Date Revised:

If you, or the person you care for, aren’t happy about the care they receive at a nursing or residential care home, or from paid care workers at home, then you can say something even you don't want to make a formal complaint.

The person you care for might tell you about a problem, or it might be something you notice. This could be problems with:

  • the support provided for personal care
  • the attitude and behaviour of staff
  • the quality of food and support to eat it
  • belongings going missing
  • a specific event that has happened, or
  • the person you care for being unhappy and their behaviour changing.

Which? have detailed information about what is unsatisfactory care? 

In very rare cases, you may be concerned about neglect or abuse. If you have concerns about abuse or neglect then you may like to get some specific advice from your local social care team (for adults or children) as it may be a safeguarding issue, and need investigating by a third party. See abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults on NHS Choices.

When to complain to your local council

If the person you care for pays for their own adult social care, for example if they get a direct payment and use it to pay for care, then you should complain directly to the care home or care agency that provides the care, rather than your local council.

If care is provided by your local council you can complain directly to them. This includes when they arrange and directly pay for care, even if they pay a private company or charity to actually provides the care.

Try talking directly to the care home or care agency

The quickest and easiest way to sort a problem may be to talk directly to staff or paid care worker and let them know your concerns.  They may be unaware of what is going on, or you could ask them to keep an eye on something. Don’t be put off if it is not the same person you speak to each time; they will be able to record what has been discussed, so that other staff are aware.  

You could also talk to the care home manager (or the head of the care agency who supplies the paid care workers) if you don’t feel comfortable speaking directly to the staff involved.

In each case, make a note of what you say, and to whom.  Also be clear about what you want to be done to resolve the problem.

If you need to make a more formal complaint then each care home and care agency will have its own complaints procedure that will tell you how to make a complaint.

Employing a personal assistant

If the person you care for employs their own personal assistant then they are their employer. They need to meet with their personal assistant regularly so that problems can be sorted early on.

If this doesn’t work, and they need to complain about the care they receive, then they need to follow the disciplinary procedure that would be agreed at the start of the employment and would include formal warnings. For more information about discipline and grievance - Acas Code of Practice.

Check with your local carer service to see if there are any charities in your local area that can help the person you care for find, employ and manage a personal assistant. You can also find out more about personal assistants on How do you want you and the person you care for to be supported? 

Further information about complaints

Social care complaints

Care homes and care agencies standards and regulation

Care homes and care agencies are regulated to make sure they meet certain standards. See care home inspections for more information. You can’t complain to these organisations directly but their websites have a lot of information. 

You can also find out more about care homes, buying care and getting a break sections. 

The Relatives and Residents Association who may be able to help you complain about the quality of care the person you care for receives in a care home.

Next review due: June 2017