Headlines: October 19th, 2004

Users of adult social services would get the right to complain to any member of staff and to have their complaint resolved immediately under proposals to streamline the system, which have now gone out to consulation.The Health Minister, Stephen Ladyman, said the proposals had been drawn up to make the adult social services complaints system simpler and faster and with the objective of helping local authorities to improve their services by learning from mistakes.

Social services departments and others affected by the plans have until January 10th to make their views known. More than one and a half million people received a service from adult social services following assessment in the year 2002-03. Almost as many people contacted adult social services departments and had their needs dealt with without further assessment in the same period.

The proposals in the consultation paper include allowing service users to complain to any member of social services staff and to get a resolution immediately. There would be no need for the complaint to be dealt with more formally unless the complainant wished that to be done. Under the proposals the Commission for Social Care Inspection would independently review complaints referred to them by people unhappy with the response from their local authority. At the moment the review process is handled by the local authorities. Feedback from the review process would be given to councils as part of CSCI’s attempts continually to improve the delivery of services.

Stephen Ladyman said the vast majority of the 3.3 million people using adult social services each year were happy with the service but people deserved to be told what had happened when something went wrong and mistakes were made.

“The complaints process should not be an obstacle but a lever to improve services. Effective handling of complaints is part of delivering a better quality social service. This modernisation will ensure a user focussed service so that those who need to complain will find it a straightforward process with a swift, clear and fair response,” he said.