Complaints about social care services in Lancashire have risen by 15 percent in the last year - but compliments still outweigh criticism in some areas.
Lancashire County Council’s adult social care department - which provides services to all parts of the county except Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen - was the subject of 540 complaints in 2017/18, a 13 percent increase on the previous twelve months. Almost half of those cases which required formal investigation were upheld or partly upheld.
Meanwhile, statutory children’s social care services attracted a total of 265 complaints over the same period - up by a fifth compared to 2016/17. 18 percent of formal investigations were fully or partly upheld, 7 percent were not upheld and the remainder were either resolved before that stage or withdrawn.
The council says the figures reflect a national trend, which has seen an increase in complaints across the country as budgets are “squeezed”.
The most likely cause of complaint in adult social care was about care provision, which accounted for almost a quarter of all criticism. In recent years, the largest volume of complaints has related to assessments of care needs.
Better communication with people waiting to be allocated a social worker or be seen by an occupational therapist was amongst the lessons the council had learned, the cabinet committee on performance improvement was told. The authority has also pledged to add “personal touches” to any letters sent to family members after a person receiving social care has died.
More than half of complaints about children’s services stemmed from “social care practice”. The council now intends to provide explanations to children if their allocated social worker has to be changed, as well as giving them copies of assessments about their personal circumstances - if they are old enough to understand them.
In spite of the rise in complaints, more people were likely to praise adult social care services than criticise them. The service received almost double the number of compliments compared to complaints during 2017/18, with particular appreciation reserved for day care provision and and home adaptations and specialist equipment to assist with independent living.
A report presented to the committee said the nature of children's social care work meant "not many compliments are expected" for the service - but it did still receive 148 positive messages over the course of the year, described as "a welcome rise".
Members also heard that more than half of complaints across both adult and children’s services were resolved in the initial stages by the authority, without being escalated or referred to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
In a statement following the meeting, Lancashire County Council said: “Nationally, there has been a general rise in complaints in social care as budgets have been squeezed - and we are following that trend.
"However, a rise in complaints does not necessarily show that there is a particular problem, but it does indicate that there is an accessible system in place where people can give us their feedback and raise issues in an open way.
"As an organisation we always take complaints very seriously as they help us to shape and improve our services, learn lessons if mistakes have been made and ensure we are people-focused."