The social care system is “progressively failing” people and there has been a “relentless rise” in upheld complaints, according to the ombudsman.
There is a “gulf” between what the public expects and what it gets, said the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in its yearly complaints’ review.
It received 2,033 complaints and enquiries about adult care provided by councils and independent providers in the year to April 2021.
That was down on the year before due to the pandemic, but the proportion upheld rose from 69% to nearly 72%.
The ombudsman said the last decade had seen a “relentless rise” in the percentage of cases in which care users and families had been let down.
Complaints are also said to be increasingly stemming from measures by care providers and councils to “mitigate the squeeze on their resources”.
“Viewed through the lens of complaints from the public, and our impartial findings, the adult social care system is progressively failing to deliver for those who need it most,” said ombudsman Michael King.
He added: “Increasingly it is a system where exceptional and sometimes unorthodox measures are being deployed simply to balance the books – a reality we see frequently pleaded in their defence by the councils and care providers we investigate.
“At a time of such pressure, it is now more important than ever to listen to public concerns in the form of complaints: they provide free intelligence to spot problems and drive improvement.”
From April, a 1.25% National Insurance rise takes effect to raise more money for social care in England. The prime minister has said the new levy will raise nearly £36bn over three years.
In response to the ombudsman’s report, a government spokesperson said it was committed to providing “world-leading social care” and that new funding would establish “comprehensive reforms that are sustainable and fit for the future”.
“To support the sector through this global pandemic we have provided over £2bn in specific funding for adult social care, in addition to more than £6bn that has been made available to local authorities to address pressures on their services,” the spokesman said.
“We continue to work with the sector on social care reform and will publish further details in the White Paper later this year.”