Care providers attempting to “ration resources” has led to a jump in the number of complaints about adult social care services in England being upheld, a new report has warned.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) announced today that it has found fault in nearly two out of every three adult social care complaints it has investigated in the past year.
And while the number of complaints made about adult social care services fell slightly (1%) on last year – 3,070 complaints in 2018/19 compared to 3,106 in 2017/18 – the Ombudsman investigated a greater proportion of complaints than in previous years – finding fault in 66% of cases, up 23% on 2010 and 4% on last year.
And many of the issues appear to be driven by attempts to ration scarce resources.
“While overall enquiry numbers were broadly static last year, the adult care complaints we saw were ever more serious – reflected in the fact we had to carry out a higher proportion of detailed investigations than we did in the previous year,” said Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
“Most tellingly, our decisions showed another increase in upheld complaints. Nearly two thirds of our investigations are now finding faults in the system – many of which appear to be driven by attempts to ration scarce resources.
“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.”
The Ombudsman’s Annual Review of Adult Social Care Complaints also showed that there were more complaints made about fees and charging this year than in previous years.
The LGO is regularly seeing problems with how budgets for care packages are calculated and the way fees and charges are communicated.
Of those complaints about fees and charging for care, the Ombudsman upheld nearly three quarters (73%) of investigations, up 6% last year.
In the home care sector, 337 complaints were made about services, down 13% on last year, but the LGO found fault in 72% of cases, compared to 68% in 2017/18.
The volume of complaints from people who fund their own care remained static, with 435 complaints made compared to 442 last year.
“I am concerned the volume of complaints from people who pay or arrange for their care privately has remained static, despite the area already being under-represented in the work we do. It is vitally important care providers let people know about their rights to bring their complaints to us,” said King.
Commenting on the report, Kate Terroni, chief inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission said: “It’s vital everybody involved in the provision and commissioning of social care services listens and acts when complaints or concerns are raised. We know that when people raise a concern they have a genuine desire to improve the service for themselves and others. We also know that the majority of services appreciate feedback and use it to enact positive change.
The CQC launched its ‘Declare Your Care’ campaign this year to encourage people to speak up about their experiences of care.
“Everyone can play a part in improving standards by directly giving feedback to services, or by sharing information and experiences with us so that we can take action where we find poor care,” said Terroni.
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, also welcomed the report.
“Once again, this document is a very helpful resource for care providers and councils,” he said.
“The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is an effective one stop shop for redress and is not afraid to use its teeth. It is telling that a large proportion of the complaints focused on charges and fees; there has never been a greater need for a long term financial solution for adult social care and Care England urges the Government to address it immediately regardless of Brexit.”