Foster Carers complaints procedure

Foster Carers complaints procedure

Approach 

Are you happy with the services provided by Norfolk County Council? If you are please let us know about it. If not then we also want to hear from you so we can help put things right as soon as possible. 

If you feel that we have been unable to work together to come to a solution that you are satisfied with and you would like to go ahead formally with your complaint, you can complete an online complaints form. 

This process has two formal stages (1 and 2). 

The County Council’s aim is to resolve the majority of problems as close to their source as possible, preferably before they are accepted into the formal complaints process (pre-stage complaints).

Sometimes further information may be needed to fully understand a complaint, and in stage one, the complaints case manager will work with the complainant to agree a clear summary of the complaint, to ensure that the correct points are answered for the complainant.

Compliments and other comments will also be referred to the officer(s) responsible for the areas concerned. 

Complaints for which statutory procedures exist under the Children Act, the Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations 2009, Fire and Rescue Service and Education Acts will be handled separately under those procedures.

The County Council will accept "representatives / advocates / friends" to assist the complainant in respect of the complaints process. 

The representative / advocate / friend must act in the best interest of the complainant and respect the confidentiality of the complaints process including information provided under the process. The representative / advocate / friend will be asked to agree in writing to this effect.

The County Council reserves the right not to accept a representative / advocate / friend if in its opinion the representative / advocate / friend will not act or is not acting in the best interests of the complainant and/or will not agree to respect or is not respecting the confidentiality of the complaints process including the information provided under the process. In these circumstances an alternative representative/advocate will be offered to the complainant by the County Council. 

Complaints which fall within the scope of legal processes, other procedures, appeals or fault reporting systems, such as the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM), will be processed using those processes and procedures. Adoption related complaints which cannot be considered as part of the IRM process, are considered using other procedures and in the first instance, complainants may wish to contact the Adoption Support Team or the appropriate Adoption Agency before submitting a complaint.

The Complaints Service Manager has the discretion to decide whether a complaint falls within the scope of this complaints policy and procedure and may decide that a concern/complaint or representation can best be dealt with using a different route, ie mediation, restorative meeting, appeals, and other departmental related processes etc.

The customer will be kept informed of what is happening to their complaint. 

Formal complaint stages 

Stage 1 complaints are considered at an operational level, with an open definition of a complaint: "when customers do not feel they have received a satisfactory response to an expression of dissatisfaction about an action or lack of action by the County Council and when they wish to progress this to a formal complaint".

It should be possible for most complaints to be resolved at this level. It remains at the discretion of the Complaints Service Manager and Senior Manager within the service to escalate a complaint to Stage 2 if the situation requires it. 

Stage 2 complaints are considered at departmental level. Here a complaint will be interpreted: “as any matter that has not been resolved to the customer’s satisfaction at Stage 1, and which merits further investigation”. A senior manager within the department, who has not previously been involved in the complaint or originating incident, may investigate the complaint, or a complaints case manager may carry out the investigation. In some circumstances an independent investigator (i.e. from another County Council department or external investigator) may be appointed to conduct the investigation. 
Requests for consideration at stage two of the process should be made within twenty working days of the date of the stage one response.

When appropriate, mediation or a restorative meeting will be offered at each stage within the complaints process as an alternative dispute resolution process and before the complaint is escalated to a higher stage within the complaints procedure.

When mediation or a restorative approach is agreed, the complaints process will be put on hold and will only resume in the event that the mediation or restorative process does not resolve matters. When the County Council has fully investigated a complaint, and there appears to be no merit in a further investigation at a higher stage of the complaints process, the complainant will be advised that they can refer their complaint to the LGO if they remain dissatisfied with the outcome. 

Eligibility to complain

A complaint should normally be made within one year of the service being received. This time limit may be extended at the discretion of the Complaints Manager if the complainant has good reasons for not making the complaint within the time limit; and not notwithstanding the delay, it is still possible to investigate the complaint effectively and fairly. The County Council will not consider, or further consider complaints/representations under this policy where:

  • Complainants have stated either orally or in writing to the County Council that they are taking, or intend to take proceedings in any court or tribunal in regard to any issue connected with the complaint
  • The County Council has been notified that any person is conducting an investigation in contemplation of criminal proceedings in regard to any issue connected with the complaint
  • The County Council has been informed that criminal proceedings are pending in regard to any issue connected with the complaint
  • The complainant is an employee who wishes to raise issues in relation to their employment

The County Council’s policy on ‘Unreasonably Persistent Complaints’ will apply when appropriate. Copies of this policy can be found on the Norfolk County Council website The County Council reserve the right not to consider complaints that:

  • Are malicious (that is, they are instituted without sufficient grounds and serving only to cause annoyance)
  • Use obscenities, racist or homophobic language
  • Contain personally offensive remarks about members of our staff
  • Are repeatedly submitted with only minor differences after we have fully addressed the complaint 

Confidentiality

Complaints made to the County Council will be treated in confidence. The Compliments and Complaints team will only pass the details of the complaint to those County Council staff members and partner organisations who need to know in order to investigate it.  Confidentiality can not be guaranteed, where a vulnerable person is considered to be at risk and safeguarding procedures apply. In these circumstances, the County Council may have to share the information with other departments within the Council or other external agencies. Customers who make their complaints public in the media may forfeit their right to anonymity and the right to confidentiality. 

Responsibility for the procedures 

Overall responsibility for the Compliments and Complaints Policy will lie with the Practice Director nplaw in the role of monitoring officer under the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. The administration of the policy lies with the Head of Democratic Services. The Compliments and Complaints team will take responsibility for the application of all aspects of the policy at departmental and organisational level. A complaints case manager will be assigned to all complaints entering the formal complaints process, providing an objective liaison role between the complainant and the organisation. The Complaints Service Manager will act as overall coordinator for complaints handling and service recovery, and will be the designated link officer with the Local Government Ombudsman. 

Response 

Complaints may be made to the complaints team by email, fax, telephone, by using the online form, in writing or in person and acknowledged by phone, letter or email. Final responses to complaints will be in writing (letter or email), unless this format is not appropriate for the complainant. The service standard for responding to a complaint is to send an acknowledgement within five working days and a full response within a further 15 working days from the date that the complaint was acknowledged for a complaint at stage 1. In some circumstances, where the matters are complex or where it is necessary for the complaints case manager to seek further clarification from the complainant, the 15 working days timescale for a response will start once the summary of the matters to be investigated has been defined and agreed with the complainant. The stage 2 complaints response timescale is 25 working days. Statutory complaints processes may have a different timescale, but generally the above standard should be considered a minimum. Where a complaint is particularly complicated and requires extensive investigation, complainants will be informed as to how long the process will take, and when they can reasonably expect a final response. 

Remedies

The approach to remedies will be based on appropriateness, timeliness and consistency of application. It is the County Council's policy to offer customers the opportunity to resolve their complaints and, as far as possible, restore matters to a position they would have been in, had things not gone wrong.

 

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