William Eichler 19 July 2017

Vulnerable adults let down by ‘poor’ social work, ombudsman says

Vulnerable adults are being let down by ‘poor’ social work practice, Ombudsman reports.

The most recent report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) has revealed ‘very real concerns’ about the way the most vulnerable people in society are being treated by social care providers.

In the year 2016-17, the Ombudsman investigated more than 1,200 adult social care complaints. Up to one in five of those complaints involved concerns about mental capacity or the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards System (DoLS).

Of those complaints, 69% were upheld by the LGO, which is higher than the average figure of 53%.

The LGO discovered cases where assessments to determine whether someone has the capacity to make decisions for themselves were not carried out or were delayed.

It also identified other cases that involved poor decision making when deciding on someone’s best interests, a process friends and families were sometimes left out of.

This includes cases where people have been left in care homes, having not had the proper assessments carried out - and potentially being deprived of their freedom - for many years.

The Ombudsman also came across problems with the DoLS, including cases where people had been left in care homes, having not had the proper assessments carried out - and potentially being deprived of their freedom - for many years.

‘The people who these measures are designed to protect are all too often being let down by poor practice,’ said LGO Michael King.

‘And, while I appreciate the complex emotional and practical decisions social workers need to make, the people they look after are still entitled to be treated fairly, and have their assessments undertaken correctly and in a timely manner.

‘People should have the right to make choices for themselves unless they have been assessed as not having capacity.

‘We have issued this report to highlight where things are going wrong, so we can help authorities get things right and improve services for people.’

Responding to the report, Margaret Willcox, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said: 'This welcome report highlights the importance of good assessment and planning in relation to people who may lack capacity to make key decisions themselves.

'ADASS and our members are always disappointed to hear of poor practice and one instance is one too many. We are not complacent but are aware that there is also good practice, as evidenced in the report.'

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