The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found fault in nearly two out of every three adult social care complaints it investigated in 2018/19.
The Ombudsman added that in some casework areas – including those about fees and charging for care – it had upheld nearly three-quarters of investigations (73%).
The ‘uphold rate’ has increased from 43% to 66% since 2010, when the LGO took on the responsibility of investigating complaints about privately funded care.
“Despite this, the volume of complaints the Ombudsman received from people who pay for their care is still lower than we would expect. And there is yet more the independent sector can do to highlight people’s rights to complain to the Ombudsman,” the LGO said.
The number of complaints and enquiries received by the LGO in 2018/19 was 3,070, down from the 3,106 received in 2017/18. Some 435 of enquiries came from people who fund their own care.
Overall, the Ombudsman made 1,279 recommendations to remedy people’s personal injustices, and 559 recommendations to improve services for more people than those who made the original complaint.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “The challenging picture we see played out in the media on an almost weekly basis is very much reflected in the types and seriousness of the complaints we receive and the faults our investigations put right.
“Many of the issues we see appear to be driven by attempts to ration scarce resources, and we received and upheld more complaints about fees and charging this year than in previous years. While I recognise the challenging environment both commissioners and providers are operating within, any attempts to reduce costs must also properly consider the impact on the rights and dignity of people who use services, and must comply with both the letter and the spirit of the Care Act 2014.”
Mr King said he was also concerned the volume of complaints from people who pay or arrange for their care privately had remained static, despite the area already being under-represented in the work the LGO does.
Despite the pressures, council and care providers’ responses to the Ombudsman’s investigations remained positive, he noted. “This year, as well as the number of complaints received and the decisions we have made, we are also publishing a new set of remedy and compliance data; I’m pleased to say that in all but one of the cases we investigated the council or care provider agreed to put in place the recommendations we made.”
Responding to the Ombudsman’s 2018/19 review, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Councils and the care providers they commission work hard to try and give the best possible service to those who rely on vital adult social care support, despite funding and demand pressures. This is reflected by the fact that the total number of care complaints has fallen slightly year-on-year and that responses to investigations remain positive, with the vast majority of the Ombudsman’s recommendations being put into place.
“Extra funding for social care next year will help councils as they strive to ensure older and disabled people can live the lives they want to lead."
Cllr Hudspeth added: “We also need the Government to publish its proposals for the future of adult social care as soon as possible to find a long-term, sustainable funding solution, so that all those who use and work in social care have the support and certainty they need.”