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Home care complaints up 25% but more could be ‘suffering in silence’, says watchdog

Complaints over the quality of home care services for elderly and disabled people in England have risen by 25% over the past year.

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The number of complaints over the quality of home care for elderly and disabled people in England have risen by 25% over the past year, according to an annual review by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO).

Complaints received by the Ombudsman include care workers being late for appointments, not staying long enough, and failing to treat vulnerable people with dignity.

The shocking statistics are just one of the findings included in the LGO’s Review of Adult Social Care Complaints 2015/16, which also found that complaints over residential care have risen by 20.5%.

The watchdog received 372 complaints about home care services in 2015-16, up by a quarter on the previous year, while the number of complaints about residential care services increased from 497 to 599.

According to the LGO’s findings, 65% of home care complaints were upheld, which is 7% higher than for all adult social care complaints.

Overall, the Ombudsman saw a 6% increase in complaints and enquiries about all areas of adult social care in England in 2015-16, of which 58% were upheld – up from 55% the previous year.

Other findings include:

  • 21% increase in complaints and enquiries about care arranged privately with independent providers (self-funded care)
  • 19% increase in the number of independent providers about whom it has received a complaint
  • 70% of detailed investigations upheld about care planning – the area with the most significant uphold rate
  • assessment and care planning remains the most complained about area, with 600 complaints and enquiries received

“Underfunded and over-stretched”

Staff shortages, reduced funding, and the new ‘national living wage’ are cited among the reasons for the marked increase in complaints.

But the LGO also warn that less advocacy for those receiving care in their own home, compared to those living in residential care, could mean that some people are “suffering in silence at home”.

Dr Jane Martin said: “Our complaints show that for people receiving care in their homes, it’s often the little things that mean so much to them in maintaining their dignity, independence and a good quality of life. Consistency of care is vital to those who rely on these services.

“We recognise the sector’s work signposting people to us may have had an impact on the number of complaints we received. However, we are still upholding nearly two thirds of home care complaints. This is too many.

“With seemingly less access to advocacy than people in residential care, there may be further people suffering in silence at home. So we continue to encourage those providing and arranging social care to think about their own complaints procedures and ensure they are as accessible and accountable as they can be.”

The LGO looks at all types of complaints about adult social care, regardless of whether the local authority is involved, and provides feedback to councils on its findings.

Colin Angel, director of policy at the UK Homecare Association, called on commissioners and care providers to “act quickly to understand and act on people’s concerns”.

“As a professional association, UKHCA encourages social care providers to ensure that the people they support know that their complaints will be dealt with properly at a local level, rather than needing to seek redress through regulators or ombudsmen.”

Barbara Keeley, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health and Social Care, said: “This Ombudsman’s review highlights rising levels of concern about standards in homecare. Poor quality homecare can have a real impact on the dignity and independence of people who rely on that care.

“The 25 percent rise in the number of complaints is indicative of the increasing pressure on the social care system resulting from years of Tory cuts and rising demand.

“The fact that two-thirds of complaints are now being upheld is clear evidence that social care just isn’t meeting that demand.

“Proper dignified care that meets needs is what everyone deserves, but under this Government too often this just isn’t happening.”

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