SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure covers complaint and, representations received in respect of services to children.
Those wishing to make complaints in relation to a Child in Care can, at any time, refer their complaints to the Regulatory Authority (Ofsted).
This procedure does not apply to complaints of Significant Harm / Allegations Against People who Work with Children, which must be dealt with under the Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures.See also Children's Services Complaints (Derbyshire.gov.uk).
A representation or complaint may be made by:
Where a complaint is made on behalf of a child, the Complaints Manager should confirm where possible that the child is happy for this to happen and that the complaint submitted reflects their views.
A complaint may arise as a result of many things relating to statutory children's social care functions such as:
This is not an exhaustive list and the Complaints Manager should seek legal advice as necessary.
Specifically, a complaint may be about the following:
In relation to adoption, a complaint may be about the following:
In relation to Special Guardianship Order, a complaint may be about the following:
The Complaints Manager has discretion in deciding whether to consider complaints where to do so would prejudice any of the following concurrent investigations:
If the Complaints Manager decides not to consider or further consider complaints subject to these concurrent investigations, s/he must write to the complainant explaining the reason for their decision and specifying the relevant concurrent investigation.
Once the concurrent investigation has been concluded the complainant may resubmit their complaint to the local authority as long as it is within one year of the conclusion of the concurrent investigation.
Local authorities do not need to consider complaints made more than one year after the grounds to make the complaint arose. In these cases, the Complaints Manager should write to advise the complainant that their complaint cannot be considered, explaining the reasons why. This response should also advise the complainant of their right to approach the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
The time limit can be extended at the local authority's discretion if it is still possible to consider the representations effectively and efficiently and/or where it would be unreasonable to expect the complainant to have made the complaint earlier, for example, where the child was not able to make the complaint or did not feel confident in bringing it forward in the year time limit.
Children must be informed about the Complaints Procedure in a variety of ways suitable to their needs and level of understanding. Copies of relevant leaflets should be provided, for example the Children's Guide which is given to children before or upon admission to a children's home. Such information must include an explanation of the role of an Advocate and provide contact details for advocates to make complaints on children's behalf.
Where children or those acting on their behalf express a wish to make a complaint, they should be given any information or advice they require on how to use the Complaints Procedure. Their options must be carefully explained including information and advice on alternative methods for resolving their dissatisfaction. For all complaints made by or on behalf of children, help must always be offered to obtain the services of an Advocate.
Where a child wishes to make a complaint, s/he should be referred to the relevant manager or to the Complaints Manager.
If the complaint is made by or relates to a child in foster care or residential care, it may also be directed to the Regulatory Authority.
Representations, complaints and compliments may be made orally or in writing. Some complaints can be received via the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
All representations, complaints and compliments about services to children should be recorded on the complaints database by the responsible Locality or service. Representations, complaints and compliments received by members of staff regarding services for which they are not directly responsible should be immediately forwarded to the complaints administrator at email@example.com.
In relation to complaints, the emphasis should be on a speedy resolution reached locally wherever possible.
However, where a complaint includes an allegation of Significant Harm, the matter must be directed to be dealt with under the Child Protection Procedures and must be referred to the Locality safeguarding service for this purpose immediately.
Staff may not deal with complaints relating to their own practice and must pass such matters to their own manager.
The Procedure is divided into three stages:
Enquiries and very minor disagreements are received daily by members of staff and are dealt with promptly to the satisfaction of the person concerned. These are not regarded as complaints.
In all cases where complaints are received, the complaint should be recorded on the complaints database by the local complaints clerk. Wherever appropriate, complainants should be asked to agree to a 'local' resolution.
All complaints will be dealt with by the complaints clerk as follows:
If it is not possible to respond within the above time scale - e.g. where files or records need to be checked or a key member of staff is not available - the line manager will arrange for the complaints clerk to send a holding letter to advise the complainant of the delay. However the maximum period for a complaint to remain at Stage One is 20 working days, unless the complainant has agreed to an extension of time.
Quality Assurance Service Managers will manage the complaints process in Localities. They should hold discussions with the appropriate Service Manager or unit manager as soon as possible after receipt of a complaint. They should provide advice and assistance about replies to complaints and ensure that replies meet the designated time scales. In certain cases it may be appropriate for the Quality Assurance Service Manager to look into the complaints and reply themselves and this will be established at the outset with the relevant Head of Service (Localities). Where the initial complaint directly involves the Service Manager it may be appropriate for the Quality Assurance Service Manager or Head of Service (Localities) to reply.
