Councils in Wales have introduced a ‘streamlined and citizen-centred’ process for making complaints about social services.
The move, announced last week, brings the Welsh complaints process in line with NHS complaints procedures – a two-stage system, including an informal stage where all those who raise a complaint are offered a discussion on the matter.
Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for social services in Wales, said: “The new complaints procedure will streamline and modernise the social services complaints process.
It emphasises that everyone who makes a complaint about social services in Wales has a right to be listened to properly and to have their concerns resolved quickly and effectively.”
“It will benefit the service user by establishing a more straightforward and citizen-centred approach that is consistent with other public services.”
Donna Hutton, from public services union Unison Wales, responded positively. “We definitely approve the access that the public would have to make complaints, that can only help our members because they can learn from that.”
She said the process would help the workforce, create more accountability for social services and improve faith in public services.
Accountability in social services has traditionally been a controversial topic, with social workers, and those who have grievances, often noting there are inadequate avenues to raise concerns about social work decisions.
Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), agreed: “It can be a limiting process in tackling the needs of the complainants that come forward. Most authorities say it is important to get feedback from service users, but there is a protective aspect.”
Learning from complaints is key, she said, because, “the more we are in a blame culture the more defensive services will become”.
She added that she would expect local authorities in England to have similar complaints procedures to the new Welsh model.