Complaints spark council guidelines

Support for social services review panels and
guidelines on financing community care have been highlighted by the
Local Government Ombudsman.

Details of three social services cases which
provide guidelines for standards have been outlined in the
ombudsman’s annual report.

Local authorities have been advised to ensure
review panels for social services complaints are properly trained
and briefed, and have support in communicating decisions to

The recommendations follow investigations into
complaints about Kent County Council, which revealed major flaws in
the support given to the panels.

“Proper training and briefing are essential if
the panel is to fulfil its task effectively,” said the report.

It also indicates that delays of more than
three months in providing residential accommodation after a person
has been assessed as being at major risk of harm and in immediate
need of residential accommodation will be considered

The guidance follows the case of a woman with
severe learning disabilities who had to wait 15 months for a
suitable home place because Cambridgeshire County Council claimed
it had no money to pay for it.

Rationing of care by authorities and contracts
with the private sector which deliver care at the cheapest
available cost were both “problematic” for users, said the

And withholding community care without taking
account of individual circumstances simply because the provision
would breach the terms of a contract with the private-sector agency
has also been ruled as unreasonable.

Essex County Council was criticised after an
elderly couple were denied home care because the authority refused
to pay the mileage of an agency worker because it was not part of
its “flat fee” private-sector contract.

The council was found to have “fettered its
discretion by adhering too rigidly to its contractual

The Commission for Local Administration in
England received 1,170 complaints about social services in 2000/01,
the lowest of the major local authority departments.

Housing benefit continued to be the major
cause for complaint, increasing by 58 per cent, with most
complaints considered to be justified.

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