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Social Services

Question for Department of Health

UIN 212938, tabled on 3 November 2014

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps his Department takes to ensure that local authorities are aware of their obligations to investigate complaints about poor-quality social care; and what assistance the Government provides to help them meet those obligations.

Answered on

10 November 2014

Each local authority is responsible for the quality of social care services it commissions. There is no national register or oversight of complaints in social care. However, local authorities are required, pursuant to the Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service (England) Regulations 2009, to keep a record of each complaint received, the subject matter and outcome and timescales for responding.

They are also obliged to make a summary of this information available to the public via an annual report. The Government believes that we should be committed to ensuring the system for resolving complaints about care is compassionate, personal, responsive, timely and ensures lessons are learned.

The Department established a national complaints programme board in December 2013. A comprehensive programme has been developed with national partners, including the Care Quality Commission (CQC), NHS England, Healthwatch England, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, the Local Government Ombudsman, the Local Government Association, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Association, to bring about important changes to the way complainants are supported and complaints are handled across the health and social care systems.

We are informed by the CQC that it is committed to strengthening its approach to assessing complaints and concerns during inspections. During an inspection, CQC inspectors will use key lines of enquiry to ascertain the standard of care. A mandatory key line of enquiry used during inspections of adult social care is whether the service routinely listens and learns from people’s experiences, concerns and complaints.

Under the Care Act, local authorities will have a new market shaping duty, meaning that they should work with local people and communities and engage with their local care providers to facilitate a diverse supply of high quality services.

The Care Act reforms should increase transparency and support more effective competition in local care markets. This will help providers of high quality care to attract more people, and to grow and diversify their share in the market.

We have just issued statutory guidance to local authorities about their new market shaping duties. Together with Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Local Government Association, we are developing a series of commissioning standards to improve local authority commissioning practices and encourage more flexibility, allowing providers to engage with them in new ways. We are keen to move commissioning from a “time and task” based to an outcomes-driven activity.