4.10 Complaints by Service Users
Last updated 23/09/2021
Parents/caregivers and, on occasion children, may have concerns about which they may wish to make representations or complain, in respect of one or more of the following aspects of the functioning of child protection conferences:
- The process of the conference;
- The outcome, in terms of the fact of and/or the category of primary concern at the time the child became the subject of a child protection plan;
- The decision concerning the imposition or discontinuance of a child protection plan.
Complaints about aspects of the functioning of conferences described above should be addressed to the conference chair. Such complaints should be passed on to Children’s Services.
All parties must be made aware that this complaints process cannot itself change a conference decision and that during the course of a complaints consideration, the decision made by the conference stands.
The outcome of a complaint will be either that a conference is re-convened under a different chair, that a review conference is brought forward or that the status quo is confirmed.
Complaints about individual agencies, their performance and provision (or non-provision) of services should be responded to in accordance with the relevant agency’s own complaints management process.
If a child or parent expresses concern about a conference in the course of the meeting, it should be noted and an attempt made by the chair to resolve it with the parent or child.
If the matter remains unresolved the parent or child should be reminded of the conference appeals and Children’s complaints processes, and invited (and if necessary assisted by the Children’s Services social worker) to write to the conference chair within 28 days of receipt of the minutes.
Stage 1 – Exploration by Conference Chair
When the conference chair receives the parent or child’s letter of complaint, s/he should inform the local authority designated Children’s Complaints Manager, the relevant Children’s Services manager and all practitioners who attended the conference.
Complaints /appeals made outside the 28-day time limit may, in exceptional circumstances and at the discretion of the conference chair, be accepted.
The chair should meet with the complainant (who may be supported by a friend or relative) within 7 working days of receipt of the complaint so as to:
- Ensure the complainant sufficiently understands the child protection process;
- Clarify the grounds for, and the nature of, the complaint/s;
- Establish the outcome desired by the complainant;
- Ensure the complainant understands the scope and relevance of this complaints process with regard to their circumstances;
- Gather relevant information.
At the meeting with the complainant the chair should be accompanied by a colleague who can take minutes.
Within a further 7 working days, the chair should provide a written response to the complainant including notes of their meeting. This letter should include information on how to pursue concerns further if the complainant remains dissatisfied.
The response provided to the complainant should be copied to the designated children’s complaints officer.
Stage 2 – Formal Consideration by Complaints Officer
If, within 28 days of receipt of the stage 1 letter the complainant notifies the complaints manager that s/he remains dissatisfied and specifies reasons, arrangements must be made to convene, within 28 days, a panel of a minimum of three individuals from the LSCB.
Arrangements for this meeting will be made by the complaints officer in liaison with the Safeguarding Children Service Manager. The role of the chair will normally be fulfilled by the representative of the agency least directly involved in the case.
The panel membership should include at least two from amongst Children’s Services, Police and health agencies and the individuals should have had no previous or present direct line management responsibility for the case in question.
The panel must be provided with the following documentation by the complaints officer and Safeguarding Children Unit Service Manager:
- A formal request to convene;
- A copy of the relevant conference minutes and the reports that were made available to the conference;
- Stage 1 meeting notes and correspondence;
- A list of names, addresses and contact details of the conference chair, all other practitioners involved and the family concerned.
The complaints manager will liaise with the complainant throughout, and be available at the panel, to advise on relevant processes.
The panel should be convened within 28 days of the receipt of the complainant’s letter and consider whether:
- Relevant inter-agency protocols and procedures have been observed correctly; and
- If any decision in dispute follows reasonably from the processes employed and information presented.
The panel will:
- Hear (either directly or in writing) from the complainant, the chair of the relevant child protection conference and any other relevant person;
- Consider written material;
- Reach a decision;
- Agree the content of their decision letter to the complainant.
The panel’s conclusions should be put in writing to the complainant within 7 days of its meeting and will:
- Confirm membership of the panel;
- State the decision reached;
- Provide concise information about how the decision was reached.
A recommendation must be made to re-convene the conference under a different chair if:
- Procedures relating to the conference were not correctly followed and this was material to the complaint or
- The procedures were correctly followed but the decision of the conference was unreasonable.
If the panel concludes that the procedures relating to the conference were correctly followed and that the decision/s reached were reasonable, it must confirm that the conclusions of the original conference stands and will be routinely reviewed when the review conference is held.
The panel should also consider any specific concerns that may be relevant to communicate to agencies involved with the case and may make recommendations relating to practice or procedure to any LSCB agency.