CUMBRIA county council has been ordered to apologise to a father and his children – and to pay them more than £1,000 in compensation.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman ruled that the authority’s miss-handling of a children’s services complaint caused the family “distress, uncertainty and frustration”.

The top tier authority accepted that the service was not good enough in “this case” but has now pledged to act on the recommendations, stressing that “significant improvements” had been made.

The complainant – referred to in the report only as ‘Mr Q’ – asked the council for help back in 2015 because he felt unable to cope with his two daughters.

And early the following year, a referral was made about an alleged physical assault by the father on one of his daughters.

He later claimed that the council had not provided him with adequate support, had not shown “empathy or sincerity” and had failed to deal properly with his complaints.

Responding to his grievances, the top-level investigation found that there had been “significant delays” at each stage of the process and that he “did not receive the service he should have”.

The Ombudsman has asked that the council write to Mr Q to “provide a sincere, meaningful, and unambiguous apology”.

It also said the authority should also write to him explaining why it decided not to pursue one of his complaints.

The report criticised the council for its “poor communication”, which meant Mr Q was unable to properly contribute to the child protection enquiries, or attend key meetings relating to his children’s welfare.

The authority was also told to pay Mr Q a total of £700 in recognition of the distress its failings had caused him, as well as £200 each for his daughters.

The money awarded to his daughters was to make redress for the impact on family life of the “negative impression” the council had given the girls of their father.

The report also found that Mr Q was “inconvenienced” because he had to chase the council for updates and responses.

The Ombudsman was “satisfied the council has taken appropriate steps to ensure it improves on the delivery of early help,” something Mr Q felt they had failed to do.

However, the council was told to review its action log and to set targets that would help it to achieve recommendations.

The authority was also told to agree timescales for the completion of actions, providing evidence to the Ombudsman that it had done this.

The report denied the council’s investigation of Mr Q’s complaint was flawed, but it did find that the action plan was unclear.

The watchdog said that the plan had not set out proper targets and the log had not been updated.

It also said it was not obvious who was responsible for completing the action plan, the deadline for doing so and which of the steps has been achieved.

Responding to the report, a council spokesman said the authority acknowledged the report and pledged to act on the recommendations.

He added: “Whilst we accept that the service provision in this case was not good enough, there have been significant improvements within the service since then.”