“It’s no longer just one-off mistakes; we’re seeing problems with systems, policies and the way procedures are being applied…”

That’s the view of Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO), as the service launches its annual review of adult social care complaints.

Over the past year, the Ombudsman has become 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.

The LGSCO report, which looks at the data behind every adult social care complaint the Ombudsman has received over the 12-month period, shows there has been a nine per cent increase in complaints about charging. And of those complaints, it is upholding 67% – higher than the average uphold rate for adult social care of 62%, and greater still than the 57% uphold rate for all complaints the Ombudsman investigates.

Download the full report here

Mr 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.”

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.

The Ombudsman has had the authority to investigate complaints about independent care providers since 2010. In the past year, the Ombudsman has seen only one instance of an authority or care provider failing to comply with its recommendations.

Mr King added:

“We are issuing this report because we want to work with the sector to share the wider learning and help improve services.

“Despite the problems we are seeing, I welcome local authorities and care providers’ willingness to work with us to improve services for people in their care, and the way they have complied with our recommendations over the past year.”

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England said:

“The LGSCO annual report on social care complaints is a valuable resource for councils and providers to learn from others and see trends. 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), said:

“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.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsmen (LGSCO) and Healthwatch England 

The Single Complaints Statement was published by the LGSCO and Healthwatch England to help care providers deal with complaints better.

It sets out best practice in receiving and dealing with comments, complaints and feedback about services.

The statement was developed by the Quality Matters initiative and aims to improve the quality and consistency of adult social care provision across the country. The statement offers a simple bulleted guide for each stage of the complaints process.

The Ombudsman outlines three documents that are good practice guidance, written specifically for the following audiences:

  • Providers and Practitioners
  • People who use our services / Carers / Family / Representatives (written)
  • People who use our services (easy read format)

Download these documents here

What you have told Healthwatch Devon?

According to the ASC Review 2017-18 – Council Data, 38 complaints were made to Devon Council Council, of which 5 were safeguarding issues. Compared with a national average of 1.9 complaints across all 375 local authorities.

During the same period 20% of all cases dealt with by Healthwatch Devon were regarding Social care. Our team dealt with 67 cases, of which 4 were safeguarding issues. 81% of all comments received were negative.

The top three themes reported to Healthwatch Devon were…

  • Access to social care, including fees and charging
  • Quality of treatment
  • Staff attitudes

You told us

“I am a retired nurse and I am very pleased with the care I receive at home from my care provider. I have used them for many years and if I have any problems they will do their best to help me.”

“My elderly mother requires personal care assistance 3 or 4 times per week. The care provider is unable to arrive before 10am. If we are being encouraged to live independently at home with support services to help, surely the larger care companies should be able to provide a carer before 10am each morning?”

“Person is very concerned about the care her elderly mother is receiving at home. There have been a number of staff changes over the last few months and her mother now sees so many different carers she has no rapport with them, it is very upsetting and confusing for her. They also arrive at different times of the day, it is not consistent.”

“Family has raised a complaint following a fall their relative had whilst in a care home for respite care. The injury sustained has resulted in infections and other complications requiring 5 hospital admissions over an 8 week period. The family have requested more information regarding the events surrounding the fall and injury sustained.”

“Earlier this year my father employed a carer for my mum. The weekly charge was agreed and social services also agreed to pay 60% towards this care. However, the weekly charge for the carer has now increased by 72% to over £1,500 per week. My father will struggle to pay this amount, which will lead to difficult financial circumstances in the near future.”


Do you or someone you know have an experience, good or bad, about social care services in Devon? Please share your experience with us so we can help make change happen.

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