Complaints about care provided in people’s homes rose by a quarter over the last year, while those about care homes increased by a fifth, a report has found.
The local government ombudsman (LGO) received 2,969 complaints and inquiries about adult social care in 2015-16, up 6% on the previous year.
Of those, there was a 21% rise in complaints about residential care homes, while complaints about home care rose by 25%.
The report comes after the King’s Fund warned this week that councils could face legal challenges from families for failing to provide good quality and appropriate care to the disabled and older people.
The LGO found themes across the complaints it received on home care, including staff failing to turn up, being late, not staying long enough or cancelling visits.
The report said the rising number of complaints about social care may be indicative of the pressures the sector was experiencing.
It added: “We know that there are significant and increasing pressures on all areas of adult social care, and not least the home care market.
“Problems with recruitment and retention of staff, the introduction of the national living wage, and underfunded and overstretched services have been well documented.”
The report said the complaints revealed that the quality of care delivered to people “often falls below the standard expected”.
It said that funding pressures “do not excuse poor practice”, adding: “Respect for individual preferences around food and drink, what to wear and when to get up and go to bed are important to any individual and become emphasised when a person is not able to do these things independently.”
The local government ombudsman, 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.
Janet Morrison, chief executive of the charity Independent Age, said: “The sharp increase in complaints about adult social care is yet more evidence of a system in crisis.
“Home care is an incredibly important part of making sure that someone is able to retain their independence and stay in their own home. Inadequate home care can mean that older people lose the support they need for day-to-day tasks such as dressing or washing, and may be left to suffer in silence.
“This rise in complaints is the consequence of a care sector that is stretched to breaking point, with workforce gaps and a shortfall in funding impacting on the care many older people receive.”
Izzi Seccombe, from the Local Government Association, said the total number of social care complaints was small compared with the millions of people receiving services.
She said: “However, we are concerned that, despite care workers’ best efforts, complaints could become more frequent as the combined pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand and extra costs mean that councils will have less money for essential social care services, such as help with washing, dressing, or getting out and about.
“It is vital for our elderly and disabled population that the government uses the autumn statement to provide the funding for adult social care that councils need to ensure we have a care system fit for the 21st century.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “It is right that older people get high quality care wherever they live and it is encouraging to see that more people are speaking out when they encounter an issue.
“It is only by listening to people that councils and providers can learn lessons and improve the care they provide.
“The government is continuing to make it easier for people to complain and for their complaints to be resolved sensitively.”
Despite being saddened by this news, Home Care Preferred is very proud that we have policies in place that ensure the key areas for improvement highlighted in the report are very rarely an issue for us, and back up our reasoning for implementing them.
In order to deliver person centred care that allows each client to be washed, dressed and supported in a way that suits them we have a minimum of an hour call time. Not only does this give us time to complete all the client’s desired tasks to a high standard, it also enables us to ensure they are done safely and with a huge element of companionship involved.
Our logging in system allows us to monitor the arrival and departure times of our Support Assistant; this dramatically increases the level of punctuality and gives clients and their families the reassurance that they will receive the full amount of time allocated to them.
These measures, along with stringently ensuring each client only has a core team of Support Assistants to maintain continuity of care, has resulted in only 4 minor complaints over the last 12 months, which have all been resolved – a track record we are extremely proud of and are striving to make 0 complaints over the next 12 months.