BREAKING NEWS: High complaint levels reflect social care pressures, says Ombudsman

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King

Pressures on the social care system have been reflected in a high number of upheld complaints, according to Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King.

A report by The Ombudsman covering the past 12 months revealed a 9% increase in complaints about charging. More than two-thirds (67%) of these were upheld, higher than average rate for social care of 62%, and also above the 57% uphold for all complaints.

The Ombudsman 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.

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“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.”

The report also examines the impact the Ombudsman has on improving services through complaints. Over the past year, it has made 274 recommendations to authorities and providers to improve procedures or undertake staff training – a 19% increase on the previous year. There has only been one instance of an authority or care provider failing to comply with its recommendations.

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said: We welcome the fact that the LGSCO recognises that compliance with its recommendations continues to be high amongst providers, showing how providers want to put things right. We urge providers to use all the resources the LGSCO can offer to providers, including practical advice on complaints handling and provider training events.”

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), 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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