Wakefield's children's services gets 252 complaints in one year, but grievances drop as service improves

Ofsted are set to publish their latest findings on Wakefield's children's services.
Ofsted are set to publish their latest findings on Wakefield's children's services.

The number of complaints to Wakefield's children's services has declined over the last six months as the department has improved, councillors have been told.

A total of 252 complaints were lodged with the service between April 2018 and March 2019, a report before the district's children and young people scrutiny committee has said.

Quality of service, poor communication and staff conduct were the most common reasons for members of the public lodging a grievance.

Six allegations of data breaches were also made.

45 per cent of the complaints were either partially upheld or completely upheld, by either the council themselves or the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), which gives the final verdict if a grievance is escalated.

But Irene Livingston, Wakefield Council's head of safeguarding, said that the picture had changed since April, though no figures have been made publicly available for that timeframe.

Ofsted are expected to publish their latest findings into children's services, which was placed in special measures in the summer of 2018, on Friday.

Ms Livingston said: "The report relates to 2018/19, and I think we're all very aware of the position children's services was in in 2018/19.

"A lot of the complaints that were around poor quality of service was part of where we were at the time.

"If you look at quarter one and quarter of this financial year (April to September 2019), there's been a significant drop in complaints.

"That's down to having stability among our staff and having permanent team managers.

"So it's not an excuse but that's just where we were at the time."

Ms Livingston said that some of the complaints had been from parents angry at a court decision to strip them of the custody of their children.

In such cases, the council has no power to influence the judiciary, she explained.

Committee chair David Jones said improved dialogue between the council and complainants could help reduce grievances.

He said: "I think it's fair to say that communication is the largest cause of complaints.

"I dealt with one recently, and once the lines of communication were opened up, it changed the whole complexion of the issue."

In numbers

Number of complaints to children's services 2018/19 - 252

Related to

Quality of service - 85

Poor communication - 58

Staff conduct - 43

Dissatisfied with a decision - 26

Failure to take action - 23

Data breach - 6

Safeguarding - 6

Timeliness of service - 4

Condition of/access to facilities - 1