Agenda Item No


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 19th September, 2011


Report of the Director of Social Services


Social Services Representations and Complaints – Annual Report 2010/2011


Purpose of the Report

1.             To advise Committee regarding

·               the Social Services Representations and Complaints Procedure;

·               activity, performance and achievements within this important area of work during 2010/2011; and

·               improvements planned for 2011/2012.


T H A T the Scrutiny Committee;


1.             Notes the report.

2.             Continues to receive an annual report in relation to complaints and compliments received by the Social Services Directorate.

Reason for the Recommendations

1&2     To ensure effective scrutiny of a key function undertaken by Social Services.


2.             The latest Social Services Representations and Complaints Annual Report is attached at Appendix 1.  It covers the period 1st April 2010 to 31st March 2011.  The Social Services Representations and Complaints Procedure is based upon the good practice guidance from the Welsh Government ‘Listening and Learning – A Guide to Handling Complaints in Social Services’.

3.             The Social Services Directorate believes strongly that handling complaints well is a crucial part of its responsibilities. A good complaints handling system is a vital part of ensuring that our users receive the service to which they are entitled.  It enables the Directorate to:

·               acknowledge quickly when mistakes have been made;

·               put them right effectively and to apologise where appropriate;

·               ensure that we learn lessons from complaints and use these to improve services and performance.


4.             The annual report is also one of the ways in which those who are responsible for the service and for overseeing its performance can get an insight into whether the Directorate is:

·               delivering good quality services first time;

·               acts in an open and accountable way;

·               responds fairly and proportionately;

·               delivers the Council’s service objectives; and

·               seeks continuous improvement.

Relevant Issues and Options

5.             Effective monitoring of complaints acts as a valuable source of feedback, highlighting aspects of service delivery which fall below the standard the Council aims to achieve.  Complaints handling which is prompt, efficient and responsive will greatly enhance the Directorate’s image with all its stakeholders.

6.             The Directorate has sought to ensure that its systems for managing complaints:

·               are comprehensive, clearly defined and straightforward;

·               can deal with complaints quickly;

·               promote good investigative practice;

·               consider complaints fairly and objectively;

·               are sensitive to the complainant’s needs;

·               ensure effective communication with the service user or carer;

·               encourage decisive action and can put things right if necessary;

·               are effectively managed and monitored.


7.             Feedback from those who expressed concerns about the way in which the Directorate has responded to need indicates that overall practice in these areas is good and improving.

8.             As shown in the annual report, the Directorate received 111 concerns or complaints in 2010/2011.  The breakdown across the service is shown below.





Adult Services



Children and Young People Services



Business Management & Innovation







*Enquiries are issues of concern to the service user, dealt with by the team without escalation to a complaint.  Only 1 out of the 43 enquiries recorded became a complaint.

9.             There was an increase in the number of enquiries recorded from 5 in 2009/10 to 43 in 2010/11 and in the number of complaints from 35 to 68.  The increase in enquiries is mainly due to more effective recording procedures but service users and their families appear also to be more aware of the complaints procedure.  This is judged to be the consequence of greater publicity on the Vale of Glamorgan Council website and increased awareness by staff of their responsibilities under the complaints procedure.

10.        To understand the volume of complaints vis-à-vis the number of service users, at 31st March 2011 the number of adults receiving Social Services support in the community was 2886 and the number of children with a case open to Social Services was 1291.  As a percentage of the number of service users in these service areas, therefore, there were 0.87% complaints in Adult Services and 2.48% in Children and Young People Services.  The figure for social services as a whole is 1.63%.  The higher proportion of complaints per service user in children’s services is typical.  It reflects the fact that families are more likely to experience intervention on an involuntary basis, as the result of safeguarding concerns.

11.        The Social Services Procedure includes timescales within which complainants should have received a response to their complaint.  The performance against these timescales was 63.24% in 2010/2011, whereas it was 25.71% in 2009/2010.  As detailed in Appendix 1, despite the higher number of complaints in 2010/2011, this demonstrates in particular an increase in those resolved at Stage 1.  This has been achieved mainly by increased monitoring and the commitment of managers to achieving early resolution.  It also highlights the importance of negotiating with the complainant about the resolution they want from the process, as outlined in the Complaints Policy and Procedure.

