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Case study

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

A budget cut of 37%, increased caseload and falling staff numbers was the perfect storm facing the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. Streamlined processes and significant culture change were the answer.

Overview

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in England (LGSCO) investigates complaints from the public about local public services and social care providers in England.

In 2013/2014 LGSCO faced a budget cut of 37%, an increase in caseload and falling staff numbers. They not only survived, they thrived. Productivity increased by 29.7%. Cost per case, already one of the lowest in the sector, was further reduced. Performance targets were exceeded and quality standards improved.

How did they do this? Through a radical business transformation project which combined significant culture change with simplified, streamlined ways of working.

LGSCO uses a Workpro case management system to manage all complaints and enquiries. Workpro is used throughout the organisation, from frontline staff in the intake team, to caseworkers in the assessment and investigation teams. An update of the Workpro system to match and support LGSCO’s new business processes was a key part of the business transformation project. 

Process Transformation

Prior to the organisational revamp, the process was over-complicated and too many cases were being passed to investigation. This caused a bottleneck in the system, with little differentiation in the handling of complex and less complex cases.

This mattered. By the time people contact the Ombudsman they have usually gone through a lengthy complaints process with the service provider. Patience is wearing thin and, crucially, systemic injustices could keep occurring if not quickly identified and put right.

The process was radically re-designed.

An assessment stage was added to identify high risk cases. Like a hospital triage system, this enables LGO’s handling of cases to be proportionate to the issues raised. New performance targets were adopted and built in to the workflow, with alerts and reminders to keep staff on track.

Frontline Empowerment

One of the big winners was giving front line people the power to act and make decisions. The Workpro system provides step-by-step guidance through the process, with the ability to escalate for investigation when needed.

In 2014-15 LGO registered 20,286 new complaints and enquiries. “Increasingly our intake team are able to quickly resolve many of those queries at first telephone contact by responding to the caller’s questions and concerns, providing advice about our role or how the complaints process works.” LGO Annual Report 2014/2015.

Performance Benefits

There has been a significant improvement in the time to respond to enquiries, and complete investigations. 99% of complaints and enquiries are dealt with in a single working day by the Intake Team. 83% of decisions are issued within 13 weeks (annual report 2014/2015).

Workpro supports this productivity increase by:

  • Validating case entry for accuracy and completeness, saving time and duplication of effort later.
  • Ensuring consistency and speed, for example with email and document templates 
  • Prompting action with alerts and reminders, including “third party chase ups”.

Key project elements

The Workpro upgrade went like clockwork but this was no happy accident. Priority was given to ensuring this part of the transformation project was a success.

Two key elements were critical:

  • Joint development of a clear specification. 
  • Joint top-level commitment to project success. 

Workpro staff participated in LGO team meetings during the process design stage to ensure that expectations were met and to ensure that work could be fully completed on time. Realistic and achievable aims for the upgrade were agreed by both sides.

Lines of communication were also agreed from the outset, with time taken to understand what had worked well in the past and what not so well, and to adopt new ways of joint working. This honest, frank and collaborative approach continues with ongoing meetings to agree future joint roadmaps.

Both LGO and the Workpro team were willing to be flexible on the smaller issues, knowing that we had a shared understanding of the system we needed to develop and the timescales we were both working to. The product was delivered successfully and on time.

Nigel Ellis, Executive Director Operations at the Local Government Ombudsman

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

Our business is looking into complaints and the vast majority of LGO’s staff rely on an effective case management system every day, if not every hour. The Workpro team supported us to make our system as straightforward and simple to use as it can be, yet flexible enough to adapt to our changing business needs. This partnership approach was an essential component in helping us to manage a successful change programme in very challenging circumstances.

Nigel Ellis, Chief Executive and Accounting Officer, LGSCO