LGO York-ensuring councils remain corrupt

This is my experience of York Local Governments office.

If I had known what I knew now I wouldn’t have even bothered to put in a complaint about the social workers who abused my family. The process is so traumatic and the end result is nil even though findings of maladministration were found.

I put in a complaint about 2 social workers from Lincoln social services. This was late 2005. My complaint dragged on as I had a very hostile and adversarial complaints officer who insisted that I didnt have a complaint. That it was a vexatious complaint and he did his utmost to make it as hard as possible for me to progress my complaint.

Needless to say when he informed me in front of my solicitor that a fellow complaints officer in the next county would do my second stage investigation I was horrified. The complaints officer told us both that he and the Nottingham complaints officer did 2nd stage investigations for each other. I declined this complaints officer doing my second stage investigation and said it sounded like a set up.

At this time I had been in contact with the LGO York office. I told the Scottish investigator what the complaints officer had told me and said this needed investigating.I said I was worried that investigations would not be conducted properly with council complaints officers doing these investigations.

The Scottish investigator said we have no problem with this. JC had upheld complaints and they were happy with that.
Needless to say I was not happy.The obvious concern was that minor complaints might be upheld whilst more serious complaints would be whitewashed. I said the complaints they had both worked on needed looking at.

I didnt want to be forced into having JC as an independent investigator but the LGO did not see a problem with this. So I went to my MP and another investigator was chosen.

I found the LGO’s dismissal of such obvious corruption very disconcerting and already I began to worry about their impartiality.

The council had written to the LGO with a muck raking summary of myself. In it they had said that I had a history of previous offending!!!
The legal dept,who sent the letter,had obviously skimmed information about me in the hope of collating anything negative. What they failed to read properly was that the social worker and myself had been talking about the way paedophiles operate and their history of offending. It was basically a lesson in how to avoid them. When I told Ms W this and how dreadful it was that they had said I had a histroy of offending and sent this summary,she dismissed it as nothing. I found her attitude completely wrong for someone who is supposed to be impartial.

Due to the complaints officer getting me to write my complaint over and over I asked this investigator what I could complain about as the CO was being difficult but got a vague reply.

I was assigned 2 more independent investigators,both of whom were biased towards the council. PS did a whitewash as Id expected due to the seriousness of my complaint against the local authority. Stage 3 wasnt much better.

I rang the lgo investigator to see if I could skip stage 3. I have a slight nervous problem and I was getting so scared of having to sit with a large group of people especially as Id have to see the bullying social work team leader again and felt terrible. I explained all this to the LGO and she said I could skip that stage so I was relieved.

But 3 days later she declared I would have to go to the stage 3 review which was a terrible turnaround for me.

I sat through it and really it was another whitewash with a QC barrister declaring that the social workers were guilty of a bit of bad practice here and there but it didnt amount to administration.When I told the panel I was going to put my complaint to the LGO stage they frowned and looked worried.

I put it to the lgo stage and it was 7 or 8 months until an investigator was assigned due to heavy workloads.Then one dropped out and another was assigned.

She told me that I did have a serious complaint. That it hadn’t been properly investigated at stage 2 and the stage 3 panel should have made him do the investigation again. She said he hadnt investigated any of the issues I had raised. As Id always said the independent investigators assigned were only interested in protecting the LA. When I found out the money they had been paid to do the investigations (thousands of pounds) I could see why.

LGO also said that she sympathised that I had found it so difficult to write out a complaint as how would I know correct procedures and she gave an example of another complainant who had struggled.

Indeed I was criticised by another investigator Ms f for not identifying the main issues in my complaint. I found this rather hypocritical and unnecessary after AC’s comments.Particularly when I had asked the LGO for help in identifying things to put in my complaint early on. My solicitor who was helping me was baffled by the whole process.

I wrote to the LGO and said the way my complaint had been dealt with by the council needing investigating also. I was informed that dissecting my complaint in this way would detract from the central investigation. In effect they then started blaming me for the way Id written my complaint as an excuse not to investigate the corrupt complaints process that operates in the council.

If there is corruption in the complaints process then it needs investigating too. As there is maladministration there and Ive heard that Lincoln complaints system is as bad as ever. I fail to see how paying me £250 for a bad service is going to change things for other users.

I have just found out from the assistant ombudsman that I am to be awarded £250 extra from the council for the way they dealt with my complaint.As above.

I find dealing out these paltry amounts of money for very corrupt services is insulting. It achieves nothing. None of the workers in the complaints process are investigated and the independent investigators can continue to whitewash complaints for vast sums of money to unsuspecting complainants.

