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Monmouthshire councillor says no children’s complaints “sets off alarm bells”

NO complaints about a council’s social services were made by children last year – which one councillor has said “sets off alarm bells”.

But a council complaints manager said young people “can’t be bothered” to make formal complaints and prefer that issues be resolved quickly instead.

Figures show a total of 23 complaints were made about Monmouthshire County Council’s children’s services department – but none were made by children or young people themselves.

The council’s governance and audit committee discussed the figures, which relate to the 2021/22 financial year, which Cllr Ian Chandler said caused him concern.

The Green Party member said: “To say there were no complaints from children and young people sets off alarm bells for me. I would like to know why there are none from children themselves, it is not a cause for celebration but concern why they felt unable to do that.”

Customer relations manager Annette Evans said a lack of complaints from youngsters involved with children’s services isn’t particular to Monmouthshire.

She told the committee: “It’s not just us in Monmouthshire but lots of authorities across Wales find they do not get many complaints from children and young people mainly because they can’t be bothered to go through a formal process. If they’ve got an issue they will raise it with a social worker, parent, teacher or friend and they just want it sorted out then.

“They don’t want to meet with an investigating officer they just want whatever the problem is sorted straight away so many issues will be dealt with outside the complaints process.”

Ms Evans also said she understood the councillor’s concern and that social workers make children aware how they can make complaints and the council has leaflets in “age friendly language” setting out the process.

Of the complaints lodged about the service, 20 were settled at the stage one process, by which a council is supposed to try and resolve the complaint quickly to the satisfaction of the complainant, and three were at stage two, which requires a formal external investigation.

Most of the complaints were made by parents or carers and two complaints progressed from stage one to the stage two process. An investigation upheld three elements of one complaint that the practice and standards of social care staff, related to care and assessment of the complainant’s granddaughter, had fallen short but four elements of the complaint weren’t upheld.

A grandmother’s complaint she had been “defamed” by a social worker “willfully wrongly accusing her of being a safety risk to her grandson” and that she hadn’t been provided with a proper explanation of why she was considered a risk contained 22 elements, none of which were upheld.

A complaint that a social worker’s safeguarding report was biased and contained inaccuracies went straight to stage two with four points upheld, a further nine partially upheld and six points not upheld.

Stage one complaints included issues such as staff conduct, concern at decisions made, a lack of communication, allegations of failure to adhere to standards, offer appropriate support and claimed inaccuracies in notes as well as issues with contact arrangements.