FEWER people have been complaining about adult social care services in Carmarthenshire, but more complaints have had to be resolved by investigators.
There were a total of 63 complaints in 2018-19 – compared to 90 the previous year – but 10 needed independent investigation compared to five in 2017-18.
This independent avenue is a legal requirement if the complainant is not happy with the first stage of the complaints process, and it has resulted in costs to the authority of £22,772 in 2018-19 – about £9,000 more than budgeted for.
However, several of the 63 complaints were about private care providers commissioned by the council, rather than its own staff.
At the same time, the council received 152 adult social care compliments – an increase of 46 from the year before – from the 5,556 people who received support.
Head of service Neil Edwards told a scrutiny committee that domiciliary care was the highest source of complaints and compliments, given that carers carried out some 10,000 visits to individuals per week.
Some committee members said they were dealing with domiciliary issues, such as carers not turning up or being hours late to somebody’s home.
Mr Edwards said: “We know if they (carers) don’t turn up because of electronic call monitoring. And we’ve got accurate data if they are late.”
He said late, as a rule, meant keeping a client waiting for more than 30 minutes.
Councillors wanted certainty that this information was being given to the authority.
Councillor Kim Broom said: “The numbers of complaints are very, very low. I feel we are missing a lot of people who are expressing concern.”
Citing an issue in her ward, she felt there was a “reticence” among those receiving care to complain, and wondered if an annual survey of clients could invite them to register “concern at a low level”.
Mr Edwards said this could be looked at, and said he had always thought the number of complaints were lower than they should be.
He described the results of the latest annual survey of clients and carers as “very, very positive” and added: “To some extent I was surprised how overwhelmingly positive it was.”
Councillor Deryk Cundy said he felt the council was being “complacent”, citing an example where a complaint was made only on the third or fourth time a carer was late.
Mr Edwards said: “We are not being complacent, I can assure you. We have got reasonable systems in place. They can’t be 100%.”
He added that the council could detect and then intervene if complaints spiked about a particular provider, and said anything that led to a safeguarding issue was acted on immediately.
Referring to the 152 compliments, he said: “It’s very positive.”