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New rights to complain about private social services and palliative care services come into force

People in Wales who fund their own social care or receive palliative care will be able to make complaints about those services to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (PSOW) under a change to the law coming into force today (Saturday 1 November).

The change is being introduced as a result of the Welsh Government’s landmark Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. Provision in that Act, among other things, amends the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2005.

The PSOW has legal powers to look into complaints about public services in Wales. Until now, the Ombudsman has only been able to investigate complaints relating to health and social care regarding services provided or commissioned by a local authority or Local Health Board.

In 2012 the Welsh Government undertook an extensive consultation, ‘Making Things Better’, which included asking people about access to advocacy and support and whether the PSOW should be enabled to consider complaints regarding privately arranged or funded social care and palliative care services.

As a result, the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 includes the necessary provision to enable the PSOW to consider complaints from people who fund their own social care or receive palliative care.

These new powers for the PSOW complement new regulations which came into force on 1 August 2014 and introduced a new two stage social services complaints procedure. That process brings the social services complaints process in line with the Model Concerns and Complaints Policy and Guidance adopted across public services, notably the NHS’s Putting Things Right, and aims to improve the experience of people making complaints about social services.

Patients receiving palliative care will normally do so after having received intensive, clinical cancer care in the NHS. For NHS services, a patient or family can complain to the NHS organisation and have the matter investigated; if they remain unhappy they can approach the Ombudsman. Throughout this process, patients can ask to be supported by an advocate who will assist them to take forward their concern.

The end-of-life care annual report, published earlier this week, showed the average feedback score for specialist palliative care services, according to the results of the iWantGreatCare survey was 9.56 out of 10.

Health and Social Services Minister, Mark Drakeford said:

“Extending the remit of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales to cover privately arranged or funded social care and palliative care services is a significant enhancement for citizens, and will contribute to our overall objective of improving care and support for all people.

“These new powers are among the first to be commenced from that transformational Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014and clearly demonstrate that everyone who makes a complaint about care they receive has a right to be listened to and have their concerns addressed effectively.