Social Workers Ordered To Step Up Procedures After Complaint

THE city’s social work department has been ordered to introduce more “robust” procedures for reviewing cases after a mother’s complaint about the care given to her autistic son was upheld.

Social workers will now have to review cases on a minimum of an annual basis, following a series of delays – including one ten-month setback – faced by the mother, who was trying to get additional support for her child.

The complaint against the children and families department was upheld by the independent Social Work Complaints Review Committee.

It centred on the level of respite care being provided by the social work department for the boy, of nursery age, who has autistic spectrum disorders, asthma, eczema and severe allergies.

Despite having additional needs, he did not have an allocated social worker and his mother asked for an assessment in November 2006.

However, this was originally assigned to an “inappropriately trained member of staff”, which had “disadvantaged” the child.

His mother then experienced extensive delays trying to get her son the correct care, with the original assessment taking 21 weeks instead of 12 weeks.

The whole process ended up taking 21 months – ten months more than it should have taken.

Fred Downie, convener of the complaints committee, said: “The investigating officer indicated that her investigation had concluded that the complainant had been inconvenienced by the delay in having her son’s disability assessment completed and should be offered an apology by the department.”

The council has promised to implement a “more robust” procedure early next year to prevent a similar situation happening.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, Labour’s education spokesman, wants to ensure this procedure is not only introduced, but also followed and monitored.

He said: “Parents of children who have issues like that need to have a bit of clarity.

“If they’re in a council-based process that involves their child, they are entitled to see how that is progressing and what’s happening at each stage.

“I would welcome any new system that would work more effectively for parents and children but I also want to ask how this is going to be effectively monitored.”

The social work department has been under fire since the death of 11-week-old Caleb Ness in 2001.

In August, a report revealed that child protection officers were still failing to meet targets on dealing with cases of at-risk children, five years after a damning report into Caleb’s death.

The report revealed it took an average of 75 days for a “child protection case conference” to be called after an allegation – more than double the council’s target.

The inquiry into the death of Caleb at the hands of his violent father in October 2001 criticised the fact that vital information about his situation was not shared between police, health and social workers.

Speaking about the upheld complaint, a council spokeswoman said: “We accept and have acted on the recommendations of the Complaints Review Committee.

“We regret the inconvenience caused to the complainant, and a more robust procedure to review cases on a minimum of an annual basis will be in place early next year.”