In November 2017, The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman released their review of adult social care complaints for 2016/17. The Ombudsman’s report publishes the complaints data for adult social care work across the UK.

The figures show that 63% of adult social care investigations were upheld and the number of complaints and enquiries across the whole social care sector rose by 3% from the previous year. There was also a noticeable increase in complaints and enquiries regarding care arranged privately which was up by 16% from year ending 2016.

The Ombudsman reports that the principal areas that attracted complaints included care assessment and planning, charging for social care and adult safeguarding. Residential care and home care were the two largest areas of complaints, whereas sheltered living received fewer complaints.

So why are complaints to the Ombudsman so important? Local Council Social Services are required by law to make suitable arrangements for those who have social care needs to make sure that they are safeguarded from risk of harm or abuse. As such, it is paramount that Local Authorities are carrying out their duties responsibly. The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman work with Local Authorities to certify that practices and procedures are in place to ensure that Local Authorities can meet their duties and avoid failings and in turn ensuring that injustices are not repeated.

Furthermore, making a complaint to the Ombudsman can not only provide a positive outcome for the complainant and their relatives but can also have an impact on others who use the service. The Ombudsman references a case from a previous year whereby “one person’s complaint about the way a council charged for care lead to more than 60 people, who had been similarly affected, receiving refunds.”

What powers does the Local Government Ombudsman have? The Ombudsman recommends remedies to improve the Local Authority services and to put things right with the aim of improving the service for many others. The Ombudsman can recommend that the complainant receives an apology, that the Local Authority provides a service that the complainant should have had but has not yet received, request the Local Authority reconsiders a decision that it did not take properly, provide recommendations to improve procedures and in certain circumstances recommend compensation and refunds.