If the local authority doesn’t respond to your complaint

  • If they don’t respond within the time you requested, call them.
  • Try to stay calm and polite.
  • Ask the reason for the delay.
  • They may tell you their response is in the post or that they will reply very soon. If so, it may be best to wait another few days before considering your next step.
  • If you told them your situation was urgent, remind them. If you gave them a time limit in which to deal with your complaint, remind them of this as well.

What if the local authority gives you a response you are unhappy with?

We suggest:

  • think carefully about the response and what the local authority is suggesting
  • follow it up by explaining which points you disagree with and why
  • provide any further information they ask for
  • co-operate with the next steps proposed by the local authority

Your local authority is likely to propose a reassessment, a meeting or some other step for you to go through at this point. It’s easy to get disheartened by this. You may feel you’ve already explained your situation – several times! You may be on the verge of losing patience with the whole thing. You may be tempted to refuse to co-operate with a reassessment. Keep going.

Tips on reassessments

  • Don’t give up now. The local authority may delay, forget to do things or tell you something is someone else’s responsibility. Staff changes may mean someone new has to get up to speed with your case. All this can grind you down.
  • Keep going. Explain in detail again what it will mean if you don’t get the help you need.
  • Get support from an advice organisation or advocate if you haven’t done so far. Some advocacy organisations provide really detailed help with complaints. They will monitor timescales and may be able to provide someone to go with you to the reassessment.

Why are we encouraging you to keep going? To stick at it, to make the same points over and over again? Because in practice, most successful outcomes happen through a good reassessment following a complaint. And even if the complaints process doesn’t resolve things fully and you have to go to the Ombudsman or to court, it will be easier to succeed in the end if you have co-operated at every stage of the complaints process.

What options do I have now?

You could ask the Ombudsman to decide if the local authority has behaved lawfully and treated you fairly. If your council has a second stage to their complaints process you may have to follow that first. The Ombudsman may agree to deal with it straight away in some circumstances. For example, if your complaint is very urgent. Or you have tried complaining to your local authority but made no progress.

You could seek legal advice about asking the High Court to decide whether what the local authority has done is lawful - or threaten to, which is often all it takes. This type of court process is called judicial review.

Both are good options but suit some situations better than others.

  • Taking the issue to the Ombudsman is free and sometimes less stressful than going to court. But it can take quite a long time.
  • Unlike court, the Ombudsman cannot force councils to do what they say. But councils usually do.
  • The Ombudsman will investigate and ask the local authority for more information if they need it. In court it is up to you to provide all the evidence needed.
  • The Ombudsman is more likely to look at the detail and history of your problems than the court.
  • A court will usually only step in where it is clear that the local authority has acted unlawfully. They will refuse to deal with the case if they think you have other options. But if the problem needs solving urgently, going to court may be the better option for you.

Going to the Ombudsman

If you have had no luck making a complaint to your council, you can ask the Local Government Ombudsman - call 0300 061 0614 to investigate. They will decide if they think the local authority has acted fairly. The Ombudsman is independent of the Government.

Try to get help from one of the organisations listed in further help on how to complain to the Ombudsman. If you can’t, don’t worry – the process is straightforward, and the Ombudsman has a lot of helpful information available on their website or by telephone. The Ombudsman can sometimes advise you on what you can do about a complaint before you go all the way through the local authority’s procedure. If you want them to do this, it is best to phone the Ombudsman’s office before you write to them.


  • that you have written to the local authority
  • that you have asked them to deal with your complaint urgently
  • whether they have responded
  • if they have responded, why you cannot use the second stage of their complaints process (for example the matter is too urgent) and
  • that you want the Ombudsman to investigate your complaint as soon as possible

It is best to prepare for important phone calls like this. Make a list of everything you want to cover during the conversation. Tick them off as you go through.

If they agree to consider your complaint without delay:

  • Make a note of the name of the person you spoke to and the date and time that you spoke to them.
  • Thank them for their help.
  • Tell them that you will complain in writing.
  • If they say that they don’t think your complaint is urgent enough, stay calm.
  • Explain again why you need to resolve the situation as soon as possible. If you still have no luck, complete your local authority’s complaints process first. Then put in your complaint to the Ombudsman.

Going to Court

You may be able to ask the High Court to decide if what the local authority has done is lawful. This is called ‘judicial review’. You need a solicitor to help you do this. There are some solicitors who specialise in helping disabled people and their families get the right help from care and support services. It is really important to use a solicitor who has a lot of experience in this area of law. So when you phone a firm of solicitors make sure you ask if they are specialists in community care law. You can use the legal adviser finder to find a solicitor who specialises in community care and takes cases from your area. See the Ministry of Justice's Legal Adviser Finder:

  • Tick 'Categories of law'.
  • Then tick 'Community care'.
  • You may not be entitled to legal aid and so have to pay for the advice yourself. If so, don’t be shy. Phone around and ask if anyone is able to help you for free or for a fixed fee. Then compare prices.

What will a solicitor do?

They will work out if you have a good case and advise you on the best route to take. They will know about the areas of the law that are relevant and whether they support your case.

Together you may decide it is a good idea to go to court. If so, they may write a letter asking the local authority to change their decision. Usually they ask the local authority to respond within 14 days. But if it is really urgent they might be given seven days or even less. This may result in the local authority making a new agreement with you. If they don’t reply or don’t agree to change their plans, then your solicitor may begin the business of taking them to court. If you get legal aid, you will generally pay either nothing or an affordable amount even if you lose. Your solicitor will be able to explain in more detail what sum you might be asked to pay.