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Challenging a local authority decision

If you or your loved one feel unhappy with a local authority decision relating to care or an assessment, you have a right to challenge it.
4 min read
In this article
Local authority decisions about your care Reasons why you might want to challenge a decision Making a complaint
Tips for a successful complaint Contact an ombudsman: your final option Healthwatch

Local authority decisions about your care

If you, or your loved one, have had an assessment of your care needs carried out by your local authority and are unhappy with the way it was conducted or the outcome, you have a right to appeal or complain.

This could be following a:

  • Needs assessment: a free assessment by the council to establish what type and what level of care you need to stay safe and independent. 
  • Financial assessment: a means test carried out by the council to determine how much you financial support, if any, you are eligible to receive.
  • Carer’s assessment: to see if you’re eligible to receive support because you provide providing care for someone.

Reasons why you might want to challenge a decision

These are some of the possible reasons for dissatisfaction that can come up after a local authority assessment.

  • Your friend or relative has not seen the assessment or has not had a chance to comment or sign it.
  • The assessment didn’t cover all needs. There should be a record of all presenting needs, not just those classed as ‘eligible’.
  • Your loved one is unhappy with the decision following a financial assessment and can’t afford what the council is asking for.
  • The local authority didn’t offer any feasible options for meeting non-eligible needs. Local authorities are supposed to signpost people to other services that could meet non-eligible needs.
  • You don’t agree with the judgements about which needs were ‘eligible’.
  • You don’t agree with the way your loved one’s needs are described.
  • The assessment failed to offer clear outcomes (the difference the service is meant to make to your loved one’s life) or the outcomes are not appropriate or not of your choice.
  • The choice of service suggested by the care plan won’t meet needs or won’t deliver the intended outcome.
  • The amount of service offered will not meet eligible needs.
  • There have been unacceptable delays in carrying out the assessment or making decisions.
  • Poor customer service or rude staff.

Making a complaint

If you want to challenge a local authority decision, you should first complain to the relevant local authority itself. Start by asking if there is a dedicated appeals process for social care decisions. If your local authority has a dedicated appeals process, this will be the quickest way to get your complaint resolved.

However, the majority of local authorities do not have a dedicated appeals process for care decisions. In most cases, you will need to raise a complaint through the authority's standard complaints procedure. 

All councils are legally obliged to have a formal complaints procedure in place. They should publish information to make it clear to users that they are entitled to a review; explain how to request a review; and explain how to make a complaint.


This information should be available on all local authority websites and given to you or your loved one at the time of the assessment.


In Wales, the regional government has published guidance that local authorities must use when dealing with complaints about local authority social services.

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Tips for a successful complaint

Follow these key pointers to give your complaint the best chance of being successful.

  • Make it clear that your letter or email is a formal complaint by stating this at the top.
  • Include all relevant facts (plus dates, times and names).
  • Attach copies of all relevant documents.
  • Keep your complaint as brief and to the point as possible.
  • Say what you would like to happen – for example, you would like an apology or a review.
  • Be polite.
  • Keep a copy for your own records.

Contact an ombudsman: your final option

If you’re not satisfied with the local authority’s response and you believe the fault is down to a service or administrative error, your final option is to take the matter to an ombudsman. 

Once the ombudsman has decided whether it can legally deal with your complaint, it will then have up to 12 months to provide you with a resolution.

Contact the appropriate national ombudsman as follows:

In England: Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman

In Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Ombudsman

In Scotland: Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

In Wales: Public Services Ombudsman for Wales



If your complaint relates to social care, you might also want to let your local Healthwatch know about your issue. Healthwatch are the independent national champion for people who use health and social care services. They make sure that those running services, and the government, put people at the heart of care.

There is a local Healthwatch in every area of England and through these teams the organisation finds out what people want. This then enables them to advocate for services that meet local communities' needs. They also encourage people running services to involve people in making changes to care.

On the Healthwatch website you can link through to your local Healthwatch and report your experience of social care. No matter how big or small the issue, they want to hear about it.

Further reading

Last updated: 20 Nov 2020