Agenda Item No


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 8th October,



Report of the Director of Social Services


Social Services Representations and Complaints – Annual Report 2011/2012


Purpose of the Report

1.             To advise Committee about:

  • the Social Services Representations and Complaints Procedure;
  • activity, performance and achievements within this important area of work during 2011/2012; and
  • improvements planned for 2012/2013.


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 Social Services Representations and Complaints Procedure is based upon the good practice guidance from the Welsh Government “Listening & Learning – A Guide to Handling Complaints in Social Services”.

3.             Officers in the Directorate believe strongly that handling complaints well is a crucial part of our responsibilities.  An effective and properly managed system for doing so is a vital part of ensuring that users receive the services 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; and
  • ensure that we learn lessons from complaints and use these to improve services and performance.

4.             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.

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.  Handling complaints promptly, efficiently and responsively greatly enhances the Directorate’s reputation with all its stakeholders.

6.             The annual Representations and Complaints 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

7.             The Annual Social Services Representations and Complaints Annual Report is attached at Appendix 1.  It covers the period 1st April 2011 to 31st March 2012.  As detailed in the report, the Directorate received 144 concerns or complaints in 2011/2012.  The breakdown across the service is shown below.




Adult Services



Children and Young People Services



Business Management and Innovation







* An enquiry is an issue of concern to the service user, dealt with by the team, without escalation to a complaint.  Only 2 out of the 38 enquires became a Stage 1 complaint. 


8.             There was a decrease in the number of enquiries recorded from 43 in 2010/11 to 38 in 2011/12. In the same period, there was an increase in the number of complaints from 68 to 106.  A number of factors appear to have contributed to this increase.

  • More people decided to progress their concerns as registered complaints, rather than agree the matter could be resolved earlier. 
  • The increase is attributable in part to service users and their families being made more aware of the Complaints Procedure and the continuing improvements being made to the recording procedures. There has been more publicity for the Representations and Complaints Procedure on the Vale of Glamorgan Council website and training to ensure that staff are aware of their responsibilities to comply with it.
  • An increased number of referrals have been received which involve use of formal safeguarding and protection procedures; this work tends to generate more complaints.
  • A campaign against day service redesign generated an identical complaint from a number of service users and carers.

9.             To understand the volume of complaints vis-à-vis the number of service users, the proportion was approximately 1.1% in adult services (4687 people receiving social services or referred during the year and 53 complaints) and 1.2% in Children and Young People Services (3558 and 43).  The higher proportion of complaints per service user in Children and Young People Services reflects the fact that families are more likely to experience intervention on an involuntary basis, as the result of safeguarding concerns.

10.        The Social Services Procedure includes timescales within which complainants should have received a response to their complaint.  The performance against these timescales has improved year on year and in 2011/12 achieved 91%, compared to 63% in 2010/2011 and 26% in 2009/2010. 

11.        As detailed in Appendix 1, Social Services received a higher number of complaints in 2011/2012 but there was an increase in those resolved at Stage 1.  This has been achieved mainly by the commitment of managers to achieving early resolution and increased monitoring.  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.

2011/2012 – Most Common Complaints Recieved





Children and Young People  Services


Business Management and Innovation

Charges for care services





Disagreement with assessment policy





Lack of information/ consultation





Lack of response from team





Placement provision





Policy dispute





Quality/level of service





Complaint about staff





Unhappy with care provision





Waiting times










13.        Complaints against staff are the most common.  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 acted fairly or made reasonable decisions, based on all relevant considerations. 

14.        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 and dignity.

15.        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.

16.        Compliments are also regarded as important information that can be used to identify good practice.  The Directorate received 58 compliments during 2011/2012, compared to eight during 2010/11.  Details are included in the annual report.

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

  • The complaints process has been further revised and improvements made.
  • The database has been modified to improve the information recorded regarding complaints.
  • Complaints Information reports are issued to managers on a monthly basis.
  • The Complaints Officer worked effectively with the Independent Complaints Secretariat to ensure Stage 3 panels were arranged in a timely manner.
  • A manager’s pack has been developed which includes information for managers responding to complaints. The pack includes templates of letters to use when responding to complaints.
  • 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. The Complaints Officer also provided briefing sessions for external agencies, such as organisations providing advocacy.
  • The advocacy protocols developed for staff working with advocates supporting service users have been finalised.
  • Advice and support for Investigating Officers and Independent Persons is provided by the Complaints Officer. Written guidance materials are also available for Independent Investigators.
  • The database containing the CVs (and other details) of Independent Investigators and Independent Persons has been further developed during the last year, to improve the prospect of commissioning a suitable investigator as quickly as possible and to improve the choice available.

18.        During 2012/2013, the priorities for developing the complaints and compliments service include:

  • Implementing any changes necessary following Welsh Government consultation on proposals to change the statutory complaints procedure.
  • Ongoing training programme to include complaints awareness session with managers and their teams. 
  • Improving compliance with set timescales fro dealing with complaints.
  • Further increasing the numbers of Independent Investigators and Independent Persons on the database.
  • Reviewing the complaint information leaflets for use by adults, children and young people with learning disabilities.
  • Agreeing with the Corporate Complaints Team a process for collating feedback from complaints
  • Further developing 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.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

19.        Operating the Complaints Policy and Procedure is a statutory responsibility and the work has to comply with regulations.  There are costs which accrue to the Directorate and officers often devote a considerable amount of time to resolving an individual complaint.  However, the increase in the number of formal complaints has been managed within the budget set, partly because of effective resolution at Stage 1.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

20.        Effective delivery of the complaints and representations procedures assists the Council to deliver good governance.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

21.        The NHS and Community Care Act (1990), Children Act (1989 Part III), The Representations Procedure (Children) (Wales) Regulations 2005, The Social Services Complaints Procedure (Wales) Regulations 2005 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 the way it operates the procedure.  The Adoption and Children Act 2002 and Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) ~Act 2003 contains provisions in relation to complaints.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

24.        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

25.        This report is in accordance with the Council’s policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

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

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

27.        Social Care and Health.

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.