Agenda Item No. 11


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 13th July, 2015


Report of the Director of Social Services


Representations, Complaints and Compliments


Purpose of the Report

1.         To advise Committee about:

·         activity, performance and achievements within this important area of work during 2014/2015; and

·         improvements planned for 2015/2016.


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.

Reason for the Recommendations

1. & 2. To ensure effective scrutiny of performance in Social Services and

            to provide evidence of the impact upon individual service users and their carers.


2.         Handling complaints well is a crucial part of the responsibilities undertaken by the social services directorate.  An effective and properly managed complaints and compliments system 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 apply these lessons 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.         New complaints guidance from the Welsh Government – A guide to handling complaints and representations by local authority social services - came into effect on August 1st 2014.  This guidance replaces Listening and Learning which was introduced in 2006.  The guidance supports implementation of the Social Services Complaints Procedure (Wales) Regulations 2014 and the Representations Procedure (Wales) Regulations 2014.

5.         The new complaints procedure is a two-stage procedure as summarised below.

Stage1 - Local resolution


·         The local authority must offer to discuss (either face-to-face or over the telephone) the complaint or representation with the complainant in an attempt to resolve the matter.  This discussion must take place within 10 working days of the date when the complaint was acknowledged.  Where this approach leads to a mutually acceptable resolution of the matter, the local authority must write to the complainant within a further 5 working days.


Stage 2 – Formal Investigation


·         A complaint or representation subject to a Formal Investigation must now be investigated by an Independent Investigator from outside the local authority.  An Independent Person must also be involved where a representation is considered at the Formal Stage.  The Investigating Officer will be required to produce an investigation report, which may include recommendations for the local authority to consider.  This stage must be completed within 25 working days of the date the complaint is agreed with the complainant.  If the local authority is not able to send a written response to the investigation report within 25 working days due to exceptional circumstances, it must write to the complainant explaining the reasons for the delay and when a response will be provided.  The local authority’s response must advise complainants that they have the right to complain to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales if they remain dissatisfied following this stage of the procedure.


6.         This two stage process is in line with the Model Concerns and Complaints Policy and Guidance issued by Welsh Government and the NHS Complaints procedure Putting Things Right.

7.         All complaints registered with the complaints team after August 1st 2014 were handled in accordance with the new regulations and guidance.

Relevant Issues and Options

8.         The Annual Social Services Representations and Complaints Annual Report 2014/2015 is attached at Appendix 1

9.         As detailed in the report, the Directorate received 55 concerns or complaints in 2014/2015.  The breakdown across the service is shown below.



Complaints (Old Process)

Complaints (New Process)

Adult Services




Children and Young People Services




Business Management and Innovation









10.      *An enquiry is an issue of concern to the service user, dealt with by the team, without escalation to a complaint.

11.      There was a reduction in the number of enquiries recorded, from 53 in 2013/14 to 38 in 2013/14.  The Directorate has sought to target available resources to deal with these initial enquiries; as a result, only 2 of the 38 enquiries became a Stage 1 complaint.  In the same period, there was a slight increase in the number of complaints received from 54 to 55.

12.      Increased staff awareness about their responsibilities under the Complaints Procedure and their commitment to resolving concerns at the earliest opportunity are considered to be key factors in reducing the volume of complaints.  All staff have received training on the new Procedure and the Complaints Officer supports them in delivering compliance throughout the year.  The Complaints Officer has continued to take on a mediation role, 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.

13.      To understand the volume of complaints vis-à-vis the number of service users, the figure was approximately 0.49% in adult services (4880 people receiving social services or referred during the year and 24 complaints) and 1.75% in Children and Young People Services (1716 and 30).  These figures show a slight increase in both services compared to 2013/2014.  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.

14.      The Social Services Procedure includes timescales within which complainants should have received a response to their complaint.  During 2014/2015, there was an improvement in performance, with 94.44% of all complaints being responded to within the appropriate timescale.  This is compared to the 97.22% reported in 2013/2014.

15.      The most common complaints received were as follows.


2014/2015 – Most Common Complaints Recieved





Children and Young People  Services


Business Management and Innovation

Access to records





Charges for Services





Denied a Service





Lack of response from a team





Lack of information / consultation





Quality / level of service





Complaint about staff




Unhappy about care provision













16.      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. 

17.      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.

18.      Compliments are also regarded as important information and used to identify good practice.  The Directorate received 76 compliments during 2014/2015, compared to 87 in 2013/14.  Details are included in the annual report.

19.      The Directorate continues to improve the way in which complaints are dealt with and achievements in 2014/2015 include :

·         The new complaints procedure was successfully implemented in August 2014;

·         Training was offered to all social services staff on the new procedure;

·         There was improved adherence to timescales across the service;

·         The monitoring and evaluation process has been developed further to ensure that the Directorate can learn from complaints.


20.      The priorities for improving the complaints and compliments service during 2015/2016 include :

·         Ensuring that all new social services staff are fully trained regarding the new complaints  process;

·         Collating data from complaints better, to improve services;

·         Working effectively with the Public Service Ombudsman on complaints that are not resolved following Stage 2 of the complaint process;

·         Supporting better complainants who have concerns regarding provider services; and

·         Implementing a policy for dealing with the extremely small number of vexatious complainants.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

21.      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.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

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

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

26.      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

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

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

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

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

29.      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.