After years of my complaint being at the LGO -it was actually completed 2.5 years ago and all that needed doing was for a letter to be sent to the council they decided on a final settlement of £1000.

I did not agree to this settlement. We went through injustice and unnecessary care proceedings due to social services bad handling of my case. My son suffered separation anxiety for 2 years and I had to undergo a lot of counselling.

The LGO’s response was we can only award £1000 as its out of public money.

I said £30 000 was spent on care proceedings,only for the council to write me a letter afterwards saying my parenting was of a high standard!

I also commented that the complaint cost £10 000,distributed to all the people who whitewashed it. This fell on deaf ears at the LGO office.
In fact this last investigator who was due to wrap the complaint up told me most people thought the social services complaints process was really good.I found this astonishing.the kind of thing that a social care complaints officer would say.

Most people think that the ss complaints process is the worst of all the complaints processes. with frequent tales of people’s complaint actually being investigated by their own social workers. People on the internet seemed to have the same struggles as myself. I just found her statement bizarre and quite frankly I felt she was just a cover up merchant for the councils.

Ms F again criticised me for the way Id written out my complaint, expecting me to obviously have some knowledge of social work procedure and law and some training in how to write out a complaint in the correct format!
Again this contradicts the previous finding that the council should have found the same failings at the early stage that the LGO found,which I agree with.So I found her comment bizarre. I felt she was blaming me for the corrupt council complaints process.Again the fact that they have to pay out money for their bad handling of my complaint contradicts her claim that the problems arose from me being unable to understand how to write a complaint properly,

I also pointed out that the GSCC were to be involved.She then tried to make out that the sws had been guilty of breaking procedures but nothing else. As the previous investigator had gone to court to get court statements and you could see by the sws reports that they were wholly negative and biased. She also got the reports from other profs and sws who were honest about my parenting and gave me glowing reports then I found this investigators bias towards the social workers odd.When it was clear they had been up to no good.

None of the investigators have been investigated themselves and the CO carries on as always!!

Another person at the LGO office said I could put in a complaint about the way the LGO had handled my complaint,ie the length of time it had taken. So I said send me a complaints form please.

None came but I got a letter from the assistant ombudsman stating he would look into it.

So today I got a letter from him. He was going to pay me £250 for the length of time it had taken for the lgo to see to my complaint.

He also said that £1000 would suffice. That I had asked the council to accommodate my son so he inferred the separation anxiety he had suffered was my fault for asking for some respite. He also said how can the LGO measure how much compensation should be paid.Well theyve obviously measured maladministration at £1000. How do they measure the trauma people suffer at such a low amount?

This is contrary to what AC said. She was concerned that it was the council that had offered me respite at any time,in the locality and with my son being returned home afterwards. She found that this was part of their failings.

I was furious when this ombudsman inferred that it was my fault.Again this contradicts what AC found as part of the failings.

He then said that main social worker did not work at the council anymore. I dont know what relevance this has as the social worker was not sacked but transferred to the next county so how is this rectifying matters? Improving standards in the councils?

It just means that parents in the next county will suffer her incompetence. The other worker who was equally as bad,her manager,still works at the council. Indeed the council managers defended her vigorously at the stage 3 review,making the most ridiculous excuses for her. the panel pointed out bad practice to her and she still repeated that her actions were fine.

The assistant ombudsman then stated that the council were going to look into if they should change procedures.

This is very concerning as the LGO in a previous summary had said the council had definitely changed procedures but they couldnt give me any more information due to confidentiality. But the LGO said they were satisfied with the councils actions.

Now it appears that the council havent really done anything at all. A promise of looking to see if they should change procedures is just another way of fobbing off the LGO and returning to the way they always operate.

The abusive way the council treated me in the complaints process and the hiring of whitewashers shows that the council arent interested in raising standards or changing anything.

3 Responses to “LGO York-ensuring councils remain corrupt”

  1. Trevor Nunn Says:

    Your case has many parallels to mine.

    Both involve the York office of the Local Government Ombudsman, as many others on the Internet also do. They appear to be much worse than the other two offices. Although having dealt with them twice I can well understand why.

    Both involve serious complaints being overlooked whilst minor complaints are upheld.

    We both consider the LGO to be a waste of time and effort and biased in favour or the authority we are complaining about.

    Both include the council lying about us.

    Both were told our complaints were serious then only the minor complaints were upheld whilst the more serious complaints were buried

    Both of us were wrongly criticised by an investigator.

    And the parallels go on and on…..Looks like the LGO’s MO (Modus operandi) hasn’t changed over the years.

