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Social care pressures reflected in Ombudsman’s annual review of complaints

November 28, 2018

Over the past year, the Local Government and Social Care 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.

“It’s no longer just one-off mistakes; we’re seeing problems with systems, policies and the way procedures are being applied,” says Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Michael King in his annual review of adult social care complaints.

The 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 9% 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.

“Assessment and care planning, and how care is paid for, remain some of the biggest areas of complaint,” said Mr King.

“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.

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

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