Rate of adult social care failings identified by watchdog continues ‘relentless rise’

Ombudsman found fault in 72% of adult care cases investigated last year and warns system is ‘progressively failing to deliver for those who need it most’

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

The rate of failings identified by the local government watchdog in adult social care has continued a “relentless rise”, leading him to warn that the sector is “progressively failing” those in greatest need.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman upheld complaints raised by members of the public in 72% of the adult care cases he investigated in 2020-21, up from 69% in 2019-20. In 2015-16, the figure was just 58%, since when it has risen steadily.

The watchdog’s annual review of adult care complaints showed that the proportion of upheld complaints rose across all categories from 2019-20 to 2020-21, except for safeguarding, where it fell by six percentage points, and residential care, where it was static year on year.

For assessment and care planning issues, the upheld rate rose from 68% to 73%, though the number of investigations the watchdog carried out halved from 770 to 385. This was reflective of an overall trend of reduced investigation numbers as a result of a three-month pause in its work at the start of the pandemic, to protect the capacity of councils and providers.

‘Progressively failing’

Ombudsman Michael King said that the annual report showed that “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,” he added.

While he said early indications suggested councils and providers had responded well to the pandemic, the data suggested that Covid-19 had intensified existing issues rather than created new ones.

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president Stephen Chandler welcomed the report, adding: “This report quotes the latest ADASS Spring Survey which cites the ‘growing disconnect between increasing social care need and the financial ability and confidence of directors to meet that need’ and underlines the urgent need for funding and reform that ensures that councils have the resources required to meet the needs of their local communities.”


10 Responses to Rate of adult social care failings identified by watchdog continues ‘relentless rise’

  1. Alan October 6, 2021 at 10:24 am #

    Protecting the public, enabling positive change and improving people’s lives going well then SWE.

  2. A Man Called Horse October 6, 2021 at 11:04 am #

    The fundamental problem here is the strongly held Conservative view that people should not expect to use other peoples money to pay for their care. The Government’s core values are low taxes and a small state and meeting people’s care and support needs are not compatible with that view.

    The position Councils are in is partly a result of deliberate cuts to funding instigated by Cameron & Osbourne to make a permanent cut in the size of the state after the financial crisis. It was always clear that the poor must pay the most for any perceived fiscal problem. Rich people have been protected because they control the Government.

    Cuts to Universal credit plunging a million more below the poverty line are simply collateral damage to defend the principle of a small state. The level of vicious cruelty inflicted on the most vulnerable is of no consequence to more wealthy people. The sad fact is that large sections of the population support far right views that there is no such thing as society.

    We are about to enter a 2nd new age of Austerity and levelling up will be seen for what it always was a sham hollow slogan. Gutting public services and cutting Council funding is obviously not compatible with the objectives of levelling up. The facts are that large sections of the poor are being taken for mugs.

    • Harvey Campbell October 8, 2021 at 4:19 pm #

      Pretty accurate analysis.

    • Not My Real Name October 8, 2021 at 5:15 pm #

      “The fundamental problem here is the strongly held Conservative view that people should not expect to use other peoples money to pay for their care”

      Coupled with the equally strongly held view that they should not be expected to use their own money to pay for their own care.

      Answers on a postcard to that Gordian Knot of problem.

  3. Josie October 8, 2021 at 5:19 pm #

    I concur entirely with your comments. But an obvious immediate step, to raise taxes and reduce tax reliefs, does not seem to be on any party’s agenda …..
    It would be interesting to hear more about how other European nations fund adult social care and how care standards compare.

  4. Kenny October 8, 2021 at 7:03 pm #

    We could fight it if it was just the Conservative party rubbishing the use of money from taxation to fund social care and public services. What Rachel Reeves proposes as Labour Party policy is this plus “Labour will be tougher on benefits” than the Tories.

  5. Anonymous October 9, 2021 at 1:49 pm #

    This is because of higher management incompetence who have no clue about what is really happening on the front line because less senior managers hide and manipulate waiting list times, avoid investigating safeguarding that involves a council contracted agency. All corrupt/they know it.

  6. Candice October 11, 2021 at 11:50 am #

    Move along now, nothing to see here, lessons will be learnt.

  7. Berni October 11, 2021 at 1:53 pm #

    Local authorities were in big trouble before the pandemic regarding funding and services .

    You cannot keep taking money away and ask LAs to manage and then reward the same LAs with further cuts .

    It all stems back to the economic crash caused by the banks which the conservatives have used to full effect to reduce local authorities ability to manage need in their areas .

    Hmm , is this not what Mrs Thatcher’s government did .

    I think so , the mention at the weekend of social care and health being merged is of a similar vein post Griffiths report a need to reorder the local authorities .

    We all keep saying it , thinking it , and feeling it . If you wanted a different outcome for people who need support and access to extra services you would approach how you fund in a different way .

    I nearly got shot the other week when thinking aloud that care and health are not cheap neither are care homes and services and should be funded by extra tax .

    I was thinking equitable taxation and a bigger take from those who can afford it and it would be nice if people who should know better can pay their tax .

    That said , if the state and its functions and local authorities ceased any help and support what’s so ever , no one save the wealthy would pay any less tax .

    Its all about stats and looking and talking like you know what you are doing without achieving anything . We could do with better leadership all round and an opposition that’s got some teeth and get stuck in and oppose .

    After a decade of front line working I no longer recognise the landscape but I know all of the people I come across care about what they do and would care for better leadership and direction .

    Failing that , why don’t the government just be honest and say they just don’t care you could even make a statement from the Maldives too such an effect .


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