Complaints cases double to children's services in Northumberland

The number of complaints received by children’s social services in Northumberland more than doubled last year.

Wednesday, 3rd July 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th July 2019, 1:00 pm
County Hall, Morpeth Picture by Jane Coltman

However, bosses at the county council have said this is down to an improvement in how complaints are recorded and handled, while early action in order to deal with issues informally has also got better.

The latest annual report, which was presented to the health and wellbeing committee on July 2, revealed that there were 70 children’s social care complaints received in 2018-19, up from 27 the previous year. Adult complaints rose from 24 to 34.

Karen Willis, children’s social care complaints manager at the council, said: “It’s just to do with the way they were recorded, it’s not a reflection of the service.

More than 20,000 adults received information, advice, support and services last year while thousands of early-help referrals for children were received and 174 care proceedings concluded, for example.

What’s more, both adult and children’s social services receive far more compliments than complaints – 519 in total in 2018-19.

Cath McEvoy-Carr, the authority’s executive director for adult social care and children’s services, was asked by the committee chairman, Coun Jeff Watson, if she was happy with the figures.

She said: “I’m not happy about complaints, I would rather we didn’t have them, but it’s a way for us to listen to the wider public about how our services are working.”

If someone is not happy with the council’s response to their complaint, they can then raise it with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO).

In 2018-19, adult social care received 10 decisions from the LGSCO, although three of these dated back to the previous year, and children’s social care received four decisions.

Of the 10 adult cases, the LGSCO decided not to investigate in half the cases. In the remaining cases, they ‘generally confirmed the council’s own findings’.

In relation to the children’s complaints, two were upheld, but the LGSCO were satisfied that the council had dealt with and remedied the issues correctly, while another was upheld in relation to a delay in the complaint handling, but not about social-care practice itself. The fourth could not be investigated due to court proceedings taking place.