Lost in the system


Large public sector organisations work best with systems. It can be understood to a point as the numbers of people at work in these organisations can be high – but sometimes we get a little over-fond of procedures at the expense of care and attention – and compassion.

When procedures aren’t adhered to, they can strain under the pressure or just malfunction. Pure and simple.

image Supernan at Flickr

My attention was drawn to an article printed in the Paisley Daily Express as it contains another example of procedures not working, misplaced blame and in some ways quite a mean-spirited one.

A disabled woman who is receiving support from Renfrewshire Social Services moves to North Lanarkshire.

Her records however, do not move with her.

The effect of this is that she receives a much reduced care package at North Lanarkshire (I’m not exactly sure why – possibly because some of the background information held in the initial department illustrated her need for more care).

The result of this reduced package (from 20 hours to 3 hours) was that she lost her entitlement to additional funds from the Independent Living Fund (which tends to match local authority funding on an hour for hour basis as long as the local authority provides a certain level of support).

So, by falling to three hours care, the minimum requirement of the ILF would not have been met. As the ILF provides like-for-like funding, she would have lost presumably, over 30 hours of care per week.

Ms C complained. Quite rightly.

The Ombudsman chastised Renfrewshire. They were, to cut a long story short, wrong.

The Ombudsman has ruled that Renfrewshire Council failed to carry out the complainant’s social work case transfer in accordance with their own procedures and in a timely manner.

However, social work chiefs are annoyed that Ms C had not fully gone through the council’s complaints procedure which, they claim, could have resulted in the matter being resolved at an earlier stage.

The paragraph above, I found simply staggering. Social work chiefs are ANNOYED?!? So they put the blame on the user because she didn’t complain through ‘their own’ channels. Unbelievable.  At least they could show a little bit of grace and dignity in the matter and be a little less mealy-mouthed in their apology for piece of shoddy work which has had a dramatic impact on the life of a service user.

And complaining to the Ombudsman is not always desperately easy. They should actually welcome complaints as ways to improve services and prevent the same thing ever happening again.

3 thoughts on “Lost in the system

  1. I quite agree with you. Why should she go through Renfrewshire’s complaints procedure when they shouldn’t have put her in the posisiton where she needed to complain in the first place.

  2. I would have thought that the service user, as most people do, would have gone to the Ombudsman due to an impression that her complaints to the council had been ignored. Most people tend to view the Ombudsman as the last resort, which would suggest that Mrs C had made complaints- maybe not on the council’s preferred piece of paperwork, but she probably had complained in some form or other, and felt a ‘timely’ response had not been received! I am shocked by this council’s attitude which seems to prefer their ‘rights’ over those of their service users, and reject any need for accountability. Have they not learned anything from the recent Haringey events? A simple ‘sorry’ goes a long way at times!

  3. Yes and Yes to both of you. My jaw dropped when I read the press statement. It is bad enough that the situation (which they have admitted to be completely in the wrong about) occurred but to criticise the complainant for going to the Ombudsman – actually the more I think about it the more annoyed it makes me.

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