SEVERAL complaints were made against a council over the last year, with five cases progressing to a full investigation.

Figures show 27 complaints or enquiries about Blackburn with Darwen Council were lodged in the year to March – down from 36 the year before – though the ombudsman was closed to new complaints between March and June 2020.

The highest number of concerns, six, involved education and children’s services. Five complaints were lodged in relation to adult social care.

Different data showed that five cases deemed to warrant a full investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in 2020-21, with four resulting in a complaint being upheld against the council.

However the local authority has said they take any complaints and feedback ‘extremely seriously’, saying this is particularly the case when it comes to children and adult social issues.

Paul Fleming, Strategic Director of Resources, said: “We are dedicated to investigating all complaints fully and promptly and always work alongside the Ombudsman to resolve any issues.

“This report does show a decrease in the number of complaints to the LGSCO with just a third of these going to further investigation.

“The majority of complaints are resolved by the council itself, and we have instigated a system to engage with complainants at the earliest stages to find a local resolution, by meeting them face to face or discussing options on how we can resolve.

“We are beginning to see the real benefits of this proactive approach year on year as formal complaints continue to decrease.”

Education and children's services were the subject of the largest proportion of complaints and enquiries nationally, with more than 2,300 lodged last year.

A further 1,700 related to planning and development while more than 1,600 were about adult social care.

At the height of the first lockdown, the ombudsman was closed to new cases and halted ongoing investigations.

Pandemic-related disruption contributed to a significant drop in complaints and enquiries across England, with 11,800 received – down from 17,000 the year before.

But the proportion of all cases upheld nationally has grown and was 67 per cent in 2020-21, compared to 61 per cent in 2019-20.

That proportion was even higher for adult social care complaints, at 72 per cent, up from 69 per cent.

Assessments and care planning were the most common areas of complaint in relation to adult social care.

Michael King, local government and social care ombudsman, said the figures showed investigators were finding fault more often.

He added: “While the way local authorities dealt with the pressures of Covid-19 is still being played out in our casework, early indications suggest it is only widening the cracks that were already there."

He said the concerns "cannot be wholly attributed to the trials of the pandemic."

The LGSCO said the growing percentage of upheld social care cases nationally reflected a “relentless rise” in the proportion of cases where care users and their families were let down by local services.

Mr King said the adult social care system was progressively failing to deliver for those who need it most.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents councils, said authorities and care providers had been doing all they could to keep "already severely stretched" services going throughout the pandemic.

He added: “It is right that providers continue to work with the ombudsman in its investigations, to make improvements to their services.

"We also need to apply the lessons learnt from our response to Covid-19 in any future reforms."

A Government spokesman said billions of pounds had been provided to local authorities to address pressures on their services throughout the pandemic, including specific adult social care funding.

He added the Government is committed to the delivery of "world-leading social care".