Adult social care complaints to the Ombudsman on the increase

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) is publishing its complaints statistics for adult social care – including data for both councils and independent care providers – in its Annual Review of Adult Social Care Complaints 2014/15.

The report is being published as part of the LGO’s role as the social care ombudsman, to encourage transparency and accountability across the whole adult social care complaints system.

The LGO received 2,803 complaints and enquiries about adult social care in 2014/15, which is 18% more than received the previous year.

In those complaints where it carried out a detailed investigation, the LGO upheld 55% of cases by finding some form of fault with the council or care provider.

The areas most complained about within adult social care are: assessment and care planning; residential care; home care; charging and safeguarding.

The LGO continues to see a year-on-year increase in the number of complaints it receives about independent care providers, where there has been no involvement from a council, however this remains around 10% of its entire adult social care caseload.

Also highlighted in the report are some of the stories from the LGO’s complaints where people had been let down by a social care service, and the impact this had on them.

Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, said:

“We are releasing our statistics to encourage those providing and arranging social care to think about their own complaints procedures and ensure they are as accessible and accountable as they can be.

“An increase in complaints locally may indicate a public more willing to come forward with concerns and a sector more inclined to listen. But, as the final stage of the process, the enquiries we receive indicate a local complaint procedure not working as it should and missed opportunities to have put things right first time around.

“As the health and social care sectors become more integrated, complaints systems must maintain clear lines of accountability so that the patient or care user understands where to turn to if they wish to raise concerns.”


Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission, said:

“I welcome this report from the LGO which reinforces the importance of people receiving high-quality and compassionate care from adult social care providers. Responding positively should people raise concerns about their care, or the care of a loved one, is a vital part of that.

“Through our inspection approach we look for evidence that people’s complaints are dealt with in the right way, by the right people and with the right action taken forward. Where we find areas of concern, these will be included in our reports and will influence whether we judge a service to be outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate.”


Ray James, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) said:

“The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) report is a helpful commentary on the state of social care and illustrates a number of areas where improvements must be made in order to meet individual need and improved outcomes. In this context councils are striving to ensure high quality social care services and the reported increase in numbers of complaints suggests that more individuals are confident in that they can raise concerns in order that these can be resolved or improved.

“Over 1.3m people each year are recipients of adult social care services and the level of satisfaction with these services has remained high. However there is no room for complacency and ADASS welcomes the opportunity to work with the LGO, partners, staff, and importantly, the individual, to seek improvements wherever they can be made.”


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

“We are pleased to learn from the LGO that more people are exercising their right to report issues with their social care. We agree that the best care is carried out in an open culture where complaints can be dealt with between staff, service users and families. Where this is not the case, we see that the LGO plays a vital role as investigator and adjudicator. We are also pleased to see that increasing numbers of complaints are being upheld, while we note a need to increase public awareness about the different roles and responsibilities of the LGO and CQC.

“Importantly, this report highlights that poor communication is the cause of many complaints, and we would like to see local authorities communicating effectively to avoid situations where people’s care is affected and they are left confused. This is especially pertinent for complaints about the funding of care: local authorities must ensure that service users don’t experience delayed assessments or 15 minute care visits. The LGO notes that in care visits of this length, there is no time to properly communicate concerns.”


As the social care ombudsman, the LGO investigates unresolved complaints about all adult care services – including care that is privately funded as well as publicly arranged. The LGO is free to use, impartial and independent. If it finds fault, the LGO will recommend action to put things right. It publishes reports of its investigations to share lessons learned and help improve public services. All its decisions are published at www.lgo.org.uk

Article date: 12 November 2015

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