More than 400 complaints made to Hertfordshire County Council about children’s services in 2020/21

An annual report was presented to a meeting of the county council’s children, families and young people cabinet panel

Monday, 20th September 2021, 10:39 am
Updated Monday, 20th September 2021, 10:40 am

More than 400 complaints were made about the county council’s children’s services last year, councillors have been told.

Latest data – reported this week – shows that in 2020/21 there were 450 complaints or ‘representations’ made to the county council about children’s services in Hertfordshire, which includes education and social care.

And that’s just slightly higher than the 447 recorded in the previous year.

The image has been used for illustrative purposes

The data was included in an annual report presented to a meeting of the county council’s children, families and young people cabinet panel on Thursday, September 16.

That report also highlighted 415 compliments that had been made about the service – which is 113 more than in the previous year.

Complaints focussed – councillors were told – on conduct of workers, delays or communication issues, dissatisfaction with care plans or assessments, education provision or Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs) or the closure or denial of a service.

At the meeting director of children’s services Jo Fisher said the increase in complaints regarding education – and those relating to children with complex needs – was “noteworthy”.

She pointed to complaints that had focussed on the timeliness of plans and reviews and of SEND provisions.

In response she highlighted a new team that was accelerating and adding capacity to the council’s ability to complete reviews.

And with regard to provision she pointed to ongoing work to increase the number of special school places.

She reported that 250 new places had been created in the past two years and that a new strategy was in place that would create more than 300 additional places over the next three to five years.

“There is a lot of work going on in recognition of the fact that Hertfordshire – along with many other local authorities – is experiencing significant pressure across the specialist system,” she said.

Councillors were told that during 2020/21 the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman dealt with 30 complaints relating to children’s services in Hertfordshire.

According to the report, of the 30 complaints that were made to the Ombudsman – 17 related to social care and 13 to education services.

Of those that have been determined the Ombudsman has decided ‘not to investigate’ 15, ‘not upheld’ one and identified some fault in two.

Of the 11 decisions made with regard to complaints made the previous year, three were not upheld, some fault was identified in six – and the Ombudsman decided not to investigate two.

In total the Ombudsman directed the council to award £17,258 in compensation for the complaints where fault was found.

“This is a significant increase compared with the previous year, when the total amount awarded was £10,870,” says the report to the panel.

“The main themes of these complaints were related to delays in issuing Education & Health Care Plans (EHCPs); education provision and issue relating to transport for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

“Of the total compensation awarded, £15,200 was related to failures in educational provision, with the large compensation payments mainly related to children out of education for long periods."