Children's social care complaints

If you are unhappy about the services we provide to a child or young person, please tell us.

How to complain

A complaint may be made about anything relating to the functions of children's social care, for example, a service not being available; the quality of a service; how decisions were made; or a delay in dealing with your problem or providing a service. Making a complaint will not affect your right to receive our services. Some complaints about children's social care may need to be considered under the corporate complaints procedure.

We aim to resolve complaints as quickly and informally as possible. If you are able to talk to your social worker, independent reviewing officer or the managers who deliver your service, this is often the quickest and best way to get a problem resolved.

Alternatively you can make a complaint about children's social care online here:

Make a complaint online

Our children's social care leaflet is available here, along with an easy read (symbolic) version:

If you are a young person, you can also contact the national youth advocacy service to ask for an advocate. This is someone who is independent and does not work for children's social care. They will put your views across to those who support you and try to improve things for you.

Most of the complaints we receive are resolved informally by discussing the problem with a member of staff. The managers and staff work hard to ensure complaints are responded to quickly and resolved at this stage wherever possible.

Once your complaint has been submitted

Once you have contacted us, we will contact you about the best way to deal with the issues you raise and how quickly we will be able to reply to you. If you are making a formal complaint we have a three stage procedure (see below for more information).

If you are not satisfied with the response you have received from us you can contact us again to see if there is any other way of resolving your complaint. If you are not satisfied with the final decision or the way we have dealt with your complaint, you can contact the local government ombudsman to carry out an independent investigation into your complaint (see further details below). You can also contact the ombudsman for advice at any time. They will usually ask us to investigate your complaint first if we have not had the opportunity to try to resolve your concerns.

Complaints about independent care providers

If your complaint is about an independent children's home, you should contact them in the first instance as they will have their own complaints procedure to follow. If you are unhappy about their response and your care has been arranged and funded by children and young people's services, we may be able to look into your complaint further.

Ofsted inspects all registered children's homes. For further information and advice, visit the Ofsted website.

Further information

  • Any child looked after by the authority, a child in need or a child leaving care;
  • Children who may be adopted, their foster carers and guardians;
  • A parent or person with parental responsibility;
  • Persons wishing to adopt a child;
  • Adopted persons, their parents, natural parents and former guardians;
  • Any local authority or agency foster carer;
  • Any person that the local authority consider to have sufficient interest in the child or young person's welfare - we will usually check with the child or young person or the person with parental responsibility; and
  • Special guardians.

If you would like a relative, friend or advocate to make a complaint on your behalf we will need your agreement and consent to share information with them. Or you can ask someone to support you to make the complaint yourself.

A complaint may arise as a result of many things relating to statutory social services functions such as:

  • an unwelcome or disputed decision;
  • concerns about quality or appropriateness of a service;
  • delay in decision making or provision of services;
  • delivery or non- delivery of services;
  • quantity, frequency or change in service;
  • attitude or behaviour of staff;
  • application of eligibility and assessment criteria; or
  • impact of application of a local authority policy.

Complaints about social workers

In most cases, we will not change your social worker, but each case is different and it would be down to the children's social care team manager to decide if it is in the best interests of all parties involved.

What can't I complain about?

Where the following are intended, or are already in progress:

  • court or tribunal proceedings;
  • disciplinary proceedings; and
  • criminal investigations or proceedings.

Other examples of when we are not able to consider your complaint:

  • a decision that has not yet been made;
  • if you continue to complain about the same issue which has already been investigated fully;
  • it has been investigated by the local government ombudsman;
  • if you became aware of the issue over a year ago; or
  • the complaint relates to decisions or actions of another department (police or the courts, for example).

There are some complaints that we have to look at through different procedures. Some examples are:

  • requests for services, for example referrals to children's social care;
  • insurance claims against the council for compensation;
  • requests for information on Council policy or practice;
  • requests for explanations of Council policy or practice; and
  • matters for which there is a right of appeal.

Stage one

Your concerns will be passed to the managers of the team that are working with you. Following investigation the manager will write to you to tell you about what they have found and what action has been taken.

  • If we cannot respond immediately, we will send an acknowledgement within five working days telling you who is dealing with your complaint and giving a timescale for response;
  • We will respond to you within 20 working days, or if we are unable to do so will explain why; and
  • If we have made a mistake we will take action to put things right.

Stage two

If you are not satisfied with the outcome at stage one, you can ask that we consider your complaint at stage two of the complaints procedure.

  • Your complaint will be considered by two people independent of the Council. They will investigate your concerns and then write a report of their findings; and
  • The report will be passed on to a senior manager in children's social care who will consider your complaint along with the findings of the independent officers. The senior manager will then write to you with their response.

Stage three

If you have been through stages one and two and remain unhappy with the way your complaint was dealt with, you can ask for your complaint to be considered by a review panel.

  • The stage three review panel will consider whether the stage two investigation was carried out adequately and will focus on achieving resolution; and
  • The review panel will not re-investigate your complaint but will reconsider the information that is offered.

The stage three review panel will consider whether the stage two investigation was carried out adequately and will focus on achieving resolution.

The children and young people complaints team can arrange for children and young people thinking about making a complaint or making a complaint to have an advocate who will support you through the complaints process.

