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Organisations that can help you make a complaint about adult social care services

This advice applies to England

Adult social care is usually very good, but occasionally things can go wrong. This page tells you about organisations that can help you sort out a problem with adult social care.

Organisations that can help with general complaints about adult care services

Local Healthwatch

Local Healthwatch is the ‘consumer champion’ for adult care services. In some areas, local Healthwatch organisations will just be able to give general advice and support about complaints. In other areas, they will be able to act as an advocate when you have a formal complaint. Your local Healthwatch will provide information about what support they can give you and often ask for general feedback on the care services you have used. It can be helpful to send them your views, even if you have nothing to complain about and want to report good services.

Local Healthwatch organisations have the power to request information from care providers, who have a legal duty to reply in writing to reports and recommendations made by local Healthwatch within 20 days. In more complex cases, this time limit is 30 days. Information obtained in this way could help you make a complaint about adult social care although local Heathwatch don’t investigate individual complaints.

Local Healthwatch organisations also have the power to enter and inspect premises, to observe how activities are carried on there. Some premises are excluded. For example, Local Healthwatch organisations don’t have the right to enter and inspect premises if this would get in the way of providing services or would affect the privacy and dignity of anyone there. If you have serious concerns about care services, contact your local Healthwatch who may, in some cases, carry out a visit, but they don’t investigate individual complaints.

Independent advocates

You may find it useful to have an independent advocate to put your case, for example, if you have a severe learning disability or a mental health problem. Ask your local Healthwatch for contact details of local independent advocates.

Also your local authority has a legal duty to make sure that people who want to make complaints get practical help to understand the complaints procedure, or advice about where they can get this help. So you can contact your local authority if you want the help of an advocate to make your complaint and they may be able to help you or tell you where to get more help.

Organisations that can help with complaints about care services for older or vulnerable people

Age UK

Age UK produce useful information and can give advice about adult social care options and complaints. Their website is: www.ageuk.org.uk/about-us/. They also have a helpline on: 0800 169 6565.

Elder abuse

Action on elder abuse is an organisation that can help if an older person is being abused in a care setting. This could include neglect or physical abuse. Their website is: www.elderabuse.org.uk and they have a confidential freephone helpline: 080 8808 8141.

Disability Rights UK

Disability Rights UK is an organisation working for the equality of disabled people. They produce useful guides about independent living and how to make a complaint about the local authority. Their website is: www.disabilityrightsuk.org and they have an independent living support line on: 0300 555 1525.

People with mental health problems

There are a number of specialist organisations to support people with mental health problems. For more information, go to Organisations that can help with NHS complaints

There are a number of solicitors and organisations which specialise in legal cases about adult social care.

For example, you could contact the Disability Law Service. Their website is: www.dls.org.uk/.

Or you could look on The Law Society website at www.lawsociety.org.uk to find a solicitor specialised in community care cases. However, the solicitors themselves choose which subjects they list as specialities, so this isn't necessarily a guarantee of their expertise in a particular area.

You can search for legal advisers in your area with a legal aid contract to do community care work if you go to: www.find-legal-advice.justice.gov.uk.

There are associations of solicitors with experience of certain types of cases. You could contact one of these associations for information about their members, for example:

RAD Legal Services, part of the Royal Association for Deaf People, provides specialist legal advice and representation for deaf people, particularly those whose first or preferred language is sign language. Their website is: www.royaldeaf.org.uk.

Disability Rights UK (see above) has teamed up with a firm of solicitors called Irwin Mitchell who are recognised experts in disability and patients’ rights cases. They have offices across the country and they offer legal aid to people who qualify. To contact a member of the Public Law team at Irwin Mitchell, email them at: publiclawnewenquiries@irwinmitchell.com or telephone 0800 028 1943. Their website is: www.irwinmitchell.com

If you want more information about challenging the decisions of a public body (judicial review), you can go to the Public Law Project website at www.publiclawproject.org.uk

Discrimination

The Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) helpline is for people who think they may have experienced discrimination. They don’t give legal advice, but they aim to support you if you're referred from local organisations. These include advisory groups, faith-based organisations and other community groups that support people experiencing discrimination. You can call the helpline directly, but it's best if you go to an advice organisation first. They can then make contact with the service on your behalf.

Human rights

The British Institute of Human Rights is an organisation that can help with information about your human rights in relation to care services. They produce useful guides, for example, about capacity issues in a healthcare setting. Their website is: www.bihr.org.uk.

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