A report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) has revealed that complaints and inquiries about adult social care have nearly trebled since 2010.

The report said there were 3106 complaints or inquiries about private or council-run adult social care in 2017–2018, compared with 1156 in 2010–2011.

The ombudsman, who deals with the final stage of grievances about adult social care in England, upheld many more of the complaints in 2017–2018, at 62%, than the 43% in 2010–2011. And in the last year there were 1274 recommendations for improvements.

Of the 3106 complaints or inquiries, 1130 were investigated by the ombudsman, with the majority of the remainder understood to have been premature complaints, where people were directed to contact the care provider, the council or the regulator directly before going to the ombudsman.

Since 2010, the ombudsman has had the power to investigate complaints about independent care providers, during which time the number of complaints has increased year on year. The number in 2017–2018 was up 1% on the previous year.

A total of 725 complaints or inquiries were about assessment and care planning, 598 about residential care, 382 about home care, 325 about charging and 242 about safeguarding. There was a 9% increase in complaints about charging.

Shadow Minister for Social Care Barbara Keeley responded to the statistics: “This alarming spike in the number of complaints is a direct result of the hollowing-out of the social care system by this Government’s decision to cut the budgets of councils who provide social care.”

She said councils and “overworked, underpaid care staff” were struggling to keep up with the pace of demand for care from those with limited means, while “ever greater numbers of private payers desperate for support find themselves being ripped off for expensive yet substandard care by opportunistic private care providers”.

The report cautioned that “complaint volumes alone do not tell us enough about the social care landscape, the quality of services or people’s experience of them”. It said the rising numbers may be a “positive byproduct of people feeling able to speak up”, but it acknowledges that it may also be “indicative of poorer-quality care and experiences”.

Last reviewed 6 December 2018