Complaints about adult social care in Sunderland more than double, latest figures reveal

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Complaints to Sunderland City Council about adult social care have more than doubled compared to the same period last year, a meeting has heard.

The council’s scrutiny coordinating committee met last week (April 19) to hear a report on the latest quarterly complaints figures.

Between January and March this year, there were 42 complaints compared to 19 in the same period in 2016/17 – a 121 per cent rise.

The total number of complaints recorded between  2016/17 and 2017/18 also saw a 59 per cent rise from 86 to 137.

Adults Services complaints manager Marie Johnson, said she believed last year’s figures were “under-reported” with some complaints not passed through relevant channels.

She added that she has worked with team managers to make sure complaints are logged going forward.

High areas of complaints between January – March included 15 linked to older persons, 10 for occupational therapy, seven for mental health and four for the learning disabilities team.

The nature of complaints ranged from actions of workers (14), communication (8) delay (6) and assessment disagreement (6).

Out of the 42 complaints logged between January-March,  10 were upheld in full, five were partly upheld and 13 remain ongoing.

An additional five were upheld in part, one was withdrawn,  one was not eligible and seven were classed as ‘other’.

Some upheld complaints this year included a collection error leaving a customer without equipment and incorrect advice about the renewal of a blue badge.

Ms Johnson added that the figures show that when issues are raised, complaints are dealt with accordingly with “lessons learned for the future.”

“Sometimes we get it wrong and we we apologise which is the whole ethos of complaints,” she said.

With many complaints concluding after the committee report was written, she added, future complaints figures will be better reflected in the annual report.

The complaints procedure for adult social care services is monitored by the Local Authority Services and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations 2009.

In practice, complaints are acknowledged within three working days if they’re not resolved by the council, they’re passed to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

Between January-March there were 11 ombudsman complaints completed with three upheld – including “lack of action on the part of the council with regard to anti-social behaviour.” (ASB)

The ombudsman found no fault in how the council investigated ASB and while there was a delay, the council “provided a suitable remedy”, the report said.

Committee chairman Norma Wright also referenced complaints from ward residents about ongoing parking management schemes in the city.

“People who have never had any reason to complain are complaining over and over,” she said.

Ms Johnson confirmed that complaints had been logged about the issue, with several going to stage two but failing to be upheld.

Comittee vice chairman, Coun Dianne Snowdon, also raised a question about the data, adding: “Do you get a high number of complaints from the same individual?”

Ms Johnson responded that the council “does get some complaints like that” including repeat complaints for issues that have already been investigated.

The council also received 163 compliments between January-March this year ranging from refuse, highways and the gritting team to Derwent Hill and the Occupational Therapy Service.

The complaints and feedback team is responsible for the co-ordination and management of both corporate complaints and the adult’s health and social care statutory process.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service