Vulnerable adults being let down by poor social work practice


Vulnerable people are being forced into situations against their will because care providers are not going through the proper processes, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

In a report published today, the Ombudsman highlights some of the very real concerns it has about the way some of the most vulnerable people in society are being treated when decisions are being made on behalf of people who lack mental capacity to choose how they are cared for.

Problems the Ombudsman sees include not carrying out – or delaying – assessments to determine whether someone has the capacity to make decisions for themselves, poor decision making when deciding on someone’s best interests, and not involving friends and families in the decision process.

The report also includes problems the Ombudsman sees with the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards System (DoLS) system. This includes cases where people have been left in care homes, having not had the proper assessments carried out – and potentially being deprived of their freedom – for many years.

In the year 2016-17, the Ombudsman investigated more than 1,200 adult social care complaints in detail. Up to one in five of those complaints involved concerns about mental capacity or DoLS. And, most troubling, following investigation, the Ombudsman upheld 69% of those investigations, which is higher than the average figure of 53%.

The Ombudsman’s investigations show that some councils and care providers do not properly understand the processes for making decisions on behalf of people who lack mental capacity.

The report offers advice and guidance to social care professionals on how to get things right when working with people who may lack mental capacity. It also provides questions councillors can use for scrutinising their own authorities to ensure people in their area are treated properly.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said:

“The people who these measures are designed to protect are all too often being let down by poor practice. And, while I appreciate the complex emotional and practical decisions social workers need to make, the people they look after are still entitled to be treated fairly, and have their assessments undertaken correctly and in a timely manner.

“People should have the right to make choices for themselves unless they have been assessed as not having capacity. We have issued this report to highlight where things are going wrong, so we can help authorities get things right and improve services for people.“

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigates complaints about social care however it is funded or delivered and has been at the apex of the complaints process for adult social care provision for more than 40 years. We were given jurisdiction to investigate complaints about all independent registrable care providers in 2010.

The Ombudsman’s role is to remedy individual injustice and, by sharing the learning from the complaints we investigate, effect local service improvements.

We also work closely with care regulators, the Care Quality Commission and share our findings to inform their inspections of care settings.


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