  2. brillmum Says:

    What concerns me is that I was told that the council had definitely changed procedures. They could not tell me what as it was confidential. Then I got a letter from the asst ombudsman saying that the council had looked into changing procedures. So I thought the truth has finally emerged. Nothing has happened. The council has fobbed the LGO off with their standard “we will look into changing procedures” which basically means go away we will carry on as normal.

    Also the asst ombudsman made comments about my case which are false meaning he has clearly not read all my case whilst looking into the way my complaint was handled by the LGO. Taking 3 – 4 years to deal with the final stage is unacceptable and getting Anne Seex to give me another £250 is laughable.

  3. gettingthere Says:

    I have had a similar experience with a complaint about social services taking several years. We ended up making several complaints, including about the complaints process. Ironically, it has been all the major stuff that they have had to admit to, including maladministration.

    What I have learnt is that it is NOT about what it true, it is only about what you can prove. I would recommend anybody to keep a diary/journal, use email as much as possible and to request all records under the Data Protection Act (it can take a while but can be worth the wait).

    Throughout the complaints process you will be disadvantaged so you have to be really committed to seeing it through and have the resources to be able to do so, i.e. academic ability, emotional toughness, support of friends/family/etc, plus the time and money. Not everybody is fortunate enough to have these things, so, from the outset there is an unaccountability and bias in favour of social services continuing on as they please. This then is just one way in which the system perpetuates poor practice and injustice.

    The Complaints Manager gets to pick the investigation team, or, Stage 3 panel members they want. This means that there is a further bias built into the system as they can choose the people most likely to give an outcome most favourable to them. Remember, the local authority pay very handsomely and if you want repeat business they have to like you. That being said, there are some good investigators out there.

    Probably the best opportunity to derail the complaint comes with the wording for the Stage 2 investigation. You really do have to box cleaver on this one. For example, father than saying something like ‘there was no support’ you have to say ‘there was little support’ because all they have to show is that a social worker visited once and Bob’s your Uncle they have proved on paper that you did have support after all, even if that is not at all how the visit was experienced. With hindsight you may end up feeling your complaint was hyjacked at this point. Again, think about what you can prove not what is true.

    Delay is another common tactic to wear you down but it can also be used to your advantage. This is when you are busy getting all the records/evidence you can under the DPA. You may then be in a position to be able to use their own information against them, even if you are at Stage 3 of the process by then. One of the favourite delaying tactics of my local authority is to insert a meeting in between each Stage, generally I have refused these and just asked for the complaint to move forward.

    As I know my paperwork inside out but am rubbish at thinking on my feet in a pressurised situation, especially when outnumbered, I decided to simply read out a prepared statement on each point of complaint and refer to the documents I had already submitted. This worked a treat on several levels, firstly it lowered my anxiety levels on the day because I did not have to think too much, secondly it meant that I had said everything I wanted to but been able to remain focused at the same time (I can go off on a tangent!), and, finally it meant that the minute taker could not record me as having said anything other than what was read out because I gave her a copy and it was included verbatum.

    For us the LGO got involved when the local authority just didn’t bother themselves about meeting our desired outcomes. It seems the LGO is there to resolve complaints, bring about some sort of resolution between parties. If you are serching for justice I think you are unlikely to find it here. Somebody wise said to me that one of the problems is that an Ombudsman will regularly deal with a particular authority and build up a relationship with the Complaints Officer there which eventually makes them less likely to challenge. I personally think that is quite probable.

    Anyway, although I feel very proud that I have achieved against the odds and have had probably 90% of my complaints upheld there is also a deep frustration. I think that many people like me want to make things better for others following us so the same thing does not happen to them but the system invests so much in maintaining things they way they are and defending the often indefensible that it makes the chances of positive changes being made almost impossible. Then there is the matter of compensation, you will only get a paultry token which will not reflect the damage caused (£250 for time and trouble seems standard). An apology as a few words in a letter which otherwise continues to minimise the impact of substandard social workers in a failing organisation is quite frankly worthless.

    Having said that, although there were many times when I wondered if it were all worth it and I felt I did not have the strength to go on I did continue to the end. The reason? Simply that I believed to quit would be the same as accepting that what had been done to me and mine was okay when it was so not okay.

    To Brillmum I would like to say that you are now battle hardened. You mention the GSCC – every social worker needs to be registered with them to be able to practice. As the actions of indivudual social workers is at issue you may want to make complaints about them to the GSCC. If you have already gone down this path or intend to do so then I Wish you all the very best of luck and hope that you get the outcome you want.

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