The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr B complained about the way the Council responded to his complaint about a care agency. He believed the Council’s response simply accepted the agency’s comments. The Council’s response appeared to be inadequate. Mr B cannot be satisfied the Council has properly considered his concerns. The Council has agreed to remedy the injustice.
- Mr B complains on behalf of his Uncle, Mr D that:
- He raised a complaint against the agency providing domiciliary care services to Mr D (the Agency). The Council responded with the Agency’s comments. However, Mr B considers the response dismisses his concerns as he believes the Council simply accepted the Agency’s comments.
- In relation to the one aspect of the complaint the Council partially upheld, the issue of when the carers would log-in to visit Mr D, Mr B considers the Council should be offering more than the proposed amount of £500.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered Mr B’s complaint form and discussed the matter with him. I have made enquiries of the Council and considered its response along with Mr D’s care records and records from the care agency.
- Mr B and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
What I found
What should have happened
- Councils should have clear procedures for dealing with social care complaints. Regulations and guidance say they should investigate a complaint in a way which will resolve it speedily and efficiently. A single stage procedure should be enough. The Council should say in its response to the complaint:
- how it has considered the complaint; and
- what conclusions it has reached about the complaint, including any matters which may need remedial action; and
- whether the responsible body is satisfied it has taken or will take necessary action; and
- details of the complainant’s right to complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
(Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations 2009)
What did happen
- In 2018 Mr D fell and was admitted to hospital. When he was discharged, the Council arranged a package of care to help him with maintaining personal hygiene and meal preparation. Carers were to visit four times a day for 30 minutes each time.
- In October 2019 Mr B complained to the Council about Mr D’s care package. He outlined seven points of complaint.
- The Council responded in November 2019. The response outlined each of the seven points from Mr B. Under every point but one was the Agency’s comments and the Council’s conclusion, for example ‘complaint partially upheld’.
- The issue of log-in times for each visit was the one complaint for which the Council provided further explanation. The Agency accepted there were difficulties with the system it used for logging calls. The Council explained it had checked the log-in records and there were some visits where no log-in time was recorded. However, it accepted the Agency’s assertion that the visits took place. It explained the Agency now used an improved system. Finally, the Council explained that while some instances showed shorter calls, others showed carers had stayed for more time than allocated. The Council therefore apologised and offered £500 to recognise any inconvenience.
- I share Mr B’s view about the Council’s response to his complaint. I have reviewed the evidence the Agency provided to the Council. Having done so, I can understand why the Council may have reached its conclusions. However, I accept that, to Mr B, it does appear the Council has accepted the Agency’s position as its conclusions appear to accept the Agency’s responses without further explanation. I would have expected the Council to explain why it has accepted the Agency’s comments with reference to any additional evidence, for example, to the statements from staff the Agency provided.
- In relation to the call logs, the Council has explained further in its complaint response why it has partially upheld this complaint. The absence of log-in times for some of the records appears to be fault. However, I do not consider this conclusive evidence that the calls were shorter or, for that matter, longer than the time allocated. The Council has accepted the poor record-keeping is fault and offered an apology and a financial remedy. Without being able to establish there was a shortfall in the call times, I do not consider a higher financial remedy is warranted. Further, I have reviewed Mr D’s care record for the days when there are no log-in times. The care records show carers visited. It therefore appears the Council’s offer remedies any injustice to Mr D for the poor record keeping.
- Within one month of my decision, the Council will again write to Mr B explaining why it has accepted the Agency’s comments over Mr B’s concerns, with reference to the evidence the Agency provided.
- There is evidence of fault in the Council’s failure to properly explain its decision on Mr B’s complaints. The Council has agreed to remedy any injustice Mr B has suffered. I have therefore completed my investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman