Elderly and disabled people waiting months for the right care as Yorkshire councils have no appeals process
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At the 10 other Yorkshire councils, people must launch an appeal through the council’s complaints process, which typically takes much longer and can confuse people about their right to challenge decisions made about their care.
The majority of complaints about adult social care are justified, data shows, with three out of five appeals upheld, a rise from two out of five in 2010. Nearly two-thirds of appeals are about the type or quality of care.
Though it is not a legal requirement for councils to provide an appeals service, not doing so can mean vulnerable people end up waiting six months or more to have a problem resolved, often subjecting them to unfair costs and unnecessary stress, according to Independent Age, which carried out the research. On the other hand, where a dedicated process is in place, appeals are dealt with in between six and 11 weeks.
The elderly advice and support charity called for the appeals process to be a legal requirement for councils.
Deborah Alsina MBE, chief executive of Independent Age, said: “Having to challenge a decision by making a formal complaint is hard enough for many older people and their families, without the added complications of not knowing how to do it, or how long it will take.
“The Yorkshire councils who do have an appeals process are actually going above and beyond what it expected of them. Although this is something we welcome, 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.”
The government has previously acknowledged the importance of a robust appeals system for social care and consulted on this in 2015, however, no progress has been made, she said.
She added: “Too many people are being left without the support they need, and with no idea about how to take control of their own care, and that needs to end.”
Last year, there were 1.8 million requests for adult social care, a number that is set to rise as society ages. Of this, 70 per cent were from people aged 65 and over and a quarter of these resulted in no service being provided.
If a person, or person acting on their behalf, is not satisfied with the outcome of the complaint or the council has not provided a response within a “reasonable time”, they have the right to take their case to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman said many of the complaints it sees “appear to be driven by attempts to ration scarce resources”.
In some casework areas – including those about fees and charging for care – the Ombudsman has upheld nearly three-quarters of investigations.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “It’s essential for authorities to try to get things right at the local level before problems are escalated to us, so we welcome any moves to improve the way councils manage the assessment process for people in need of care.
“Any change in approach should learn lessons from similar existing appeals systems and follow the principles of good administrative practice, that is: easy to use, easy to access and with clear guidance for all who use it.”
In the last year, North Yorkshire County Council had the most complaints to the Ombudsman, with 36 -- more than three quarters upheld. This was the 13th highest of more than 300 councils in England.
Sheffield City Council was next with 28 complaints, of which 75 per cent were upheld, followed by Leeds City Council with 26 complaints, but only 38 per cent of these were upheld.
Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, Coun Ian Hudspeth, said: “People should be able to live the lives they want to lead and councils do all they can to make sure their eligible care needs are met, in order to help achieve their priorities. This includes working closely with individuals and their families.
“However, given the serious funding and demand pressures facing adult social care, councils face incredibly difficult decisions over the exact nature of care and support available.
“Councils treat all complaints seriously and have processes in place for resolving these, including for social care.”
He said the social care system is under severe pressure from rising costs and demand, which needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
“The Queen’s Speech announcement on proposals for the future of adult social care also need to be substantive and brought forward as soon as possible, to reassure all those who use and work in this vital service.”
Wakefield Council said appeals are dealt with within 10 working days, unless an extension is agreed between the council and the person launching the appeal.
The other Yorkshire councils have also been contacted for a response.