Social care system progressively failing public with ‘relentless rise’ in upheld complaints – ombudsman

The social care system is “progressively failing” the public, the ombudsman has said following a “relentless rise” in upheld complaints over the past decade.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said there is a stark “gulf” between what the public expects and gets, as it published its annual review of complaints.

The body received 2,033 complaints and enquiries about social care provided by councils and independent providers in the year to April 2021 – less than the previous year due to disruption caused by the pandemic.

It found fault in almost three-quarters (72%) of the complaints – up from the previous year, when 69% of complaints were upheld.

The ombudsman said there had been a “relentless rise” over the last decade in the proportion of cases where care users and their families have been let down.

Complaints are increasingly arising from measures used by councils and providers to “mitigate the squeeze on their resources”, it added.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Michael King (pictured) said: “Viewed through the lens of complaints from the public, and our impartial findings, the adult social care system is progressively failing to deliver for those who need it most.

“Increasingly it is a system where exceptional and sometimes unorthodox measures are being deployed simply to balance the books – a reality we see frequently pleaded in their defence by the councils and care providers we investigate.

“At a time of such pressure, it is now more important than ever to listen to public concerns in the form of complaints: they provide free intelligence to spot problems and drive improvement.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to the delivery of world-leading social care and the new £5.4 billion funding for the sector will put in place comprehensive reforms that are sustainable and fit for the future.

“To support the sector through this global pandemic we have provided over £2 billion in specific funding for adult social care, in addition to more than £6 billion that has been made available to local authorities to address pressures on their services.

“We continue to work with the sector on social care reform and will publish further details in the White Paper later this year.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.