Number of complaints received during 2022/23 was similar to the previous year, whilst the number of compliments have significantly decreased.
Low performance in responding to complaints within statutory deadlines at all levels.
Most of the complaints received were about communication.
36% of the complaints were fully or partially upheld.
Escalation rates have doubled since the previous year.
|% Pre-complaints responded in time||5%||2%|
|Stage 1 received||363||369|
|Stage 1 closed||272||326|
|% Stage 1 responded in time||60%||39%|
|Stage 2 received||11||19|
|Stage 2 closed||12||33|
|% Stage 2 responded in time||67%||21%|
|Stage 3 received||4||14|
|Stage 3 closed||2||11|
|% Stage 3 responded in time||50%||64%|
|LGO complaints received||11||18|
|LGO full investigations||3||6|
|Upheld LGO investigations||3||5|
369 complaints related to Children’s Social Care (CSC) were received, of which 20 were received directly from young people or their advocates (4 cases) compared to 23 in 2021/22. Three of these 20 cases were historical complaints from young adults about their time in care.
|Team||Number of complaints|
|Keighley and Shipley||63|
Issues raised within complaints
A single complaint can often include more than one issue relating to the same or different teams. For example, between 1st April 2022 and March 2023 there were 448 different issues raised.
|Complaint category||Number of complaints|
|Staff failure in duties||9|
|Delay of provision||7|
|Lack of provision||27|
|Quality of service provision||55|
|Disagreement with decision||21|
|Information not provided||8|
|Incorrect information on records||6|
Outcomes of complaint investigations
The outcomes of complaints are classed as fully or partially upheld, not upheld, withdrawn, resolved and inconclusive (when there is no evidence to conclude one way or another). 322 stage 1 complaints were closed during 2022/23 which included 468 different issues.
|Complaint outcome||Percentage of complaints|
Stage 1 complaints
Stage 1 responses are prepared by relevant managers within Children Social Care, usually Team Managers.
Stage 2 complaints
Stage 2 investigations are undertaken by Investigating Officers from the Customer Care Team (former Corporate Complaints Unit) and external Independent Persons. Their reports form the basis for the response letter from the adjudicating officer (currently the Deputy Director- Children Social Care).
During 2022/23, 22 statutory social care complaints were escalated to stage 2 (compared to 11 during the previous financial year). The rate of escalation from stage 1 to stage 2 is 6% compared to 3% during 2021/22.
During 2022/23, 14 statutory social care complaints were escalated further to stage 3 (compared to 4 during the previous financial year). The rate of escalation from stage 2 to stage 3 is 64% compared to 36% during 2021/22.
Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO)
The LGSCO received 18 cases relating to Children’s Social Care in 2022/23 compared to 21 during the previous financial year.
The LGSCO made a decision on 22 cases. Of these, 4 cases closed after initial enquiries, 5 were considered premature and referred back to the Council for local resolution, 6 were out of the LGSCO’s jurisdiction, 6 were subject to a detailed investigation and in one case the LGSCO use their discretion not to investigate further.
Of the 6 cases subject to a detailed investigation (5 in 2021/22), the LGSCO made a finding of maladministration and injustice in all of them, like in the previous financial year.
Compensation awards to complainants increased, with a total of £3,100 being paid in 2022/23 compared to £2,050 in 2021/22.
|Stage 2 Independent People||£55,111|
|Stage 3 Independent People||£10,128|
31 compliments were received between 1st April 2022 and 31st March 2023, a significant decrease from 77 received during 2022/23.
|Team||Number of compliments|
|Keighley and Shipley||7|
It should be noted that there may be other forms of service user feedback which is not captured centrally including the receipt of thank you cards locally, verbal feedback, satisfaction expressed through surveys etc.
42% of the compliments were from service users or their families, whilst 58% were from professionals.
Following the same pattern as in the last financial year, most of the compliments (87%) referred to conduct and professionalism of staff followed by the quality of the service provided (10%).
Currently there are two training modules on line, “Effective complaints handling” for any managers dealing with complaints and “Complaints training for residential and respite staff”.
