Social care complaints spark concerns providers attempting to ‘ration resources’

The ombudsman in charge of social care has seen a jump in the number of upheld complaints, sparking concerns that providers are attempting to “ration resources” to cut costs.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is now finding in favour of the care recipient in two out of every three cases, its newly published figures reveal.

For certain categories of complaint, such as those relating to fees and charging for care, the figure for upheld complaints is 73%.

Michael King (pictured), who is head of the ombudsman service, fears the rights of those in need of care are being compromised by cost saving measures.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Since the ombudsman took responsibility for dispute resolution in complaints involving private care providers in 2010, the figure of upheld complaints has increased from 43% to 66%.

But Mr King fears the number of complaints the service receives from those paying for care is too low – possibly because they are unaware of their rights.

In the past year, the service received 3,070 complaints, but just 435 were from people who self-fund their care.

“It is vitally important care providers let people know about their rights to bring their complaints to us,” Mr King said.

He said that councils’ and care providers’ responses to the ombudsman’s investigations had been positive, and that in all but one case had agreed to put in place any recommendations made.

Recommendations at the service’s disposal range from a simple apology to having charges reduced or removed, reassessments or case reviews.

It can also make recommendations for care providers to review their policies and procedures, change their practice or train staff.

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.

“This year we launched our Declare Your Care campaign 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.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.