National Ombudsmen
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LGO reports on key emerging trends in adult social care complaints

The Local Government Ombudsman has published a report on lessons learned from complaints about adult social care providers. The report aims to share insights across a broad range of complaints to help improve services.

The report highlights four key areas identified from investigation of complaints:

  • Improving the quality of care – investigations reveal the most common issues of complaint about care, both residential and at home and the need for an effective complaints process for speedy, local resolution and service improvement.
  • Making informed choices – service users need accurate advice and information to make well-informed choices about the care options available. They need to be clear about what they should pay and what services they should get.
  • Protecting the vulnerable – complaints to the LGO illustrate the challenging nature of the process of safeguarding vulnerable adults.
  • Resolving complaints locally – prompt and open action to resolve complaints benefits the service user and the care provider, helping to repair damaged relationships and improve services.

Dr Jane Martin, Ombudsman and Chair of the LGO, said: “The LGO has an important part to play in providing information from complaints to support informed choice of services and to bring about improvements. Our work with adult social care providers puts us in a good position to resolve disputes with providers and seek redress for citizens who pay for their own services.”

Since October 2010, the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction has been extended so that the LGO can now look at complaints about private providers of social care services as well as councils. Their previous powers allowed them to consider complaints about care needs assessment, care commissioning and care provided or arranged by councils. The extended powers mean they can now deal with complaints about personal care for adults, whoever the provider is, and however that care is funded, making the LGO the single point of contact for adult social care complaints.

The LGO’s investigative teams considered more than 1,000 adult social care complaints in 2011/12 – an increase of 22 per cent over the previous year – giving the LGO a unique insight into issues affecting all adult users of social care. Common subjects of complaint about domiciliary care are:

  • carers making short calls, being late, or failing to attend when scheduled
  • too many changes in carers
  • disputes about the proper role of carers 
  • staff attitudes and levels of skill – especially where the client has special needs
  • inadequate records and handovers between staff, and
  • inaccuracy in billing and delayed invoicing.

While commonly raised issues within residential care are:
attitudes of care staff

  • skill in handling dementia care
  • meeting health needs – calling medical help promptly, and
  • responsiveness to call bells.

The report includes eight case studies, illustrating some of the problems listed above.

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