Martin Ford 15 September 2020

Ombudsman calls for 'level playing field'

‘Weak’ social care providers are avoiding public accountability, the local government ombudsman has said.

In his adult social care annual review, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Michael King called on the Government to require providers to tell people about their complaints procedure.

In the year to March 2020, the ombudsman received more than 3,000 complaints and enquiries, but just 430 related to private care from independent providers – a ‘disproportionately low number,’ the report found.

Mr King said: ‘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.’

Mr King said planned social care reforms should include ‘mandatory signposting’ to the internal complaints procedure and how to escalate them to him.

Healthwatch England backed the call, with national director Imelda Redmond calling for a ‘learning culture in social care’.

Overall, the ombudsman upheld 69% of complaints, in which 10% the regulator agreed with the council or provider’s remedy.

More than 99% of recommendations were complied with, but the report expressed ‘concern’ that in 18% of cases compliance was late.

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