Headlines: March 6th, 2009

Social services directors have warned of major problems with a planned new, single local authority and health service complaints procedure. The new system is due to come into effect on April 1st but the Association of Directors of Social Services fears there could be delays and confusion.

A paper endorsed by the Association’s executive council says the new single complaints procedure falls below the directors’ expectations and adds, “It doesn’t offer much practical advice for complaints handlers, compounding the problems arising from the need to implement the new system on a short timescale.”

ADASS is concerned that the Department of Health’s guidance on implementing the new system has been issued too close to deadline and that ‘serious delays and confusion could well arise following the April 1st due date.’ The Association’s Executive Council has recommended that a `Task and Finish’ group be established to try to make good some of the deficiencies.

ADASS President John Dixon Warning said it was important to service users and patients alike that the NHS and local authorities were fully prepared to introduce the new system. “Our specially constructed emergency task force will examine, develop and roll-out a package of orientation and training for social care complaints practitioners as soon as is humanly possible,” he added.

In the meantime, ADASS is urging local authorities across the country to contact the Department of Health for guidance on the implementation if they feel they have not been sufficiently well briefed so far. “It is very important that staff are properly trained and prepared, that there is robust guidance for service users, and that there are opportunities for new complaints arrangements to be tied into other complaints mechanisms throughout local government,” said Mr. Dixon and he added, “Despite the publication of the guidance, so late in the day, we have real fears that implementation will bring real confusion.”