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14 Oct 2019

Been refused care? Appealing could be harder than you think...

Four in five councils have no separate social care appeals process

People who don't agree with the council's decision about their care are likely to be faced with a long-winded complaints process.

This includes those who aren't deemed eligible for support with tasks such as getting washed and dressed, or can't afford what the council is asking them to pay following a financial assessment.

Forced to complain

New research by Independent Age reveals that four out of five councils don't have an appeals process to resolve disagreements about care decisions. Instead, they expect people who've been refused care to pursue their standard complaints process, which can be lengthy and distressing, forcing the most vulnerable or their families to become complainers.

And a high three in five (60%) of complaints about assessments and care planning that reached the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in 2018/19 - the next stage after a council complaint - were upheld, meaning that the council decision was finally overturned.

However, one in five councils do have a separate social care appeals process, something that Independent Age applauds and calls for government to make a requirement for all.

Next steps in appealing

Which? Later Life Care has guidance on how to challenge a local authority decision and next steps if you're not satisfied with the decision.

It's not just those who are getting care for the first time who might be subject to assessment: those receiving support in their own home or a care home might also call on the council to review and possibly increase the support they need.

This might be because of increasing disability or frailty.

But the council may also be seeking to dial down care for those perceived to be less needy, and Independent Age wants councils to be required to maintain current help until any disputes have beenresolved.

If you need to challenge a local authority decision, ask if there is a dedicated appeals process.

If not, you'll need to make a complaint and it's important to:

  • Complain to the local authority itself. Councils have to have a complaints policy - this will be explained on their website, as well as being given to you at the time of assessment.
  • Make it clear that your letter or email is a formal complaint by stating this at the top.
  • Keep your complaint as brief and to the point as possible.

We also have guidance about how to make a complaint about a care provider such as a home care agency or care home, whether the person is paying for the care themselves or is paid for by the local authority.

Using the ombudsman

This is the final option when you're not satisfied with the council's response and believe the fault is down to a service or administrative error. For example, the council has not completed its assessment as it should.

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 Ombudsman

In Northern Ireland:Northern Ireland Ombudsman

In Scotland:Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

In Wales:Public Services Ombudsman for Wales

Deborah Alsina, Chief Executive of Independent Age said, 'The one in five councils who do have a process are actually going above and beyond what is expected of them. Although this is brilliant, there needs to be a statutory appeals process so that no matter where you live, the way to appeal a decision will be the same.'

Read more about Independent Age's research into social care complaints.