12.        The most common complaints received were as follows.

2010/2011 – Most Common Complaints Received

Adult Services

Children’s Services

Business Management and Innovation

Charges for Care Services




Lack of Response from Team




Disagreement with assessment policy




Placement Provision




Lack of information/consultation




Policy Dispute




Quality/level of service




Staff conduct




Unhappy with care provision









13.        Complaints against staff are the most common.  Again, this is typical, partly because of the sensitive and sometimes contested nature of the work which staff undertake but also because the statutory basis for social services is very complex.  A number of complaints arise in circumstances where staff have acted appropriately in delivering the Council’s policies and priorities but this is not acceptable to families.  The improved performance in achieving early resolution of complaints demonstrates the extent to which good investigation can provide opportunities for reconciling different perceptions.  It is often possible to demonstrate that staff have made reasonable decisions, based on all relevant consideration, or acted fairly.  Where staff have acted inappropriately or without sufficient sensitivity, managers remain committed to taking effective action in response and to insist on the highest standards of practice in all cases, especially in treating people with respect for their dignity.

14.        Similarly, where the Directorate has not kept to its commitments or failed to meet service standards, we are quick to apologise and to rectify matters.  In seeking continuous improvement, complaints are used to ascertain the need for reviewing policies and procedures.

15.        Compliments are also regarded as important information that can be used to identify good practice.  The Directorate received eight compliments during 2010/2011, details of which are included in the annual report.

16.        The Directorate has improved the way in which complaints are dealt with in the service over the past year.

·               The complaints process has been completely reviewed and improvements made.

·               The database has been modified to improve complaints information and reports.

·               Complaints Information reports are issued to Team Managers on a monthly basis.

·               Ongoing complaint awareness training (across Adult and Children and Young People Services) is delivered by the complaints officer at formal training sessions and team meetings.

·               A survey of complaints leaflets across Wales has been undertaken with a view to improving our complaints leaflet so it more accurately reflects the process being followed.

·               A complaints mailbox has been created to improve the accessibility of the Complaints Officer.

·               The contract for use when commissioning Independent Investigators / Independent Persons has been finalised.

·               A Letter of Instruction has also been developed to accompany the contract for Independent Investigators / Independent Persons.

·               A database containing the CVs (and other details) of Independent Investigators and Independent Persons has been developed.  This will improve the prospect of commissioning a suitable investigator as quickly as possible and improve the choice available.

·               Advice for Investigating Officers and Independent Persons has been developed.

·               The Complaints Officer has worked with advocacy providers to develop a protocol for working with advocates.

·               The Complaints Officer continues to represent the Vale of Glamorgan as part of the All Wales Complaints Officers Group and the All Wales Children’s Sub-Group.

·               The Complaints Officer met and continues to liaise with representatives from the Welsh Government to:


*   improve the functioning and effectiveness of the Stage 3 review process;

*   review the All Wales agreement for the categorisation of complaints into the Annual Council Reporting Framework (ACRF);

*   provide a response to the proposed changes to the Complaints Procedures across Wales as proposed by the Ombudsman.


17.        During 2011/2012 further work is being undertaken.

·               Ongoing training programme to include complaints awareness session with managers and their teams.  Managers’ packs have been prepared.

·               Efforts to further improve timescale compliance rates across all service areas.

·               Review of the complaint information leaflets for use by adults, children and young people with learning disabilities.

·               Provision of additional data in the existing monthly complaints report.

·               Quarterly reporting on ‘lessons learned’ to managers.

·               Further development of the monitoring and evaluation process to improve the ability of the Directorate to learn from complaints and to use the outcomes and recommendations arising from complaints to improve services.

·               Continued liaison by the Complaints Officer with officers across Wales and the Welsh Government as part of the All Wales Complaints Officers Group.

·               Increasing the database of Independent Investigators and Independent Persons.

·               Resumption of regular meetings with the Corporate Complaints Officer.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

18.        There are no resource implications as a direct result of this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

19.        The NHS and Community Care Act (1990), Children Act (1989 Part III) and the National Minimum Standards and Regulations (2002) for Fostering Services require local authorities to maintain a representations and complaints procedure for social services functions. The Welsh Government expects each local authority to report annually on its operation of the procedure.

Crime and Disorder Implications

20.        There are no Crime and Disorder implications as a direct result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

21.        All service users and their carers are able to access the Social Services Complaints Procedure.

Corporate/Service Objectives

22.        The Social Services Directorate meets the following corporate objectives: ‘To make the Vale a safe, healthy and enjoyable place in which individuals, children and families can live their lives to the full’; and ‘To manage the Council’s workforce, money and assets efficiently and effectively in order to maximise its ability to achieve its service aims’.

Policy Framework and Budget

23.        The complaints processes were delivered within budget in the last financial year.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

24.        There are no matters in this report which relate to any individual Ward.

Background Papers


Contact Officer

Carys Lord, Head of Business Management and Innovation.

Officers Consulted

Social Services Complaints Officer

Responsible Officer:

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services.