Agenda Item No. 12


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 1st September, 2014

Report of the Director of Social Services


Social Services Representations and Complaints – Annual Report 2013/2014


Purpose of the Report

1.         To advise Committee about:

·         activity, performance and achievements within this important area of work during 2013/2014;

·         the revised Complaints Procedure ; and

·         improvements planned for 2014/2015.


T H A T 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.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1. & 2. To ensure effective scrutiny of performance in Social Services and to acknowledge the need for direct evidence of the impact upon individual service users and their carers.


2.         Handling complaints well is a crucial part of the responsibilities within social services.  An effective and properly managed system for doing so plays a key role in 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 apologise, where appropriate; and

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


3.         The Directorate has sought to ensure that its systems for managing complaints are robust.  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 enhances the Directorate’s reputation with all its stakeholders.

4.         The Social Services Representations and Complaints Procedure is grounded in statute and must comply with the good practice guidance issued by the Welsh Government, called "Listening & Learning – A Guide to Handling Complaints in Social Services".

Relevant Issues and Options

5.         The Annual Social Services Representations and Complaints Annual Report 2013/2014 is attached at Appendix 1

6.         As detailed in the report, the Directorate received 54 concerns or complaints in 2013/2014.  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.  There was an increase in the number of enquiries recorded, from 29 in 2012/13 to 53 in 2013/14.  During the year the Complaints Officer found ways of engaging with service users who have traditionally not made complaints which may explain this increase.  The Directorate has targeted the resources available to deal with these initial enquiries with the result that none of the 53 enquires became a Stage 1 complaint. 

7.         In the same period, there was a decrease in the number of complaints received from 54 to 56. 

8.         Increased staff awareness regarding their responsibilities under the Complaints Procedure and their commitment to resolving concerns at the earliest opportunity is considered to be a factor in reducing the volume of complaints.  The Complaints Officer has also continued to take on a mediation role. This intervention involves using a range of approaches including discussion, supplying information and listening to the concerns of the individual and ensuring that the relevant service area is notified.

9.         To understand the volume of complaints vis-à-vis the number of service users, the proportion was approximately 0.35% in adult services (5419 people receiving social services or referred during the year and 17 complaints) and 1.62% in Children and Young People Services (1973 and 32).  These figures show a slight decrease in adult services and slight increase in children services compared to 2012/2013.  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 a consequence of safeguarding concerns.

10.      The Social Services Procedure includes timescales within which complainants should have received a response to their complaint.  During 2013/2014, there was an improvement in performance, with 85.42% of Stage 1 complaints being responded to within the 10 day timescale.  This is compared to the 79.63% reported in 2012/2013.  In 2013/2014 83.33% of Stage 2 complaints were completed within the agreed timescales which relates to one complaint taking longer than agree to complete at this stage.  All Stage 3 complaints were completed within the agreed timescales.

11.      The most common complaints received were as follows.


2013/2014 – Most Common Complaints Recieved





Children and Young People  Services


Business Management and Innovation

Disagreement with Assessment Policy





Lack of response from team





Waiting times





Quality / Level of Service





Complaint about staff





Unhappy with Care Provision










12.      The figures for complaints against staff are relatively low but also they represent a typical pattern within local authority social services, 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.  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. 

13.      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.

14.      The Service has seen an increase in complaints regarding service quality and 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 and used to identify good practice.  The Directorate received 87 compliments during 2013/2014, compared to 99 in 2012/13.  Details are included in the annual report.

16.      The Council's current Social Services Representations and Complaints Procedure has been in use since 2006; it was designed to conform with the national guidance 'Listening and Learning'.  In November 2013, the Deputy Minister for Social Services made it known that the Social Services Complaints Procedure was to be brought in line with the All-Wales 'Model Concerns and Complaints Policy and Guidance' issued the Welsh Government July 2011 and the NHS Complaints Procedure 'Putting Things Right'.

17.      An extensive consultation exercise was undertaken by the Welsh Government during 2012/13 and a wide range of stakeholders were invited to take part in the exercise.  The exercise identified that the current arrangements were too complicated and that service users often did not understand how to complain about services they had received.

18.      The key changes within the new guidance are summarised below.

·         a twelve-month time limit in which to bring a complaint, unless there are exceptional circumstances;

·         a focus on local resolution initially – complainants are to be offered a discussion to resolve their complaints within 10 days of the complaint being received;

·         an independent investigator has to be independent of the local authority;

·         removal of the Stage 3 Panel - from August 1st 2014, if a complaint or representation is not resolved at the Formal Investigation Stage (Stage 2), the complainant must be advised that they have the right to complain to the Public Services Ombudsman.  The Ombudsman’s office will aim to complete all investigations within 12 months; and

·         greater emphasis on learning lessons.


19.      The focus of the new procedure is on informal resolution and the regulations require that all those who raise a concern are offered a discussion (either face-to-face or by telephone) in an attempt to informally resolve the matter.  A further major difference is the removal of the independent panel stage.  The new two-stage process is in line with the Model Concerns and Complaints Policy and Guidance and the NHS Complaints procedure, 'Putting Things Right'.

20.      The adoption of the new process was approved by Cabinet on 28th July 2014.

21.      The Directorate continues to improve the way in which complaints are dealt with.

·         It has contributed to the first biannual report on all complaints received by the Council.

·         A protocol for managing the interface between complaints and the POVA process has been developed.

·         All complaints are reviewed to identify lessons learnt and this is shared with managers.

·         The Directorate has worked with the Welsh Government on the development of the new complaints process.


22.      The priorities for developing the complaints and compliments service during 2014/2015 include :

·         Implement the new Complaint Procedure from 1st August 2014;

·         provide training to staff to support the implementation of the new Procedure;

·         develop a customer feedback questionnaire.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

23.      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 costs have been managed within the budget set for this area of work.

24.      The impact of any additional resources required to support the implementation of the new procedure will be monitored during the year.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

26.      This report supports implementation of the Social Services Complaints Procedure (Wales) Regulations 2014 and Representations Procedure (Wales) Regulations 2014.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

29.      Implementation will help the Council to achieve the following objective:

·         To ensure that people have access to comprehensive information about Social Services and other forms of help and support, are appropriately signposted to help and supported by proportionate assessments, care and support plans, and services which meet their individual assessed needs.

Policy Framework and Budget

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

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

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

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

32.      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.