By Debbie le Quesne

Ombudsman complaints soaring over social care

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Social care complaints to the ombudsman have rocketed in the last five years.

In fact, I read in the Guardian online that they have more than doubled.

In an interesting twist, East Sussex Council believes that rather than being evidence of a worsening service, it all to do with people being able to make their voices heard.

In a new ombudsman report the council is sited as the English authority that generated most social care complaints per head of population to the local government watchdog.

And according to East Sussex, the trend is because of “excellent signposting” for complaints. If this is not wholly true, this is very clever media spin. I do note, however, that the number of complaints upheld was below average.

Quoting the council, the local authority is reported as saying in the Guardian: “In East Sussex people’s right to go to the LGO is actively encouraged as a positive step if they are unhappy with our approach.”

The report goes on to say that others may take a different view of the figures, which “show a rise of 130% between 2009 and 2013 in all social care complaints received by the ombudsman.

“Almost 2,500 complaints and inquiries were dealt with last year. This has made social care the fastest growing area of the LGO’s work and also the area with the highest rate of complaints upheld (46%).”

It worries me that the Guardian report tells us that the majority of complaints concern assessment of need, care planning and funding or charges. However, it adds, complaints about residential care are rising fastest and last year accounted for more than twice the number of grievances about home care.

It’s the first time the LGO has named councils that attract most complaints. In the top five are Walsall, East Sussex, Redbridge in east London, Blackpool, and Bromley in south London.

It is true that like never before, people are aware of the complaints mechanism and I believe the majority of local authorities with which I deal have a robust information system in place to inform clients of their complaints mechanisms.

But I can’t help feeling disappointed, I know that East Sussex is a long drive from the Midlands where much of my work is done, but to me the geography is immaterial. Everyone needing this kind of care intervention should be happy with all aspects of its delivery, but we live in an imperfect world. That imperfection in social care is fuelled, I believe, not only by flaws in humanity, but by an on-going unwillingness to fund the industry properly.

With a General Election now on the horizon, let’s see what political pledges for change will be made.

As ever, the West Midlands Care Association will be happy to remind politicians of all persuasions just what they have committed themselves to.


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