The complainant (Mrs C) raised a number of concerns about the care her son received from Social Work Services at Aberdeen City Council (the Council) through the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) in the months prior to his death in 2006. Mrs C raised these concerns through the Council's complaints process, up to and including a Social Work Complaints Review Committee (CRC). The CRC made a number of resolutions (duly noted by the Council) but advised Mrs C that the actions and decisions of the CMHT were not a matter the CRC could consider. Mrs C complained to the Ombudsman's office about her original concerns and that the CRC had ruled the actions of the CMHT out of its remit. Mrs C was unhappy that it appeared that her complaints should rather have been addressed through the NHS complaints procedure but the Council had not advised her of this earlier.
Specific complaints and conclusions
The complaints which have been investigated are that:
- (a) the CRC failed to appropriately address Mrs C's complaints (not upheld); and
- (b) the Council failed to take adequate steps to collaborate with the NHS to ensure that Mrs C received a full response to her complaints (upheld).
Redress and recommendations
The Ombudsman recommends that the Council:
- (i) ensure that guidance to CRC members and relevant staff clearly indicates the importance of careful drafting of the CRC minute, to ensure that a decision on each complaint considered is recorded and the basis for any recommendations is explained;
- (ii) apologise to Mrs C for their failure to follow-up with the NHS on the joint issues of her complaint;
- (iii) that guidance to CRCs and members of Council staff who support them is reviewed, to ensure that CRC minutes can fully reflect the conclusions reached and reasons for decisions made; and
- (iv) advise of the development and progress of an action plan from within the working group towards a policy for managing joint complaints in partnership with the NHS.
The Council has accepted the recommendations and is acting on them accordingly.