The Legal Framework
New arrangements for handling social services complaints came into force on 1 August 2014. It also aligns social services with other public services, in particular the NHS. The procedures are based on two principles:
- Everyone who makes a complaint about social services in Wales has a right to be listened to. Their views, wishes and feelings must be heard; and their concerns should be resolved quickly and effectively as possible.
- Complaints can highlight where services need to change. It is important that local authorities identify where services should improve as a consequence.
The Two Stage Process
- Stage 1 – local resolution
The local authority must always offer to discuss a complaint or representation with the complainant to try and resolve matters. This discussion must take place within 10 working days. This should allow for quick and successful resolution of most complaints.
- Stage 2 – formal investigation
The complainant has a right to ask the local authority for formal investigation of their complaint. At this stage, the complaint will be investigated by an Independent Investigator. This is someone who is not employed by the local authority which are the subject of the complaint. A report with findings, conclusions and recommendations must be produced. The authority must respond to the complainant within 25 working days of the request to move to this stage.
Public Services Ombudsman for Wales
If they remain dissatisfied, the complainants may then take their complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.
Impact in Conwy
The quarterly reports detailed below were the last 2 reports that were submitted to the Welsh Government and show the number of complaints that were received and the numbers that were escalated to stage 2. The numbers are very similar for the 2 periods.
|Complaints quarterly reports||1/8/14 to 31/10/14||1/11/14 to 31/1/15|
|Total complaints received||15||18|
|Stage 1 complaints received||11||15|
|Complaints resolved at Stage 1||8||11|
|Stage 1 Complaints that progress to stage 2||3||4|
|Total of Stage 2 Complaints received||7||7|
|Complaints still open||4||6|
What’s changed? – Developments with the Complaints Services in 2014-15
In order to comply with the new legislation, the Complaints Service has been involved in the following developments:
- To help resolve Stage 1 complaints, the Complaints Service will undertake a joint visit with the relevant Team Manager to meet with the complainant and try to “mediate” a resolution.
- “Making and Taking of Complaints Policy” and Complaints Leaflets has been updated in accordance with the Welsh Government Guidance
- 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 improve the choice available.
- The Complaints Officer has worked with North Wales Complaints Officers Group around new developments such as the Joint Complaints Protocol with Health
- Updated Guidance will be issued to Social Care Staff, to support them as staff members to understand their rights when subject to a complaint
- Further Complaints Workshop held for staff in April 2015
- Working with Corporate Complaints around the procurement of a New IT system to help support the department to more effectively manage the Complaints process and to provide a more effective reporting framework
- In the initial stages of developing a Customer feedback questionnaire. The Questionnaire will assist the Complaints Service to gain an understanding of their experience of the complaints process.
- Complaints service to present at the quarterly Quality Assurance Feedback days to ensure staff learn from complaints
What difference has it made? – Lessons Learnt from Complaints
The most significant lessons resulting from complaints in the past year are to:
- Clearly articulate what can and cannot be achieved
- Enlist support from other professionals as appropriate
- Ensure effective communication with families
- Ensure report deadlines are met
- Ensure contacts by service users are responded to promptly
- Ensure social workers liaise with families prior to hospital discharge
- Ensure staff are reminded of the importance of confidentiality
- Explain the parameters of our work fully to service users
- Identify a key contact person when responding to contacts
- Record all enquiries and contacts
- Respond to concerns in a timely fashion
- Set clear agendas and timescales for meetings and ensure accurate and agreed minutes are provided.
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