An annual review of complaints by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has starkly illustrated the failing social care system.
The review reveals the service found fault in 72% of investigated complaints last year, up by 69% on the previous year.
The Ombudsman said there had been a “relentless rise over the last decade in the proportion of cases in which care users and their families have been let down by local services”.
Additionally, the service said faults in its investigations were often not due to one-off errors caused by staff working under pressure but increasingly caused by measures employed by councils and care providers to mitigate the squeeze on their resources.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “Viewed through the lens of complaints from the public, and our impartial findings, the adult social care system is progressively failing to deliver for those who need it most.
“Increasingly it is a system where exceptional and sometimes unorthodox measures are being deployed simply to balance the books – a reality we see frequently pleaded in their defence by the councils and care providers we investigate.
“At a time of such pressure, it is now more important than ever to listen to public concerns in the form of complaints: they provide free intelligence to spot problems and drive improvement.
“Following on from the recent government announcement, I hope this report and the evidence it contains can help contribute to the debate about what a more sustainable care system will look like in the future.”
Responding to the report, Stephen Chandler, ADASS President, said: ‘Whenever older and disabled people, carers and families do not experience the high-quality care and support that they expect, it is essential that their concerns are listened to and addressed.
“We welcome this report. The Ombudsman is right to stress the importance of learning from such cases and we support the call for greater awareness of how to express concerns.
“This report quotes the latest ADASS Spring Survey which cites the ‘growing disconnect between increasing social care need and the financial ability and confidence of Directors to meet that need’ and underlines the urgent need for funding and reform that ensures that councils have the resources required to meet the needs of their local communities.”