to delays in the council assessing her needs and offering support.
The unfurnished flat the council had housed the woman in was a significant distance from her support network, and, despite raising concerns, she remained without a bed to sleep on for the first month of a three month period.
Boy misses out on full time secondary education because of council’s failures
A Sheffield teenager missed out on the majority of his secondary schooling after the council failed to provide a suitable alternative for him.
A report published by the LGO in November 2020 found that, after leaving his first secondary school in 2015, the council failed to provide the teenager support, which meant he did not receive a full week’s education until March 2020.
The LGO described the case as “an extreme example” and a “stark reminder of what can happen when councils get things wrong and the devastating effect this has on children’s education and wellbeing”.
Family left in overcrowded home for more than a decade
A report published in August 2019 found that a mother of three in Lancashire who had taken on the care of her two grandchildren had to sleep on a mattress in her living room for more than a decade, because Lancashire County council did not deliver the support it had agreed to.
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said: “Throughout the period five children have grown up and become young adults - because of the overcrowding, the whole family has struggled with a lack of privacy and emotional development.”