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By Debbie le Quesne

Posts Tagged ‘care packages

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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Personalisation: ‘It’s not a cap that fits for everyone’

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We all like choice: What we eat and what we wear, when we get up and when we turn into bed; where we go to shop and what we buy . . . it’s a normal pattern of life.

For those needing social care, personal budgets indeed do hugely increase client choices.

But research by Coventry University suggests that the system is not quite the ideal it was intended to be.

Putting choice at the centre of caring, direct payments were seen as the gold standard of personalisation, where assessed needs and outcomes could be better met.

Published in the Guardian online, John Woolham, Katrina Ritters, Nicole Steils and Guy Daly of Coventry University, say in their article that advocates who have control of spending can enable and empower people to live more fulfilling and productive lives. I agree,

But seven years on down the direct payments route, their research suggests that the idea “doesn’t always live up to expectations for older people.”

Indeed, the article adds “that older people were still a long way from a personalised nirvana” with 25 per cent of direct payment users reporting that decisions about when they ate, went to bed or had a bath/shower were compromised.

With bigger packages I can understand there is always going to be compromise. Many PAs have several clients and those who are deemed to be good at their job are going to be popular.

It stands to reason that there will always be some juggling and that everyone cannot expect to get their get-up calls at the same time.

Using recognised, validated scales, the university examined general health, levels of stress and social care-related quality of life for those with a direct payment compared to those who had a managed budget.

In the Guardian report it says: “We found very little difference between the two groups on these measures. One particularly concerning finding was that many people – again, similar proportions in both groups – reported a lack of control over daily life, social contact with others, and opportunities to participate in meaningful leisure activities.”

There’s a lot of other information in the piece www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2014/may/09/personal-budgets-older-people-expectations and if you’re involved in this loop it’s well worth a read.

For me, government-driven austerity in care funding will have a big part to play in the choices arena. With less to spend – and ultimately shorter call times – direct payments choices will forever be compromised.

Add into the mix day centre closures and the higher bars now set for social care intervention, this problem will not go away quickly.