Complaints to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman about council adult social care rose by 2% last year but the number upheld slightly dropped, according to the watchdog’s annual complaints report.
Published this week (25 July), the ombudsman’s Review of local government complaints showed 2602 complaints were made about adult social care between 2017-18. This was slightly higher than 2016-17, when it received 2555 complaints from the public about adult care.
Of the 2017-18 total, 61% of complaints were upheld, a fall from the 63% upheld in 2016-17, meaning there were slightly fewer upheld complaints in 2017-18 than the previous year.
The ombudsman investigates complaints against councils from people who claim they have suffered injustice as a result of service failure or maladministration, a general word for wrongdoing by authorities.
The complainant must exhaust the council’s own complaints process first before referring the issue to the ombudsman.
As in the previous year, the ombudsman received the greatest number of complaints about education and children’s services in 2017-18, 3260, up from 2963 in 2016-17.
The proportion of education and children’s services complaints upheld also rose, from 63% to 65%, continuing an increase in the proportion upheld from 38% in 2013-14. Adult social care was the second biggest area for complaints.
The North West was the region with the highest proportion of adult social care complaints upheld, with the South East having the lowest. The North East had the highest proportion of education and children’s services complaints upheld with the East Midlands having the lowest.
Ombudsman Michael King said the wider outcomes from the complaints were far more important than the numbers:
“For a long time, we’ve been pressing just how important complaints can be as a learning tool for local authorities – and a great source of free feedback about the health of the services they provide.”
“We know being on the receiving end of an upheld complaint can be a tough pill to swallow. But this year, we’ve seen some really positive examples of councils taking on board our recommendations.
“Over the coming year I hope even more councils will take on a more mature and positive reflection of the data we provide, their annual letters and the many focus reports and public interest reports we issue and use these tools to scrutinise where their own services might be improved.”