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How the Local Government Ombudsman can help if you have a complaint about adult social care services

This advice applies to England

If you’ve made a complaint about adult social care and this doesn't sort out the problem, you have the right to ask for an independent review by the Local Government Ombudsman.

What complaints can the Local Government Ombudsman look at?

The Local Government Ombudsman can look at complaints about adult social care which is:

  • provided or bought (commissioned) by the local authority
  • provided by other organisations registered by the Care Quality Commission.

For example, they can look at complaints about:

  • care arranged direct with a private care home by someone paying with their own or family money
  • care arranged using money provided by the local authority, for example, you use direct payments to pay for support from an agency
  • care provided directly by the local authority, for example, when local authority home helps come into your home to give personal care.

Example

The Ombudsman investigated a complaint from a man about the place where care was provided to his late brother during the last months of his life. The man complained that his and his brother's wishes were not taken into account when decisions were made about where the brother should be living and receiving care. The man says that because of this, his brother died in care rather than at home. This caused both men distress.

What is an independent review?

If you’ve made a complaint about adult social care using the local authority or the care provider’s complaints procedure, and you aren’t satisfied with how it was dealt with at the first stage (called local resolution), you have the right to take your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman. However, they are unlikely to agree to an independent review if they think that more should be done to sort out the problem at local resolution stage.

Also the Local Government Ombudsman may not be able to look at your complaint if:

  • you’re already taking legal action
  • you’re planning to take legal action
  • they consider that there’s another course of legal action open to you that it is reasonable for you to follow. Each case will be looked at individually.

The Local Government Ombudsman can only investigate complaints of maladministration which cause injustice. Maladministration means the way the organisation has dealt with a situation or reached a decision. For example, it's maladministration if the organisation doesn't follow its own policies or procedures.

You should make a request for an independent review within 12 months of the incident happening or when you first became aware that something had gone wrong. You should try to keep to this time limit but if this isn’t possible, you could still ask the Local Government Ombudsman to consider your request, particularly if you have a good reason for the delay such as grief or illness.

You can contact the Local Government Ombudsman:

  • using an online form on their website
  • in writing
  • by phoning their advisers.

You'll need to give the following details:

  • a summary of what happened
  • details of the main issues of concern
  • details of what action has been taken so far
  • details of what you're still unhappy about
  • why you feel that further action under the local resolution stage of the complaint wouldn’t sort out the problem
  • why you think an independent review would be helpful.

How to contact the Local Government Ombudsman

To find out how to contact the Local Government Ombudsman, go to the Local Government Ombudsman's website at www.lgo.org.uk/making-a-complaint.

What can the Local Government Ombudsman do?

If your complaint is upheld, the Local Government Ombudsman can ask the organisation to give you an apology and explain what went wrong. They could also recommend changes to prevent the same incident happening again or ask for a review of procedures.

The Local Government Ombudsman can also order financial compensation but this is normally lower than a court could order. Therefore, if the amount of financial compensation you’re looking for is high, you might have to take legal action.

What will happen after you send your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman?

Once the Local Government Ombudsman gets your complaint, they will let you know within 5 days who your contact person is. This is the person to ask about how your complaint is getting on.

How long will it take to sort out your complaint?

It may take some time for the Ombudsman to investigate your complaint. This will depend on how complex the complaint is. They will keep you informed about how the case is getting on.

How will they deal with your complaint?

Each case will be looked at individually. The Local Government Ombudsman will look at:

  • the issues that you’ve raised, and
  • how the complaint has been handled at local resolution stage.

Where appropriate, the Local Government Ombudsman will ask you and the local authority or care provider questions and then make a decision.

The Local Government Ombudsman works closely with the Care Quality Commission and in some cases will pass your complaint to them if it’s more appropriate for them to deal with it.

What happens if you’re unhappy with the Local Government Ombudsman’s response to your complaint?

If you’re unhappy about the decision made by the Local Government Ombudsman, you can ask for a review by a manager who has had no previous involvement in your case.

Next steps

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