|Social care complaints up 22% as watchdog takes on private contractors|
|Written by Guardian Professional|
|Wednesday, 01 August 2012|
'Poor, inconsistent and, on occasion, non-existent care' found by the Local Government Ombudsman in annual report
Complaints to the ombudsman about social care soared 22% last year after the watchdog's remit was extended to include services provided by private contractors.
Poor attitudes of care staff was one of the most common grievances, together with dissatisfaction about the short length of home care visits and late or non-arrival of home care workers.
The ombudsman highlighted one case of "poor, inconsistent and, on occasion, non-existent care" being provided to a man paying for his own home care package. He had to go into residential care after a care worker failed to follow instructions to contact the man's GP to report that he appeared unwell.
The case is anonymised, but is said to have led to dismissal of more than one care worker, a review of the care provider's practices and a "remedy payment" of £1,500 to the man's family.
The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) for England was given extended responsibility for social care services provided by private companies, as well as by councils, in October 2010. A new report analyses more than 1,000 social care complaints dealt with in 2011-12, the first full 12 months of the new jurisdiction.
As well as poor attitudes and short, late and missed calls, common complaints about home care included too many changes of care worker, disputes about their role, inadequate record-keeping and handover briefings and inaccurate billing and delayed invoicing.
Common complaints about residential care included poor attitudes, lack of skill in dealing with people with dementia, neglect of health needs and slow response to call bells.
Jane Martin, ombudsman and LGO chair, said: "The LGO has an important part to play in providing information from complaints to support informed choice of services and to bring about improvements. Our work with adult social care providers puts us in a good position to resolve disputes with providers and seek redress for citizens who pay for their own services."
In a separate report, the LGO has severely criticised Kent county council for having wrongly told to its officers to restrict people's choice of residential home for short stays.
The council was found to have issued the internal guidance because of a high number of vacancies in homes where it "pre-purchased" beds. The guidance, conflicting with national "choice of accommodation" directions dating back to 1992, came to light over a complaint that Kent had refused to pay for a woman to go temporarily into a particular home on discharge from hospital – even though the home was on its approved list for people to choose from.
Kent has apologised to the woman's family, refunded four weeks' home fees totalling £1,560, withdrawn the guidance and agreed to identify other people who may have been affected.
Ombudsman Anne Seex said: "The requirement to offer service users a genuine choice of placement when they are assessed as needing residential care is enshrined in law. The guidance did not adhere to these principles."