You can also contact the national youth advocacy service on 0800 616101 to ask for an advocate.

All staff in customer-facing roles must speak fluent English. This includes the ability to speak with confidence and accuracy, using appropriate sentence structures and vocabulary, and understanding customer needs and responding clearly.

If all or part of your complaint relates to this, that aspect will be considered under the Council's English fluency duty complaints procedure. This is a two-part procedure which includes assessment of the member of staff concerned.

As part of this process details of your complaint will be passed to the member of staff concerned so that they have an opportunity to respond to the issues raised.

If only part of your complaint relates to English fluency this will be investigated under this procedure while the rest of your complaint will be investigated under the normal appropriate procedure. You will be informed of how this will work.

Complaints will not be considered under this procedure if the complaint is about:

  • Spoken English fluency for a member of staff who is not required to speak to members of the public in English as a regular and intrinsic part of their role;
  • A member of staff's accent, dialect, manner or tone of communication, origin or nationality;
  • Workers employed directly by a private or voluntary provider of council services; or
  • Any complaints regarded as vexatious, oppressive, threatening or abusive.

If your complaint does not fall within the scope of this procedure it may still be considered under one of the council's other complaints procedures.

You can also make a complaint in person, by phone or in writing by post.

The local government ombudsman looks at complaints about councils and some other authorities and organisations, including education admissions appeal panels and adult social care providers (such as care homes and home care providers). It is a free service.

They aim to provide independent investigation to individuals for injustice caused by unfair treatment or service failure by local authorities. If fault is found they will make recommendations about how we should put things right.

They will expect you to have taken your complaint through our complaints procedures first.

For more information please visit the local government ombudsman website.

We understand that making a complaint can be a very emotional process and we will do all that we can to help you through the procedure. However, we will not tolerate unreasonable behaviour from those making a complaint. Such behaviour may include (written, verbal or in person):

  • Offensive sexual or racial remarks or offensive remarks about a person's disability;
  • Inappropriate personal remarks;
  • Unwanted physical contact or assault;
  • Intimidation;
  • Threats;
  • Excessive swearing, foul or abusive language; or
  • Unreasonable persistence, for example contacting the Council many times about the same issue - see our  policy on unreasonably persistent complainants (pdf / 40 KB).

We will tell you if we think your behaviour is unacceptable. If the behaviour continues we may limit the way you can contact us, for example only in writing.

In the course of dealing with your complaint you may be asked questions about equalities information. This will include things like your gender, age, ethnic background and whether you have a disability.

This information will not be passed to the person dealing with your complaint and will not affect how your case is handled (although the information is attached to your case, the case handler cannot see it). We will use this information anonymously and it will help us to ensure that all sections of the community can access the complaints procedures and are not disadvantaged in any way. It will also be used across the Council to help us build a picture of who our customers are and how we can best provide our services to cater for their needs.

We use the information gained from complaints to inform service improvements. Directorates receive regular reports detailing the complaints they have received, outcomes, timescales and so on. A quarterly corporate report is brought to the Council's management board, executive and standards committee.

These are our top tips on making an effective complaint.

Don't delay

The sooner you raise a concern with us the better. We may be able to solve the problem quickly with little impact on you. If a full investigation is required access to information and the people involved will be much easier, meaning that the investigation will be much more effective.

Make checks

Make sure you are complaining to the right organisation and that complaints is the right procedure to follow.

Provide all the relevant information

To carry out a thorough and effective investigation, we need to know as much as possible about the situation, though only information that is relevant to the case. Please let us know:

  • Which service is involved;
  • The names of the people involved;
  • What has happened;
  • When it happened;
  • Where it happened;
  • How it has affected you;
  • What you would like us to do to put it right;
  • Your contact details; and
  • If you have contacted us about this before - who you contacted, when, if you got a response etc.

Be clear and brief

Cover all the relevant points, but please be as brief as you can - lengthy documents can slow down the process. Use numbered lists and headings to highlight the important issues and only tell us what is actually relevant to your case. If we think we need more information to consider your complaint fully we will contact you to let you know.

Provide evidence if relevant

If you have documents that may help us look into the matter, please send them to us. You can send a scanned copy by email if you prefer and if you want us to return hard copy documents we will do so - please let us know when you send them in. If you do send us items through the post please make sure you keep a copy.

If it is a complex issue put it in writing

It is helpful if you could put your complaint in writing to us, particularly if it is a complex matter. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, you could ask a relative, friend, advocate or an organisation like Citizen's Advice to help you.

You may wish to include audio or video recordings as part of the evidence to support your complaint. If you do, you need to provide a copy of the full recording, not just parts of it and it must not be altered in any way. This will ensure that the full context of the conversation can be considered. 

If you provide only part of a recording we might not accept it as part of evidence towards a complaints investigation.

All recordings should be of good quality. If they are not clear enough to understand we will not consider them as evidence.

Recordings will be shared with any council officers (or anyone providing a service on behalf of the council) that took part in the conversation for them to verify that it is a true and full recording.

We will not pass on any recordings which you provide us with to third parties unless there is an overriding legal obligation for us to do so, for example for crime prevention or detection.