Agenda item

Children and Families Services Complaints Annual Report 2020/21


Members received the Children and Families Services Complaints Annual Report 2020/21, which was presented by the Complaints Manager (Adults and Children’s Complaints).


In the discussion that ensued, the following were highlighted:


·                 the report followed the first national lockdown arising from the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in March 2020.  Covid-19 had had a significant impact on how public services were provided and how organisations adapted to ensure the most vulnerable were adequately supported, together with their families;


·                 the priority of the directorate and the local authority was to ensure essential services continued to be delivered and as such resources were prioritised to deliver this objective;


·                 there were higher contacts (177) actioned by the Complaints Service in 2020/2021 than in 2019/2020 (156).  There were some 177 “transactions1” within the complaints process during the year, that is, representations, formal complaints, members enquiries and referrals to the Local Government Ombudsman;


·                 during 2020/2021, of the 4,016 children open to Children’s Social Care in the year, 53% were male and 46% were female and 1% were unborn/not known.  The cohort’s ethnic breakdown was predominantly black minority ethnic (BME) with a quarter being of white ethnicity;


·                 on the last day of the financial year (31 March 2021), a total of 1,720 children were receiving a service from Social Care with the rest having ceased throughout the year;


·                 a total of 2,605 referrals were received in 2020/2021 by Children’s Social Care with the most common referral source being Police and Schools, both accounting for 59% of referrals received.  The Service completed 2 569 assessments;


·                 a total of 1,280 child protection investigations were initiated in the period with 424 leading to an initial child protection conference.  There were 657 Child Protection Plans (CPP) active at some point during 2020/2021, 384 new plans were started and 361 ceased during the year.  As at 31 March 2021, 296 children were being supported and monitored through a Child Protection Plan;


·                 a total of 295 Children were Looked After (CLA) at some point during 2020/21, 117 children became newly looked after and 118 stopped being looked after.  As at 31 March 2021, Harrow had 182 looked after children;


·                 as at 31 March 2021, Harrow had 76 approved fostering households offering 124 placements;


·                 during 2020-21, about 3,304 families accessed the Cedars and Hillview Early Support hubs and 160 young people accessed the Wealdstone Early Support hub;


·                 the overall Complaint Activity was that between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, the Council received 100 representations, that is, potential statutory complaints that did not lead to a formal complaint investigation.  The council processed 10 Stage 1 complaint investigations, 4 Stage, 2 complaint investigations, and no (zero) Stage 3 complaint were received (no panel hearings); and there was one Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) complaint; and


·                 additionally, there were 62 MP and Councillor enquiries managed by the Complaints Service.  In comparison, 43 enquiries were received last year.  This increase had likely come with the trend noted across Adult Social Care, as well as more reliance on members for raising concerns throughout the Covid-19 period.


Members thanked the Complaints Manager for the presentation, and noted the details in the report.


RESOLVED:  That the report be noted.

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