Complaints about social services rise, but are dwarfed by compliments

County Hall in Morpeth, the home of Northumberland County Council.
County Hall in Morpeth, the home of Northumberland County Council.

The number of complaints about Northumberland County Council’s social services for adults and children increased last year.

However, the overall trend has been downward in recent years and the rise in 2017-18 was anticipated ‘following new administrative systems being put in place or adjusted’.

Plus, the local authority’s adult and children’s services teams receive many more compliments than complaints.

A council report states that a total of 54 complaints were received in the past financial year – 24 for adult social care, 27 for children’s social care and three for continuing healthcare (CHC).

The latter is care for those with ongoing health needs, which is monitored by the county council on behalf of NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group.

The number of CHC complaints has halved since the previous year, but the adult care figure doubled and children’s care complaints rose by 10. The 2016-17 total was 35.

But during 2017-18, adult social care also received 532 compliments, while children’s social care earned 76, the majority of which (59) were related to children’s homes. There were a further 206 compliments for CHC.

The report says: ‘Collectively, the compliments we receive are mainly about how helpful, kind and professional staff have been or about the quality of the services we commission or provide.’

It also puts the numbers of complaints into context by highlighting the thousands of people who had dealings with adult and children’s services last year.

The document adds: ‘Many of the issues which children, young people and adults have reported over 2017/18 reflect the kind of situations which can occur from time to time in a large care organisation – but we take each one seriously and take steps to address both the individual situation of the complainant and any wider issues about systems, training and guidance which are raised.’

Earlier this month, it was revealed that almost 100 complaints about Northumberland County Council were made to the ombudsman for local government last year.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service