Since 2009 the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has seen a 130% increase in adult social care complaints. Last year there were almost 2,500 complaints which was a 13.8% increase on the previous year.
According to the ombudsman’s 2013 review, more complaints are made about assessment and care planning than any other issue. Last year, 442 complaints included concerns in this area, a 7% increase on the previous year. More than half the complaints investigated were upheld.
The LGO notes that the 2,456 complaints for that year are a small number in the context of 1.3 million users of adult social care in England. However, the review also highlighted that 40% of the total number of complaints the LGO receives are concentrated on 25 council areas.
Dr Jane Martin, local government ombudsman, said the review suggested there is more to do to provide assurance about complaints handling. She said: “Over the last few years there have been a number of reviews have looked at healthcare complaints. We must not wait for a crisis in adult care to examine more closely the way social care commissioners and providers deal with complaints.”
The LGO received 9% of all adult social care complaints from private providers. The review said this may reflect high levels of satisfaction but it may also mean that the public are unclear about how and where to raise concerns and complaints.
Anna Bradley, chair of Healthwatch England, said: “It may seem counter-intuitive but we should look on the increasing number of complaints as a good thing … Providers of social care services, whether they be local authorities or private companies, need to learn to see complaints as a vital source of information to help them improve and ensure others don’t have to suffer the same poor standards in future.”