Ofsted expects the “Complaints training for residential and respite staff” to be completed on an annual basis. However, there is a concern that no staff from respite and residential units have completed this training within the last two years. All participants in 2022/23, except one manager from social care, were from the Quality, Safeguarding & Review service (98).
The training records show that 61 staff from Children Services attended the “Effective complaints handling”, compared to 36 during 2021/22. This training is aimed at managers who respond to formal complaints, however a very low number of managers have completed this training. It is recommended that the department explores ways to address this issue, such as making the training mandatory for managers (as it was in the past) or linking it to managers’ annual objectives in Evolve. It is noted this recommendation was also part of the complaints annual report 2021/22.
The Customer Care Team is developing shorter training modules and exploring other options or methods to deliver training around complaints.
|Service||Number of people|
|Quality, safeguarding and review||23|
Learning from complaints
The following learning points were identified as a result of the complaints received in 2022/23. This learning has been extracted from the recommendations made by the LGSCO, from the outcome of stage 1 and stage 2 investigations, and recommendations from stage 3 independent review panels.
Learning from complaints regularly features now in the CSC Practice & Learning Bulletins.
The main areas for improvement were identified by the Customer Care Team as communication with families and service users, accuracy/ lack of recordings, and dealing with complaints at stage 1 and 2 (including performance and delays).
For specific learning at stage 1, 2 and 3 please see Annex.
LGSCO recommendations: this section does not include specific recommendations for individual cases such as compensation. Please see Annex for details.
Annex – Learning from complaints
Improvements identified at stage 1
- Respond quickly to communication with young people.
- Take into account the impact of illness and disability on young people’s capacity to attend meetings and appointments.
- Delays when making referrals.
- Delay in sharing information with families.
- Clear planning in consultation with the young person prior to their 18th birthday to ensure expectations are managed.
- Ensure the child’s / young person’s voice is clearly documented in their care planning / pathway plans and within case recording of visits.
- Ensure that children and young people understand the roles and responsibilities of the social worker and personal advisor, particularly where they are different.
- Provide meeting minutes in good time before the next meeting.
- Provide contact details of managers to parents as well so calls can be responded to.
- Child Protection Chairs to minimise disruption caused by people leaving early by addressing this at the beginning of the meeting so that people are informed.
- Undertaking meetings in a manner which is inclusive and respectful to parents’ opinions and feelings.
- Where a LAC review is likely to continue for a considerable length of time, consideration to be given to splitting this in two parts to maintain focus and productivity.
- Consideration to adjourn meetings in the event parents need to leave early due to issues outside of their control. If a decision is made to continue, the Chair to give a clear rationale behind the decision-making and to be documented within the minutes.
- To develop a protocol which would allow staff who have left the organisation to be contacted if their assistance is required in an investigation.
- Consider the practice of professionals at Child Protection Conferences casting their votes and leaving the meeting.
- Additional guidance to Child Protection Co-ordinators about how to proceed in circumstances where Child Protection meetings are exceptionally long.
- Refer parents to the criteria published by the Local Offer
- Remind staff at respite units to keep full records of any injuries occurred to a child whilst in respite.
- Complaints should be progressed in a timely manner.
- Performance in responding to complaints to be reported on a quarterly basis.
- Communication with children and their families, ensuring they remain up to date on decision making and understand the reasons for this.
- Social work responsibilities for overseeing care plans. Ensuring constructive challenge is offered to professionals where actions are not met, and maintaining personal accountability for our own actions and responsibilities
Improvements identified at stage 2
- Reminder to staff that a child should be visited every 20 days on a CIN plan but there should be an established local agreement for visiting parents where the child does not reside with them.
- Reminder that social worker should contact both parents when they have been allocated a case to introduce themselves and provide a point of contact.
- Reminder of the importance of carrying out a home visit to inspect a house where contact is to be facilitated.
- To improve record keeping.
- Discussions to take place with One Adoption to ensure a procedure is put in place discuss support post adoption to ensure that the placement is stable and identify any support required.
- Reminder to all managers to be more robust, provide oversight and challenge and appropriately recorded on child’s file.
- To ensure that racial identity is made part of the assessment and care planning process
- Issues such as loss and separation should be considered earlier and not just focus on a child/young person’s behaviour: To be included in assessments and care planning procedures and practice guidance.
