Spike in ombudsman decisions against council adult social care practices ‘shows impact of rationing’

Complaints upheld by watchdog against authorities rose by 16% in 2018-19, with Increases in assessment, care planning and charging failings, finds annual report

Michael King, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman
Ombudsman Michael King (photo: Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman)

Successful complaints against council adult social are practice rose by 16% last year, with many failings “driven by attempts to ration scarce resources”, the Local Government Ombudsman has found.

The watchdog upheld 687 adult care complaints against local authorities – meaning that councils were found to be at fault – in 2018-19, up from 587 in 2017-18, its annual review of adult social care complaints showed.

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The biggest area of complaint was assessment and care planning, where 215 were upheld, up from 193 in 2017-18, though roughly the same as the 2016-17 figure. Year-on-year increases in the number of upheld complaints in relation to charging continued, with 134 successful claims, up from 114 in 2017-18 and 104 in 2016-17. Safeguarding complaints fell, however, from 70 in 2017-18 to 47 in 2018-19.

Of council complaints investigated by the ombudsman, two thirds were upheld, up from 61% in 2017-18, when the number of investigations was significantly lower.

‘Attempts to ration scarce resources’

Ombudsman Michael King said many of the faults identified by his service “appear to be driven by attempts to ration scarce resources”.

“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,” he said.

Upheld complaints cited in the report included cases where:

  • A local authority trying to charge for intermediate care – which is contrary to Care Act charging regulations – for the first six weeks by calling the service by another name.
  • A short-notice cut in one-to-one support for a disabled man, without reassessment, and the closure of his day centre without another service being provided, led to him missing out on stimulating activities and his mother having to do more care.

In 99% of cases when the ombudsman made recommendations to councils and care providers – complaints against which were also considered in the report – the watchdog was satisfied with their level of compliance – though in 9% of cases this was late.

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One Response to Spike in ombudsman decisions against council adult social care practices ‘shows impact of rationing’

  1. Legalaidlawyer October 12, 2019 at 9:40 am #

    I’m really struggling to understand why social workers are so complicit with this! If only they would just talk to people, get to know them and ACCURATELY reflect their needs in assessments, framing needs within eligibility criteria, panels wouldn’t be able to say no. I despair! The knowledge and skills of the work force is appalling and few seem able to do this. What on earth has happened to this profession? Unknown to many, all of these decisions are LEGAL in nature and should be challenged by judicial review rather than complaints. The ombudsman can take up to a year! That puts already vulnerable people in horrific situations. If you can’t do your jobs right… at least direct people to community care solicitors who will do it for you. Social workers … step up and start doing what you trained to do rather than telling people “computer said no”. The care act statutory guidance is not difficult to read. It tells you how to do your job both well and in line with legislation. Or can the profession no longer read I wonder?