Agenda item

Annual Report on Complaints and Representations - Children

Report of Deputy Strategic Director, Children’s Social Care and Lifelong Learning


The Committee were presented with a report on complaints, compliments and

Representations for the period April 2021 to March 2022.


The Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003

Requires that Councils with Social Services responsibilities produce an

Annual Report of their Statutory Children’s Services Complaints Procedure. 


The Annual Report is specifically about Children Act 1989 Statutory Complaints about Children’s Social Care Services with information on complaint related queries and compliments that are received about staff or services.


The procedure has three stages

Stage 1 – Local Resolution

Stage 2 – Investigation

Stage 3 – Independent Review


In 2021/22 the number of complaints and representations dealt with was asfollows:

·             The number of formal contacts received, including compliments, about Children’s Services decreased by 13.2% (187) compared with the number of contacts received during 2020/21,(215).

·             The number of contacts raising dissatisfaction increased by 11% (79 to88).

·             This is the same level of dissatisfaction received during2019/20.

·             Children’s Services received 11 Stage 1 complaints during 2021/22. This is almost a 35% decrease on Stage 1 complaints received during 2020/21,(17).

·             The number of complaint related queries (low level issues not requiring a written response) increased by 3% compared to those received during 2020/21 (26 from 27).

·             59% (16) of complaint related queries were regarding the quality ofservices provided.

·             All complaint related queries received about Children’s Social Care were dealt with directly by either the team manager of the service complained about or by the Complaints Section after prior discussion with the workerconcerned.

·             There were no complaints registered at Stage 2 of the complaint’s procedure during 2021/22.

·             However, there were three Stage 3 Review Panels held during thistime.  Two of the Panels held were in respect of the same complaint. The first Panel was stood down due to new information submitted by theService.

·             During 2021/22, 53% (99) of all Children’s Services contacts werecompliments.


The following key points were highlighted to the Committee

o   Complaints brought by relatives of children receiving a service accounted for91%

(10) of all complaint referrals.

o   One complaint was raised directly by a cared for young person. This complaint was regarding the actions of staff in a commissioned residential facility. This complaint was partially upheld afterinvestigation.

o   Children and young people receiving a service have recourse to the Council’s Children’s Rights Officer. The Children’s Rights Officer works closely with those who raise concerns and, in most cases, can resolve thesesuccessfully.

o   36% (4) of all complaints received were in respect of services provided by the Safeguarding and Care Planning Teams. However, it should be noted that most children receiving a service are allocated a social worker from the Safeguarding and Care Planning Teams.

o   27% (3) of complaints were regarding the services provided by the Assessment and InterventionTeam.

o   The key theme identified from complaints about the Assessment and Intervention Service were disputes to information within assessments or the assessment process.

o   27% (3) of complaints received were regarding services provided by the Cared For Children Team. This is at the same level as the number of complaints received about the team in 2020/21,(3).


Some examples of Service Improvements identified during 2021/22 were also presented to the Committee.

o    As a result of a Statutory complaint, where it was alleged that the social worker failed to recognise a child’s religious and cultural upbringing, it was arranged that specific training in respect of religious awareness for social workers will be included in the portfolio option for staff and will be a regularoccurrence.


o    It was also recommended that all staff across Children’s Services are mindful of any cultural and religious differences across the communities in Gateshead and that these are considered during social work involvement with BAME families. This issue was also addressed by the Local Authority carrying out mandatory Equality and Diversity for all Local Authoritystaff.


o    After a Data complaint about the presentation of personal records following a Subject Access Request, (SAR), the Service responsible for administering the requests carried out a review of the process. All current applications were subsequently reviewed to ensure that they were being dealt with efficiently and appropriately. In addition to this SAR Officers are now able to dedicate sufficient time to deal with each request in line with servicerequirements.


o    Following a complaint where the parent of a child receiving a service complained about the lack of support during the Covid19 lockdown period, it was found that the family’s self isolation period along with sickness within the Social Work Team did slightly impact on support provided. An apology was given at the time and was also reiterated within the response letter. The complainant was satisfied with the service support following the ceasing of the Covid-19restrictions.


o    After a LG&SCO investigation into a complaint about the removal of a cared for child from the foster placement along with concerns about the quality of the LADO process the Ombudsman did identify recommendations which were shared with the Council.  The Council accepted the recommendations and implemented the changesrequired. 


o    After a complaint about delays in receiving Child Protection Review Reports, the worker was instructed to ensure all future reports are shared in line with timescales. This will then provide an opportunity to consider the content of the reports and to allow the family member to raise any concerns or queries before the Review Conference take place.


It is proposed that for 2022/23 officers and senior managers continue to meet on a regular basis to consider what action needs to be taken to make sure that:

·       Complaints are resolved at the earliest opportunity

·       The number of complaints being investigated and resolved within the statutory timescales is improved

·       The number of complaints progressing to Stage 2 and Stage 3 remains low

·       Any identified improvements to services are implemented where appropriate and monitored to ensure compliance by teams across Children’s Services


Work will continue to ensure that staff members who received compliments continue to have the details passed on so that they or their team received the recognition.


The Committee felt that the report was presented with enthusiasm and were struck by the resources and time which is put into an investigation.  They also felt that the self reflective learning was a positive and that everyone is treated in the same way.


It was queried what the position was with regards to the equalities monitoring.  It was noted that it is sometimes difficult to have customers complete the monitoring and sometimes officers can pull out the information, but this is not always possible.  A copy of the monitoring form to be sent to the Committee for information.


It was noted that it was good to see improvements are made following the investigation of complaints.


RESOLVED      -           (i)       that the comments of the Committee be noted.

                                      (ii)      that the Committee are satisfied with the performance of Children’s Service in responding to complaints and that this results in continuous service improvement.

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