Ombudsman upholds two-thirds of unfair charging complaints

The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman upheld 67% of complaints about unfair charging in adult social care in 2017/18, its annual review has revealed.

The number of charging-related complaints made to the organisation grew by 9% to 324 over the 12-month period, the report said.

It also found fault in a larger proportion of complaints related to charging – with 2% more upheld than in 2016/17.

A 67% complaint uphold rate exceeds the 62% average for adult social care, according to the report, as well as the 57% uphold rate for all complaints the Ombudsman investigates, it said.

The watchdog said it had growing concerns about the way some local authorities were balancing cost pressures and that overcharging was becoming a ‘recurring area of concern’.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: ‘We know authorities are operating under an enormous amount of pressure and financial challenge to deliver care services.

‘The stark reality of this is now playing out in the complaints we see.’

In total, 3,106 complaints and enquiries were made to the ombudsman last year, with 1,130 investigations completed.

Complaints and enquiries received about councils in adult social care totalled 2,602. A breakdown shows 722 were made about assessments and care planning; 317 about residential care; 254 about homecare, 324 about charging; 242 about safeguarding, 125 about transport; 104 about direct payments; and 514 other.

Complaints and enquiries received about independent providers show there were a total of 442, with 275 about residential care and 125 about homecare. Forty-two were classed as ‘other’.

The Ombudsman upheld 69% of complaints and enquiries in this area – a rise of 7% on the previous year.

The watchdog made 274 recommendations to authorities and providers based on complaints in 2017/18 – a 19% increase on the previous year, but it said it had only seen one case of an authority or care provider failing to comply with its recommendations.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: ‘We welcome the fact that the Ombudsman recognises that compliance with its recommendations continues to be high amongst providers, showing how providers want to put things right.

‘We urge providers to use all the resources the [Ombudsman] can offer to providers including practical advice on complaints handling and provider training events,’ he said.