For the first time the Local Government Ombudsman has published complaints statistics for all social care providers. Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin explains what this means for social care complaints…
Adult social care is the fastest growing area of our work and with the highest uphold rate.
Our report highlights some of the challenges that are currently faced in the social care complaints system.
Perhaps more importantly it also identifies some opportunities which, if acted upon, could offer greater accessibility, effectiveness and accountability in social care complaints.
An essential element of making the complaints system more accessible is ensuring that people know about their right to complain. We have proposed that there should be an obligation on all providers of social care to clearly explain how to make a complaint. This could include having a sign in every care setting as a simple means of ensuring that people are more aware of how to complain when things go wrong.
Of course, fear and lack of support can also act as a barrier to complaining. We are therefore also calling for the availability of advocacy to cover social care provision so that users would have access to greater support and reassurance.
An effective complaints system is one where complaints are handled properly at the local level. It seems that the effectiveness of local complaint handling varies from provider to provider. If we were to set common complaint standards for all providers and commissioners of care services it could provide reassurance that complaints will be looked at properly irrespective of where you live or how your care is funded. These standards could be underpinned by the existing regulatory regime to further demonstrate the importance of effective, local complaint handling.
If we are to measure whether the complaints system is becoming more accessible and effective, providers need to be accountable for the way they respond to complaints. An annual review of complaints by all providers and commissioners would encourage reflective local leadership about learning from complaints and would provide the information needed to support local scrutiny and accountability. Similarly a mandated data return on patterns of complaints to the Care Quality Commission would be a step towards a more open and transparent approach to complaints.
What has been your experience of social care? Do you think the proposals above would make complaining about services better for you?
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Dr Jane Martin, the Local Government Ombudsman – all opinions expressed here are Jane’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.