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Children's services complaints

We know concerns and complaints are normally best resolved by having a restorative conversation as soon as possible.  Talking about your concern is the quickest and most effective way to resolve issues.

Before making a complaint, please speak with the social worker or their team manager about your concern so that they can try to resolve the issue for you.

If you are still unhappy after speaking to the social worker or team manager, you may want to make a formal complaint.

Make a complaint

There is a formal three stage process for dealing with complaints about some of the services provided by Children's Services, the statutory Children Act Complaints Procedure. The procedure is set out in the sections listed below.

Stage one

When you make your complaint to the Compliments and Complaints Team, try to give us as much detail as possible, including names and dates. We will acknowledge your complaint within five working days and pass it to a manager who will look into the issues raised and help us to respond to you.

We aim to resolve your complaint within 10 working days, or 20 working days at the latest if it is more complex. We may decide that the best way to respond to your complaint is to arrange mediation or a meeting with you, and we will confirm the outcome of the meeting with you in writing.

Although we cannot guarantee to meet your expectations, being really clear about the outcome you are looking for will help us to respond more appropriately to your complaint. Most complaints are resolved at this stage, but if this is not the case let us know so we can talk about what can happen next.


Stage two

If we have been unable to resolve your complaint at stage one, or you remain unhappy with the outcome, you can contact the Compliments and Complaints Team to talk about progressing your complaint to stage two.

If we agree it is appropriate to progress your complaint to stage two, an investigating officer will be appointed to look at the issues you have raised and to agree a summary of your complaint. We will also appoint an independent person to work alongside the investigating officer to ensure the investigation is carried out in a thorough, fair and even-handed way. A full response is generally completed within 25 days from the start of stage two, but can sometimes take longer. We will keep you updated if this is the case.

The investigating officer will send their final report to the complaints case manager who will share it with Children's Services. You will receive a copy of the report with a letter from Children's Services telling you what they are going to do with the findings and recommendations made by the investigating officer.


Stage three

If you are still unhappy with the outcome at stage two, we can discuss with you whether it is appropriate for your complaint to progress to stage three. You must let us know within 20 working days of receiving your stage two investigation response if you would like us to consider escalating your complaint to stage three.

Contact the complaints case manager for further information. At stage three, a review panel of three independent people will review your complaint within 30 days, and make recommendations to the director of Children's Services. The director will then respond to these recommendations within 15 working days.


Taking matters further

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) can investigate complaints if you are not satisfied with how we have handled your complaint.

You can make your complaint direct to the LGO's office at any time, but they will usually only look at your complaint once our investigations have been completed.


Further advice if you want to make a complaint

What can be complained about

The local authority are required to consider complaints under the statutory children's complaints procedure when made about:

  • An unwelcome or disputed decision
  • Concern about the quality or appropriateness of a service
  • Delay in decision making or provision of services
  • Delivery or non-delivery of services including complaints procedures
  • Quantity, frequency, change or cost of a service
  • Attitude or behaviour of staff
  • Application of eligibility and assessment criteria
  • The impact on a child or young person of the application of a local authority policy
  • Assessment, care management and review
  • The decision by the local authority to initiate care and supervision orders
  • The effect of the care order and the local authority's actions and decisions where a care order is made
  • Control of parental contact with children in care
  • How supervisors perform their duties where a supervision order is in force
  • Matters that do not relate to the court and which are specifically actions of the local authority can be considered, regarding applications for and duties in relation to child assessment orders
  • Matters relating to applications for emergency protection orders and decisions relating to the return of children who have been removed

Where social work information or a social work report has gone to court, the child or young person can make a complaint about the report, for example its quality or accuracy, distinct and separate to the subsequent actions of the court. If this complaint is upheld, the local authority should advise the child or young person what action it proposes to take with regard to the court action.

This list is not exhaustive and the complaints manager may seek legal advice as necessary.

Who can complain

The Local Authority are required to consider complaints under the statutory children's complaints procedure when made by:

  • Any child or young person (or a parent of the child or someone who has parental responsibility for the child) who is being looked after by the local authority or is considered to be a child in need
  • Any local authority foster carer (including those caring for children placed through independent fostering agencies)
  • Children leaving care
  • Special Guardians
  • A child or young person (or parent of the child) to whom a Special Guardian order is in force
  • Any person who has applied for an assessment under section 14F(3) or (4) of the Act
  • Any child or young person who may be adopted, their parents and guardians
  • Persons wishing to adopt a child
  • Any other person whom arrangements for the provision of adoption services extend
  • Adopted persons, their parents, natural parents and former guardians
  • Such other person as the local authority consider has sfficient interest in the child or young person's welfare to warrant his representations being considered by them

Complaining on behalf of a child

Where a complaint is received from a representative acting on behalf of a child or young person, the local authority should confirm where possible that the child or young person is happy for this to happen, and that the complaint submitted reflects their own views. The local authority has the discretion to decide whether the representative is suitable to act in this capacity or has sufficient interest in the child's welfare. If the complaints manager considers that the representative does not have sufficient interest, he should notify the representative in writing, explaining that no further action should be taken.

Complaints relating to a child

Complaints are sometimes made by an adult which are about matters relating to a child or young person but are not made on the child's behalf. In cases where eligibility to complain is not automatic, the Children Act allows local authorities to use discretion when deciding if an individual has sufficient interest in the child's welfare to justify considering their complaint under the Children Act Complaint Procedure. Where possible the local authority may check with the child or young person that they are happy with the adult making a complaint.

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