Increase in complaints about children's social care in Hartlepool
Unhappiness over the adoption process and concern over the suitability of clothing for a child are among an increased number of complaints about children’s social care in Hartlepool.
A total of 31 complaints were received in the 2018/19 council year, an increase of 13 compared to the previous year, according to a report put before Hartlepool Borough Council Children’s Services Committee.
However only 15 complaints were suitable for investigation, a decrease of three from the previous year.
Of the 16 complaints not considered for investigation 11 were due to legal proceedings, four complaints were withdrawn and one was not investigated because the outcome the complainant wanted ‘could not be achieved’.
Of the 15 complaints investigated, 14 were responded to at stage one, which aims to sort out the matter as quickly as possible and provide a ‘local resolution’.
Nine of the complaints were resolved at stage one, while five progressed to stage two, where the complainant is unhappy about the response at stage one and an investigation officer looks into the complaint.
Of the five, two remain ongoing and three were resolved at this stage, while one of the initial 15 complaints progressed straight to stage two and is still ongoing.
Council bosses provided a number of examples of actions taken as part of complaints.
In one complaint the children’s parents complained the allocated social worker was ‘overwhelmed with the complex needs of their children and family’.
The head of service then explored the complainants views with them, and considered it would be helpful for a fresh start with a different social worker, who was allocated.
Another complainant was unhappy, among other things, about a lack of adequate clothing provided at a contact session for her child.
The team manager was then able to achieve a resolution by speaking to foster carers and reminding them about a spare set of clothes.
One of the complaints also lodged was from a prospective adopter, who was unhappy about a failed adoption process, which had included talks about a baby moving in and preparations for the baby’s arrival.
The head of service then visited the complainant to talk about her situation and was able to achieve a resolution by an agreement to review the foster-to-adopt process to ensure discussions were fully explained.
Alongside the complaints, 13 compliments were received relating to children’s social care for 2018/19, alongside verbal expressions of thanks.
Examples of compliments praised staff for helping people ‘when they were at a loss’ with others stating ‘they didn’t have the words’ to thank staff for their support, help and guidance.
Council bosses have now laid out an action plan going forward for 2019/20 to continue to raise awareness of standards required and the complaints procedure.
The report said: “We continue to ensure that a person-centred approach is adopted for the handling and investigation of each complaint.
“We will continue to focus on ensuring we monitor that: complainants receive appropriate and timely feedback on complaints; appropriate apologies are offered; and any service improvement recommendations are delivered.”