Challenging refusals and delays on social care support

We regularly hear from members and their families wanting help in finding the right social care support. With a complex range of services and local variations in provision, it can be difficult to understand how to get the right care and support and what to do if things go wrong.

Woman receiving care support

Andrea Libman of the Oddfellows’ Care and Welfare team further explained: “We often find that members are having to deal with such setbacks during times of crisis. This makes it more likely to be confused about what you’re entitled to, know where you’re up to with decisions, and what you’re to do next.

“My single biggest piece of advice is to find out about your entitlements. We can help you with that. Secondly, it’s to get support if you need it, to help you make progress.”

Common scenarios and suggestions on resolutions

Social care support covers a wide range of services providing practical assistance to help with illness, disability, or respite for family carers. Services may be funded by the local Adult Social Care service (social services), or privately, by service users and their families. Types of social care support include: help at home from a paid carer, equipment and household gadgets, adaptations to the home, personal alarm systems and alternative housing such as sheltered schemes and care homes.

If you require social services to arrange or pay towards your care you should request a needs assessment by calling the local Adult Social Care service. This assessment outlines the type of care that will help you, and how it will be provided.

Carers are entitled to a carer’s assessment, and for those who need equipment or home adaptations, an occupational therapy assessment can also be requested. Each of these assessments is free, regardless of your personal financial circumstances. Some people arrange care, support, equipment and adaptations privately themselves, however it is often worthwhile having a needs or occupational therapy assessment first to clarify all your needs.

Refusals, diversions and delays

Most local councils have a centralised social services call centre for handling initial telephone queries and requests for assessments. Requests are logged and passed to a duty officer for screening and a response. However, some call centre operators screen out requests at that first point of contact by diverting people away from an assessment if they appear to have sufficient resources to pay for their own care, or by declining a referral from a third party.

Often, once an assessment is done, and it is agreed that there is a social care need, there is a refusal to fully meet that need because of a ‘shortage of resources’. This could be a shortage of funds, or physical resources such as respite care. While ‘blanket policies’ are usually not permitted, it is not uncommon to be told ‘we can’t do this for six months’, ‘due to cutbacks we don’t provide that now’ or ‘we don’t do separate carer’s assessments’.

Delay is another common problem and is one of the most difficult to address. It can creep up slowly, initially unnoticed and become a much larger problem as time progresses. A promise may be made in good faith that something will be done by a specific date but for one reason or another it doesn’t happen. Further deadlines may then be missed, meaning months have passed without progress.

Woman taking notes

How to take action

1. Keep notes
When calling social services, or any other care agency, keep a record of who you spoke to, what they agreed to do, any deadlines mentioned and the date and time of the call. It may be helpful to start a notebook just for these records so you know where things are up to.

2. Get it in writing
Decisions made by social services should be notified in writing, such as a care and support plan, the outcome of a financial assessment to determine care cost contributions, or a decision about a disabled facilities grant for home adaptations.

3. Make a complaint
If it hasn’t been possible to resolve complaints informally, use the local council’s complaint process to seek redress. When writing a letter of complaint, it is essential to set out clearly each issue, briefly explain what has or hasn’t happened and what outcomes you are seeking.

3. Contact the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman
If you aren’t satisfied with the outcome of your complaint and have fully exhausted the local council’s complaint process, you can escalate your complaint to the Ombudsman. People who pay for their own care can complain direct to the Ombudsman after exhausting their care provider’s complaints process.

Useful links

For local social services go to visitgov.uk/find-local-council or contact the Oddfellows Care and Welfare Helpline.

For the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman visit lgo.org.uk/ or call 0300 061 0614 (Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm).

To view Citizens Advice's template complaint letter go to citizensadvice.org.uk/health/nhs-and-social-care-complaints/ or contact the Oddfellows Citizens Advice Line.

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