The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has published a short guide on good administrative practice during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that when normal services resume, it will “inevitably” investigate complaints about what happened during this crisis phase.
The LGO said it had recognised that the COVID-19 crisis was placing unique pressures on care providers and councils, and had responded by suspending all its casework activity that would have demanded information or other action by these organisations.
In its short guide, which can be viewed here via the Lawyers in Local Government site), the LGO said it expected councils and care providers to respond appropriately to any complaints during this time of national emergency.
“Resources are stretched, redeployed and operating under emerging and fast changing rules and guidance. But, whilst we understand their responses may look different to those we would expect during normal arrangements, we think that all urgent and serious public concerns should still receive attention,” it added.
The Ombudsman said its principles of good administrative practice applied equally well under crisis conditions. “They are designed to act as a compass, not as a map. The compass will work equally well, no matter how rough the terrain is to be crossed.”
The LGO said the short guide was therefore intended as an addendum to these principles, and was structured around the same six principles.
“It is intended to be helpful in encouraging organisations to reflect on practice during the crisis, and to make clear the standards we expect and the way we will consider complaints when we investigate downstream.”
Amongst other things, the guide says that “Where Covid is causing you to devolve decisions to a more local level, make sure those decision makers can access prompt, appropriate legal advice where necessary.”