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Review of Adult Social Care Complaints 2017-2018

I’m pleased to present our Annual Review of Adult Social Care Complaints for 2017-18 alongside our complaints data.

Sharing the learning from complaints is an important focus of this report, we detail key cases and outcomes and demonstrate how our remedies seek to improve services for others and prevent the same fault reocurring. Our public interest reports are our mechanism for doing this. We published twice as many reports about adult social care this year, demonstrating our commitment to share the lessons from our cases.

I encourage all care providers and councils to consider the systems they have in place to ensure learning from complaints is shared locally.

In the report, we look back at complaint volumes and uphold rates since 2010-11. That year was significant for us, marking the start of our jurisdiction over independent care providers, enabling us to look at complaints from across the adult care sector.

Continuing the trend since 2010, the number of complaints and enquiries we receive about adult social care continues to grow, and accounts for 16% of our total work. You will, however, note we investigated fewer complaints this year. There are often a range of forces at work when it comes to understanding trends in complaints, but in this instance, I am confident the fall reflects the significant pressures on my organisation’s capacity to process the complaints we receive, and is not indicative of any broader trend in the adult care sector.

Complaint outcomes continue to be the most revealing part of our data and are likely to be of most interest to colleagues in the sector. Across all our local government work, we uphold 57% of cases we investigate, in adult social care cases this increases to 62%. We will always seek to make recommendations that prevent

the same thing from happening to others. This year we made 274 recommendations to improve procedures or undertake staff training, up 20% on the previous year.

It is good to see that, despite the well-known pressures in the adult care sector, compliance with my recommendations to remedy complaints continues to be high. An organisation’s willingness to put things right when they have gone wrong can be a clear sign of its general attitude towards complaints and ability to learn from them. In all but one instance, my recommendations were accepted by care providers and councils. The single outlier to this trend, a care provider, is detailed later in the report.

While it is positive that care providers and councils are working with us, there remain significant areas of concern in our casework. Assessment and care planning, and how care is paid for remain some of the biggest areas of complaint. Even more concerning is that the issues we see are often not mistakes occurring in one-off circumstances, but systemic issues where a policy or procedure is being regularly incorrectly applied. Some of these cases are outlined in this report and I urge councils and care providers to learn from them.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman