NORTHUMBERLAND County Council chiefs have vowed they take complaints seriously as the latest figures show a fall in the number of residents unhappy about the social care system.

The county council’s complaints services handled 45 complaints in 2022/23, compared to 57 in 2021/22. The figure also represented a slight fall from the figure in 2020/21, which stands at 47.

Of those complaints, 30 were responded to – with the lower than usual number blamed on “unexpected and longer-term absences within the complaints service”. Seven of those complaints were upheld and 10 were partly upheld.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting (December 12) of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee, cabinet member for adult social care Wendy Pattison said: “We take all comments, complaints and compliments about adult social care very seriously. We can learn from them and improve our services.”

James Hillery, the complaints manager for adult social care at the council, added: “We have considerably more compliments than complaints.”

The figures showed that the council received 674 compliments for its adult social care and continuing healthcare services.

The council’s director of adult social care, Neil Bradley, welcomed the figures – but added that it did not mean those complaints were not taken seriously.

He said: “When you look at the total population we deal with, which is in excess of 7,000 clients, there are hundreds of thousands of interactions between staff and clients, residents and their families.

“The complaints boil down to 45 and 10 or 12 ombudsman complaints. We take those complaints very seriously – the numbers are that small it is quite easy for us to do that.”

Councillor Georgina Hill, who represents the Berwick East ward, said it was important to make sure the council learnt from its mistakes.

She said: “The issue is mistakes happen – we all make mistakes and it is complex and heavy work – but the problem is when you don’t learn from complaints. Looking at these, there is one about adaptations to property not being correct.

“There is at least one case I’m aware of where this has happened before to someone terminally ill who had to deal with that stress, which is appalling. There doesn’t seem to be very many complaints, but one or two are raising concern that they are still happening.”

Mr Bradley conceded that home adaptations was a frequent issue, but pointed out that the work was usually carried out by contractors. He added: “Sometimes people are on the receiving end of bad work.”

Mr Bradley said that the council would not work with contractors where service had been considered unacceptable.