Better staff training and communications need for Warwickshire's children and family services, councillors say

Complaints were down since previous years, but councillors believe some improvements can be made

Shire Hall, Warwickshire County Council's headquarters.
Shire Hall, Warwickshire County Council's headquarters.

Improved staff training and better communications are two of the areas being looked at by officers following feedback on the number of complaints received by Warwickshire County Council’s children and families services.

Figures show that in the 12 months to April 2021 there were 167 complaints - 25 per cent down on the previous year but five per cent more than 2018/19.

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And members of the council’s children and young people overview and scrutiny committee heard at their latest meeting (September 30) that nearly a quarter of the complaints were either fully or partially upheld.

A report before councillors explained: “Putting things right where they have gone wrong and learning from issues raised is the most important part of our customer feedback process.

“Where there are opportunities for learning and change beyond the individual complaint raised, we look carefully at how best to do this.

“From the information captured on the system the main categories of learning have been recorded as follows:

"Poor communication by officers both internally and with the customer.

"Better planning required.

"Staff training needed.

"Improve the time for completing cases.

“Understanding our customers and their views is key to delivering the best possible service, which is something Warwickshire County Council is committed to striving to achieve.”

The report added that the current complaints system - which is called Contact Us - is under review due to failings around the level of information it captures as well as its ability to manage that information in a user-friendly way.

Nearly two-third of the complaints related to communication, which prompted Cllr Brett Beetham (Con, Camp Hill) to say: “Having worked at a council, communication is something which I don’t feel should be the top complaint if a council is to keep its residents or service-users informed.”

And Cllr Justin Kerridge (Con, Studley) added: “I know a lot of good stuff goes on with this council but that’s not necessarily the general perception in parish councils or in the public. The population has less faith in their councils and government than perhaps they should have - and communication is a big, big part of that.”

Assistant director John Coleman said the limitations of the complaints system possibly gave a lop-sided set of figures.

He explained: “I think the ‘communication button’ is the one that everyone presses and I don’t think it is representative of some of the things that we see. The complaints I see are complicated and often about policy issues and decisions by the social worker.

“Their complaint is about how they feel we have dealt with them about some of those things.”