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RISE IN NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS AGAINST CAMBRIDGESHIRE SOCIAL SERVICES SHOWS DRAMATIC DOWNTURN

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Cambridgeshire CC's social services committee will hear that the ...
Cambridgeshire CC's social services committee will hear that the

rise in complaints against the department has slowed considerably since the introduction of a new procedure - and the vast majority were resolved quickly and informally.

The committee, which meets on June 10, will consider a report from social services director Liz Railton, which shows 701 complaints were registered by clients between April 1, 1997 and March 31, 1998. A rise of nine percent on the preceding year.

Of all the complaints 25 per cent related directly to the Peterborough area which became a separate unitary authority on April 1 this year and will no longer be included in the future Cambridgeshire figures.

Legislation requires all social services departments to have in place procedures which allow users or their representatives to make complaints or representations about the department. The procedures consists of three stages - Stage 1 problem solving or informal stage; Stage 2 registered or formal stage; Stage 3 independent review stage. Cambridgeshire introduced its new procedure in March 1996.

Of the 701 complaints, only 32 moved on to stage two of the procedure, with just two referred on to stage three. 32 per cent were about delays or failures in providing services; 13 per cent concerned carer/staff attitudes and 9 per cent failure to meet standards.

Communication was cited as the problem by 7 per cent of complainants, with staff inefficiency (6 per cent) and withdrawal/change of service (6 per cent) the other significant categories.

Ms Railton said the number of complaints had to be placed in the context of the diversity and range of services provided by the

department. In 1996 for example, social services dealt with more than 35,000 requests for help and provided for 925 elderly people in 24 residential homes, 722 places at 33 day centres and over 800,000 hours of community care.

Services were provided for 720 looked after children (68 per cent with foster carers) and 93 places were made available in residential homes including family centres working with children and families. In addition the department provides services for people with mental health problems, physical disabilities and learning disabilities. The vast majority of the complaints related to services for the elderly, less than 10 per cent were made by or on behalf of children.

'Given the range and volume of services provided, 701 complaints is in

comparison a low figure,' said Ms Railton.

Social services committee chairman John Powley said: 'The slowdown in the number of complaints is good news. Our new complaints procedure is much more accesible to service users and there is also evidence that staff are recording complaints more accurately, so the increase should not necessarily be regarded as showing increased dissatisfaction with services received. '

The previous year (April 1996 to March 1997), complaints rose from 404 to 633, an increase of 64 per cent.

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