- Ensuring that the chronology section of LCS is completed with significant events in the life of a Looked After Child.
- Managers carrying out a stage 1 investigation should ensure that they consider and address the full terms of reference.
- When completing a Child & Family Assessment, Social Workers should avoid misleading terms.
- Early Help to ensure that when a parent is a victim of domestic abuse that they are offered separate meetings so they do not have to see the other parent.
- Team Managers to ensure that parents views, as well as the wishes and feelings of the children, are captured in the CE RA before agreeing (signing off).
- Regular supervisions.
- Reminder that the organisation completing a referral/assessment needs to sign it.
- Reminder about need to be clear about the CIN process and that it is voluntary when discussing this with parents.
- Improvements required to LCS so that there is a clear record of the distribution of CIN minutes.
- Remind Team Managers that they need to read the terms of reference for the stage 2 complaint and be familiar with the case before interview.
- CSC should consider putting a process in place that when a social worker is absent from work unexpectedly and unplanned that any meetings arranged in their diary for that day are cancelled and the attendees notified. Such a process could possibly be carried out by the Business Support Officers.
- Care Planning Meetings and CIN Reviews should be held and in a timely manner.
- Ensure Business Support Officers are aware of information about making a complaint.
- Where contact is arranged directly between foster carers and families, this should be recorded in the case notes, irrespective of whether it was arranged by the Social Worker.
- Develop a format when recording Child in Need reviews to show who attended and where the meeting was held.
- Reminder that where both parents share Parental Responsibility Social Workers/CSC should make every endeavour to allow each parent to exercise their parental responsibility in a way that is conducive to the welfare of the children.
- Guidance documents for Social Workers in regards to making referrals for parents to DAPP courses.
- CSC to ensure a full handover when there is a change in Social Worker or Team Manager for the case.
- Suggested discussion between solicitors acting on behalf of the Local Authority and the clerk to the court to ensure that if the court makes an order involving the Local Authority then the Local Authority is provided with a copy of the order.
- Stage 1 responders should be reminded that the role of the stage 1 responder is to critically evaluate the actions of the Local Authority and apologise where this is appropriate.
- Importance of acting with urgency when considering a baby for EPP. Alterative arrangements should be considered in cases where there is staff absence to reduce any delays that affect the outcomes for the child.
- Better recording of decisions made in respect of rejected PAR’s. CSC consider how this is recorded as it may not be possible to record this on the child’s record.
- Feedback provided in respect of PARs should be constructive and be worded so that it does not cause offence.
- Review of the SGO policy to be presented to CSCMT (Children Social Care Management Team)
Improvements identified at stage 3
- Strategic review of services available and services needed for children with complex needs and their parents, families and carers.
- Consideration to forming a consultative group with parents of children with complex needs to gain the perspective of parents’ experiences, ideas and needs.
- It is important to understand the duties that a child who has an EHCP places on Children’s Social Care. Practice guidance should be produced to ensure that when assessing a child’s needs these duties are understood and taken into account.
- Reminder of the need to ensure social workers work in partnership with both parents.
- To ensure that people who identify as dual heritage are not subjected to inappropriate recording of their ethnicity.
- A system of numbering and tracing report/terms of reference be adopted.
- Consider if additional training is required for social workers undertaking section 7 reports with specific reference to information that should be sought.
- Make it clear that when a CIN case is closed then the final CIN review meeting should include both parents unless there is specific reason not to do so.
Improvement identified by the LGSCO
- Ensure all suitable complaints are considered under the statutory complaints process.
- Review how complaints were reasonable adjustments are requested are managed.
- Provide information and training to staff about how to respond and communicate with complainants where reasonable adjustments are requested.
- The Council will provide a report to a relevant overview and scrutiny committee about the timeliness of stage two complaints statutory complaint investigations; progress with the Council’s action plan; and what further steps need to be taken to ensure investigations are completed within statutory timescales.
- Review what steps the Council has put in place to ensure that deadlines are met at each stage of the children’s statutory complaints procedure.
- Consideration to whether the Council/ Trust needs to take further action to improve the supply of complaint investigators.