By Bethany Hemsley
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman annual report reveals that a disproportionately low number of complaints about independent providers may prevent them from improving their services.
During the period 2019-2020, the Ombudsman received 3,073 complaints and enquiries, however, only 430 were about privately arranged care with independent providers.
With many people unsure of how to process a complaint, independent providers are missing out on valuable learning opportunities and potential improvements to their service.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said: “We’re pleased with how the adult care sector has worked with us to make almost 600 improvements to its services last year, which were agreed in our investigations.
“However, people who fund their own care are still underrepresented in the complaints we see, and the number has plateaued for the past couple of years. Each missed complaint is a lost opportunity to improve care services”.
The Ombudsman is calling for the planned social care reforms to include mandatory signposting ensuring people know how to complain to the provider and how to escalate their complaints to the Ombudsman if they are unhappy with the services they are receiving.
Michael King adds: “Mandatory signposting will also be better for businesses. The social care complaints system in England is not a voluntary scheme but the current level of engagement varies considerably. This is placing greater burdens on more conscientious providers while allowing weaker operators to avoid public accountability.
“This undermines fair competition and consumer choice. Instead, there should be a level playing field, where the rules are applied consistently – in the best interests of users and businesses”.
Professor Martin Green OBE, chief executive of Care England comments: “We always welcome any new learning that providers can take from these reports and similarly we welcome the annual review which brings everything together. We will be sure to share the report with our members”.