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What should happen when you make a complaint about adult social care services

This advice applies to England

This page tells you how the local authority or care provider investigate a complaint about adult social care and what you can do if you're not happy with their response.

Investigation of complaints

The organisation must investigate your complaint and aim to sort out the problem quickly and efficiently. They should also keep you informed about how the investigation is going.

When they investigate the complaint, the complaints manager may invite you for a meeting or, if you agree, arrange for conciliation, mediation or other help to resolve the complaint. It’s good practice for them to allow you to be accompanied to a meeting by, for example, a representative from a local independent advocacy service. In some cases, it could be against equality law not to allow you to have an advocate, for example, if you need one because of your disability.

Response to your complaint

At the end of the investigation, the complaints manager must prepare a written response to your complaint and send it to you. This response should:

  • give an explanation of how the complaint has been looked at
  • set out the conclusions reached, including any action that is needed to sort out the problem
  • give details of your right to take your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman if you aren’t satisfied with their response.

The investigation should be done within a reasonable time but there's no time limit for the organisation to finish their investigation. This will depend on the complexity of the case. However, if they don’t finish the investigation within 6 months of the date when they received the complaint, they must write to you explaining the reason for the delay and then send you their final response as soon as they can.

What should you do if you're not happy with the outcome?

Complaining to the Local Government Ombudsman

Once you get the final response, you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) if:

  • you aren't happy with the final answer from the local authority or the organisation providing care
  • they don't give you an answer within a reasonable time.

The LGO can look at complaints about things that have gone wrong:

  • with the way the service was delivered
  • if the service wasn't delivered at all, even though you have a right to that service
  • with the way a decision was taken, or not taken.

The Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates adult social care. They don't investigate individual complaints but you can report your experience to them and this could result in them taking action against the care provider.

Appealing to the Secretary of State for Health

If the local authority has a duty to provide you with a service and they refuse to do so, or if they unfairly take a service away from you, you could report them to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State has a legal power to rule that a local authority is in breach of their legal duties. This could be a possibility where there are serious and systematic failures by the local authority. Get specialist advice about this option.

You may be able to take legal action against the local authority or organisation providing care. For example, you might be able to apply for judicial review if you need to challenge a decision not to provide care that you have a right to. You'll need expert legal advice about applying for judicial review. Another option may be to start legal action to claim compensation.

Contacting your local councillor or MP

Depending on the situation, you could take up the issue with your local councillor or MP.

Get help

Depending on the situation, it can be difficult or distressing to have to make a complaint. It's usually best to get help to do this, for example, from your local Healthwatch.

Next steps

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