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Concern over rising Norfolk care complaints amid council cuts sparks urgent review call

A rise in complaints over adult social care has triggered a call for an urgent review. Pic: Jonathan Brady/PA

A rise in complaints over adult social care has triggered a call for an urgent review. Pic: Jonathan Brady/PA

JONATHAN BRADY

Increasing complaints about how older and disabled people are being cared for in Norfolk has triggered a call for the council to carry out an urgent review.

Tim Adams, Liberal Democrat county councillor. Pic: Tim Adams.Tim Adams, Liberal Democrat county councillor. Pic: Tim Adams.

Norfolk County Council had the second highest number of adult social care complaints in the country lodged with watchdogs in the past year.

And the local government ombudsman has upheld a number of those complaints, including where the council breached the Care Act and people were incorrectly charged for care.

In 2018/19, of 150 complaints lodged with the ombudsman, 60 were about adult social care. Only Essex had more. There were 58 the previous year and 48 in 2016/17.

Of the total 2018/19 complaints, which also included ones related to other departments, 61 led to detailed investigations and 41 were upheld.

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.

The ombudsman backed the complainant in 67pc of cases compared to an average of 64pc in similar authorities.

On Monday, Liberal Democrat councillors will call for an urgent assessment of the council's adult social care charging policies, to understand the effect it has had on vulnerable and disabled people.

Lib Dem county councillor Tim Adams said: "The Lib Dems believe that the council should be judged by how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the disabled.

"The county council must urgently review how it charges those most of need. Life expectancy should not be reduced by the actions of a council. The council must stop putting saving money before the needs of the vulnerable and the disabled."

The council spends £428m a year on adult social services. But amid dwindling grants from central government, it has had to make cuts in recent years, with another £9m due to be cut from adult social care in the year ahead.

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A county council spokesman said: "Adult social services helps or commissions services for around 23,000 people per year and, in most cases, we get it right.

"We accept that some historic issues that have led to a spike in complaints to the local government ombudsman.

"We are confident that improvements are being put in place. Our adult social services department met the ombudsman recently to discuss these issues."

Examples of where the watchdog said the council got it wrong

■ Saving money was put before the care needs of a woman with Asperger's and mental health issues.

Norfolk County Council acted unlawfully when it decided to withdrew night support for a 55-year-old woman, who had never spent a night alone in her life, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found.

■ The council apologised after an agency care worker failed to notice a man she was looking after had died - and told his wife he was sleeping.

■ A disabled woman won compensation after she was left to sleep on a sofa and rely on a commode in her kitchen for two years after the council's delays and mistakes in assessing her needs for adaptations to her home.

■ The council made mistakes in assessing how much a man with a history of stroke, heart attacks and back pain should have been paying for his care.

■ The council breached the law when it cut a disabled man's personal budget "with indifference to his individual needs and wishes".

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