Complaints about adult social care arranged by councils

We can investigate complaints about adult social care arranged by a council, regardless of who provides the care. This fact sheet deals with complaints about councils or services they arrange. We have a separate fact sheet for complaints about adult care services generally, and one like this for privately arranged services.

I want to complain to the Ombudsman, so why do I need to go to the council?

Before we can investigate a complaint, we must be sure the council knows about it, and has had a reasonable chance to investigate and reply to it. 

What is the council’s complaints procedure?

Councils that provide adult social care services must have complaints procedures which meet the law and government guidance. The council should work with you to try and resolve your complaint. These arrangements also require councils to work with other agencies to answer your complaints if they include health care, or care the council has arranged from someone else. 

Where can I get details of the council’s complaints procedure?

The best place to look is the council’s website, or you can telephone the council and ask for a copy. 

How long will the council’s procedure take?

We usually give the council 12 weeks to try to resolve your complaint. It may ask you to agree to more time and should explain why. It may be in your interests to agree to this as long as there is progress. If you are unsure, please contact us.   

Six weeks have passed and I have heard nothing from the council. What should I do?

You should contact the council and ask it to explain what is happening with your complaint.

What if the council doesn’t progress the complaint in a reasonable time?

If there are serious, unexplained delays please let us know. The council should have told you what the enquiries into your complaint will involve. But we may decide the council has had enough time to deal with your complaint and that we should consider it further.

Why must I allow the council to put my complaint through the complaints procedures when I know it will not change its decision?

Experience shows many councils are often successful at resolving complaints through their own complaints procedures. After complaining to the council about two thirds of complainants decide they do not need to come back to us.

Will you check what is happening to my complaint while the council is dealing with it?

No. When you have completed the complaints procedure, come back to us if you remain unhappy. The council should tell you when you have reached the end of the procedure.

I think I will suffer lasting harm if the council takes months to deal fully with the complaint. Why can’t the Ombudsman investigate the complaint now?

We can investigate some urgent complaints without giving the council the opportunity to put the complaint through its statutory complaints procedures first. But we only do this in exceptional cases. If you think we should treat your complaint as an exception, and you have not asked us already, please discuss this with us when we contact you.

My complaint is about the council’s plan for me to move to another residential home. The council has told me this will happen soon, so if I have to wait some months before the Ombudsman investigates it’s likely I’ll have moved by then. 

Making a complaint to the council or to the Ombudsman won’t in itself stop the council going ahead with its plans. We don't have the power to stop that from happening. But  Government guidance on social care complaints says councils should consider ‘freezing’ decisions such as the one affecting you while the council and we deal with complaints about them. While the Council is dealing with your complaint it may find there has been fault in the process that led to the decision, so it may change it. If that doesn’t happen, but when the complaint comes to us we decide the council shouldn’t have arranged for you to move, we can recommend how the council might put things right for you. 

What happens if I am still unhappy after the council has completed its response to my complaint?

Please call our helpline on 0300 061 0614. It will help if you have the council’s written or email response to your complaint (if it has sent one) when you call, our Adviser will ask you some questions about what the letter or email says. The complaint will go to our Assessment team to consider. We aim to telephone or write to you within 20 working days, the volume of cases we are handling may affect this.

October 2023

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