Action necessary in council care complaints

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has launched its annual review of adult social care complaints, outlining problems with systems, policies and the way procedures are being applied.

Michael King, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, says he is increasingly concerned about the way some authorities are handling the need to balance the pressures they are under with the way they assess and charge for care.

His latest report outlines a nine per cent increase in complaints about charging over the last 12 months. Of those complaints, the Ombudsman is upholding 67 per cent - higher than the average uphold rate for adult social care of 62 per cent, and greater still than the 57 per cent uphold rate for all complaints the Ombudsman investigates.

Over the past year, the Ombudsman has made 274 recommendations to authorities and providers to improve procedures or undertake staff training – a 19 per cent increase on the previous year.

King said: “Assessment and care planning, and how care is paid for, remain some of the biggest areas of complaint. Even more concerning is that the issues we see demonstrate a shift from one-off mistakes to problems with whole systems and policies, or procedures being incorrectly applied.

“Adult social care has seen sustained high levels of complaints upheld compared to our general work. We know authorities are operating under an enormous amount of pressure and financial challenge to deliver care services. The stark reality of this is now playing out in the complaints we see. Despite this, when it comes to service delivery, we simply can’t make concessions for these pressures in the recommendations we make.”

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, chief inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission, added: “In the current challenging circumstances for adult social care, it’s more important than ever that those in charge of running and commissioning care services actively listen and learn from people’s experiences, concerns and complaints.  CQC sees regular evidence of this in the four fifths of adult social care services currently rated as good or outstanding across the country, but as this report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman once again highlights this isn’t the case for everyone. Ensuring complaints policies are accessible, that people know how to raise issues, their concerns are responded to and any promised action really does happen is all part of delivering truly responsive and well-led care.”

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