William Eichler 06 July 2023

Investigation reveals complaints backlog in Kent

Investigation reveals complaints backlog in Kent  image
Image: Panchenko Vladimir / Shutterstock.com.

Kent County Council has a backlog of 170 unanswered children’s services and education complaints, an investigation has revealed.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman was asked to investigate after the council failed to respond to a mother’s complaint that her son had not been provided with the Speech and Language Therapy (SALT).

During the investigation, the council confirmed it had 141 overdue Special Educational Needs (SEND) stage one complaints. It also had a further 29 overdue SEND stage two complaints.

The council reported the average response time for stage one complaints was 43 working days and 51 working days for stage two. Both far exceed the 20-day timescale set out in the council's policy.

Paul Najsarek, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: ‘Kent County Council has explained to me that its delays in dealing with complaints are due to low staffing levels and high workloads, but this cannot excuse the council from performing its duty to these parents.

‘With such systemic issues in responding to complaints, I am concerned that there is a potential for significant ongoing injustice to many of the county’s children until the council gets on top of this backlog.

‘Therefore, I am pleased the council has accepted my recommendations not only to improve its complaints handling but also its Education, Health and Care Plan process to ensure other children in the county are not put to a disadvantage.’

A Kent CC spokesperson said: 'We recognise that we have fallen short of the performance people have a right to expect of us. We apologised unreservedly for these shortfalls last year following the Ofsted revisit. That apology remains in place for those families who continue to be affected by unacceptable delays on Education, Health and Care Plan processes, and by the way we have handled their complaints.'

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