Social Care Complaints Advocacy
If you have concerns about social care that Reading Borough Council has arranged, provided or funded for you, then we can help you through its complaints process. Our service is free, independent and confidential - we are not employed by the council.
We can give you telephone or online self-help advice or allocate an advocate to assist you if you need extra support to understand your options and rights, have your say, and resolve your concerns.
Our advocates are part of an experienced team based at the Reading Voice Advocacy Hub in Reading Central Library. They can also help with queries or concerns about the NHS.
Social Care Complaints Advocacy is a new service starting from 1 April 2018.
You can find answers to common questions about our service below.
“I want to highlight the power that one person speaking up can have in changing services for the better for everyone.”
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, describing how one person’s complaint about a council’s cut to their care, helped 70 other families check if they had been affected too.
Examples of social care complaints that people might make include:
- How the council assessed and decided your care needs
- The lack of any assessment or re-assessment of your care needs
- The amount of care the council has decided you need
- Changes to the amount of care you will receive
- Funding decisions
- Excessive delays to your care
- The quality of the care you receive (this can include care that the council’s own staff provide, or care that the council arranges for another organisation to carry out on its behalf, such as regular home visits by an agency worker to help with washing, dressing, and other personal care needs, a support worker for a person with a disability, or residential care for someone longer able to live in your own home)
- Breaches to your legal rights
- Inadequate safeguarding measures.
If you or a relative or friend is being harmed or threatened by a care worker, support worker, care home employee, or a relative, friend, neighbour or other person in your life, then you should report this first through Reading Borough Council’s safeguarding procedures. You can report this, regardless of who arranges or pays for the person’s care, or even if the person does not currently receive any care.
You can report abuse through Reading Borough Council’s website or by phoning 0118 937 3747 or 01344 786 543 out of hours.
The council has a two-stage process to investigate social care complaints:
The council will confirm it has received your complaint and tell you who is investigating the complaint, within five working days of receiving your complaint.
The Investigating Officer will review the case, talk to everyone involved and confirm the outcome of your complaint within 20 working days.
If you are dissatisfied with the investigation of your complaint you can ask the council to review your complaint again - this is ‘Stage 2’.
People must contact the council within 14 days of receiving the council’s letter about its stage 1 investigation, saying why they are dissatisfied and the outcomes they want from a further investigation.
The council will ask a more senior manager to carry out an independent review of the complaint – and will write to you within five working days to let you know who this person is.
The senior manager will ask people about their experience, record the details of the complaint in writing and will also talk to other people involved in the case. They will then give their report and recommendations to the Head of Service for a decision.
The Head of Service will write to you to tell you their decision and send you a copy of the report. This should be within 30 days of receiving the complainant’s letter.
If people remain dissatisfied with the Council's investigation of the complaint, they can escalate the complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
Visit Reading Borough Council’s complaints webpage for full information, and to find their online or printable complaint form.
Our Social Care Complaints advocates have gained, or are studying towards, the Level 2 City and Guilds Award in Independent Advocacy.
All our advocates must also:
- be DBS-checked
- have undergone Level 1 safeguarding training
- follow the nationally recognised Code of Practice for Advocates
- follow policies, including those on equality and diversity, data protection and lone working, for Healthwatch Reading, which oversees the Reading Voice Advocacy Hub.
People who pay for their own social care are not covered by the statutory social care complaints procedures. Instead, since 2010 when a law change came into effect, self-funders have been able to ask the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) to investigate complaints on their behalf. The LGO advises people to:
- First put your concerns to the organisation (such as the care home) to give them a chance to put it right through its own complaints system
- If you are unhappy with the organisation’s response, or they take too long to respond (normally longer than 12 weeks), you can ask the LGO to investigate.
For more information on this process, visit the LGO website or telephone the LGO service on 0300 061 0614.
A range of local and national standards set out what good social care looks like and could help show whether you have a good reason to make a complaint. Our advocates can help inform you of how these relate to your concerns:
Reading Borough Council’s Dignity in Care Charter. Care homes and home care agencies that the council fund to look after or support local people, are expected to sign up to this charter.
Care Quality Commission (CQC) advice on What to Expect From a Good Care Service, including care homes, home care and NHS services. The CQC visits and checks the quality of care and health services and can order them to make improvements. The CQC does not investigate individual complaints but will use public feedback to decide if checks need to be carried out.
People’s experience in adult social care services: improving the experience of care and support for people using adult social care services, guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the national body that makes recommendations to doctors and other health and care professionals
Adult social care arranged for you should not breach your human or legal rights. Our advocates can explain how these might apply to your complaint.
The Care Act 2014
This requires a person’s ‘wellbeing’ to be at the centre of all decisions made about their care needs. It also guarantees specific support, known as a Care Act Advocate for people who do not have anyone else in their life to help them speak up, and who have difficulty communicating or making decisions about their needs. (Reading Voice provides Care Act Advocates to eligible people, as well as Social Care Complaints Advocates).
The Human Rights Act 1998 includes:
The right to life (Article 2 of the act)
The prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3)
The right to liberty (Article 5)
The right to respect for private, family and home life (Article 8)
The Equality Act 2010 bans discrimination of people on the basis of:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Religion of belief
- Sexual orientation.
The 2010 Act also states that service providers, such as care homes, must take ‘reasonable steps’ to remove any barriers you might face to accessing their services because of your disability.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has put together simple tips on making a complaint, such as:
- avoiding delays where possible to raising concerns
- being specific that your letter is a formal complaint, so the council follows the legal regulations for investigating it
- being clear about what outcome you are seeking and
- being assertive, not aggressive.
Healthwatch England and Citizen’s Advice have worked together to come up with an online templateto help you include everything you need for a complaint letter.
NHS leaders say they expect organisations to follow best practice on complaints handling as recommended in a joint report by Healthwatch England, and the health and local government ombudsmen. The report, My expectations for raising concerns and complaints, says people should feel:
- confident to speak up
- that making a complaint is simple
- listened to and understood
- that their complaint has made a difference
- confident about making a complaint in the future.