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.
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.”