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Complaints about social care

This content applies to England

Where an adult is unhappy with the outcome of a needs assessment, or with any care and support services s/he is receiving, s/he may make a complaint.

exclamation The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has temporarily suspended all proceedings that require information from, or action by, local authorities and care providers. For more information, see the page Homelessness in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and housing section.

Reasons for complaint

An adult or carer may want to challenge a local authority because, for example:

  • a needs assessment has not been carried out
  • needs have been determined as ineligible
  • a care/support plan does not meet the adult's/carer's needs
  • there has been no revision of a care plan following a change in circumstance
  • the quality of a service is inadequate.

Complaining to the local authority

A complaint should be made initially to the local authority itself following its complaints procedure. This is the case even if a service is not being provided directly by the authority. All authorities must have a complaints procedure, and regulations provide details of how complaints must be handled.[1]

If complaining to the authority does not result in needs being met more appropriately, a complaint could be made to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO), and/or legal advice could be obtained on taking judicial review proceedings.

See the page Judicial review for more information.

The government plans to implement an appeals process for care and support services once a consultation and spending review has taken place.

Complaining to the ombudsman

Anyone who claims to have suffered an injustice relating to a care service can complain to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO). The LGSCO will only look at a complaint after the council or care provider has had a reasonable opportunity to consider and respond to it.

Complaints to the LGSCO may be brought by:

  • the adult using the care service,
  • her/his family or other representatives
  • others affected by the actions of a care provider.

In addition to complaints about care arranged and funded by local authorities the LGSCO can consider complaints from people who arrange and fund their own adult social care. Complaints could therefore be against the local authority that has arranged and is managing the care or against the care provider when there is a private contract between the provider and service user or could span the two.

More information is available from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC)

The CQC monitors, inspects and regulates health and social care services to ensure they are providing effective and high quality care. Where a complaint that is within the remit of the LGSCO is made to the CQC, or vice versa, the two agencies have an agreement to transfer the complaint directly to the appropriate organisation.[2]

Human Rights Act protection

Where a registered care provider provides care and support to an adult in the course of providing personal care to that adult in her/his home, that provider is taken to be exercising a 'public function' under the Human Rights Act 1998 where the care and support is:[3]

  • arranged by a local authority, or
  • paid for (directly or indirectly, in whole or in part) by that authority.

This means that human rights protection is available to an adult who is receiving care at home even if s/he is 'self-funding' (ie paying for the care her/himself), as well as to adults in care homes, as long as the care and support was arranged by the local authority under a provision of the Care Act 2014.

Specialist advice

The Equality and Diversity Forum provides a searchable list of voluntary, statutory and umbrella organisations that may be relevant to advisers working with clients who are elderly and/or disabled. In addition the Directory of Deaf and Disabled People's Organisations provides information about organisations, mostly but not exclusively based in London, that support disabled people.

Elderly or disabled people and their advisers can search LASA's website to find sources of support and information available to them locally.


The information on this page applies only to England. Go to Shelter Cymru for information relating to Wales.

[1] Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations 2009 SI 2009/309.

[2] Local Government Ombudsman and Care Quality Commission Press Release 12 May 2012.

[3] s.73 Care Act 2014.

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