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Ombudsman ‘increasingly concerned’ over councils’ systematic problems with social care

The ombudsman for local government and social care has said it is becoming “increasingly concerned” with how some councils are handling increasing adult social care issues after a review found issues with systems, policies and procedures.

In its annual review of adult social care complaints, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) said there had been a shift from “just one-off mistakes” to “problems with systems, policies and the way procedures are being applied.”

Complaints about social care increased by 3,106 in 2017-18, just a 1% rise, but ombudsman Michael King found faults in 60% of the cases investigated.

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.”

An LGSCO report looked at data behind every adult social care complaint the it received in the last year and said that there were concerns in how councils were balancing the pressures of social care with how they assess and charge for care.

Over the 12-month period, there has been a 9% increase in complaints about charging, with 67% of these complaints upheld.

The ombudsman had also made 274 recommendations to local authorities and providers to improve procedures or undertake staff training, which is a 19% increase from last year.

Chief inspector of adult social care at the CQC, Andrea Sutcliffe, commented: “These are challenging times for adult social care with pressure on resources, increasing demands, and workforce shortages all having an impact on the quality and consistency of care that people receive.

“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.”

Image credit - Dean Mitchell


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