Complaints made by children in foster care or residential care should be recorded as follows:
If the matter cannot be resolved to the user's satisfaction within 20 working days, the complainant must be advised that they have has a right to proceed to Stage Two and given assistance to do so as necessary. The complainant may, however, agree to extend the deadline for the Stage One process.
If the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome of the first stage, they may request a formal investigation of their complaint. All requests to go to Stage 2 of the complaints process should be dealt with by the Complaints Manager. The Complaints Manager will continue to look for opportunities to resolve the complaint, which may include alternative dispute resolution approaches.
Following agreement to formally investigate a complaint the Complaints Manager will:
The Complaints Manager and the Investigating Officer should consider whether it is necessary to halt a particular aspect of the case pending investigation, for example where there are ongoing Court proceedings.
Upon being appointed, the Investigating Officer will:
Upon receiving the Investigating Officer's reports and any supplementary report provided by the Independent Person, the Complaints Manager will:
If the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the complaint, s/he has 20 working days to ask for the response to be reviewed by a Review Panel. The Panel will usually only be convened if complaints have not been upheld, or the complainant is not satisfied with the adjudication.
The request should be made to the Complaints Manager and acknowledged in writing within 2 working days. The Complaints Manager will ensure a Review Panel is set up and meets within 30 working days of the complainant's request being made.
The Review Panel must be made up of 3 independent people, who must not be:
One member will be appointed as the Panel Chair. It is good practice that the Chair should not have been employed or an elected member of the authority within the last 3 years. Under normal circumstances lawyers will not be present at a Review Panel.
The complainant should be notified of the Panel's date and location in writing at least 10 working days before the Review Panel meets and be invited to attend. The complainant should also be informed of their entitlement to be accompanied by another person and for this person to speak on their behalf.
Those persons involved with the investigation at Stage 2 (e.g. the Investigating Officer, and the Independent Person) should also be invited to attend.
The Chair should make the final decision on attendees (including asking the local authority to make specific members of staff available to provide specialist advice or opinion). The panel will be attended by the Complaints Manager.
Panel papers should be sent to Panel members and other attendees as soon as these have been agreed by the Chair. These should normally include: information on Stage 1 (as relevant), the Stage 2 investigation report(s), the local authority's adjudication, any policy, practice or guidance information relevant to the complaint, and any comments that the complainant has submitted to the Panel. The papers should also include information on any local practice around Panels, such as conduct, roles and responsibilities.
The Review Panel's recommendations should be recorded in writing and copies sent to the Strategic Director within 5 working days.
The Head of Children's Social Care must respond to the recommendations of the Review Panel and make the decisions known to the complainant within 15 working days, explaining the authority's decision and reasons.
In terms of the Complaints Procedure, there is no further action that the complainant can take to progress a complaint.
Complainants should be advised of their right to make representations to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman if they are still not satisfied.
Derbyshire County Council is committed to dealing with all complaints fairly and impartially and it would not normally limit contact complainants may have with its staff and its officers. However sometimes complainants can, because of the frequency of their contact, hinder the authority's consideration of complaints. The Council has a policy on managing this process on the Council's website for viewing. Staff will seek advice from the local representative of the Complaints Manager, the Quality Assurance Service Manager in the first instance.
Where a complaint is made anonymously it is expected that staff will look at the issues raised and record what action they propose to take based on reasonable judgements of the veracity of the complaint. However as it is impossible to provide a written response all anonymous complaints will be regarded as are presentation.
All representations and enquiries from MP's and Elected Members are answered by the appropriate cabinet member on behalf of the authority. This is regardless of the addressee. All correspondence is scrutinised by the relevant linked Locality Quality Assurance Service Manager and the response (drafted in the Cabinet lead member's name by the operational Service Manager) is sent to the appropriate Senior Manager prior to sending to the office of the Cabinet Member.
All services commissioned by the local authority are required to have their own complaints procedure within the terms of their contract with DCC. Ofsted regulate many of the services commissioned by the local authority. Ofsted set out how they manage complaints regarding these services on their website. All services provided under Ofsted regulation must have an internal complaints procedure. Where complainants remain dissatisfied with the response provided by the commissioned service, they may use the authority's procedures if they so choose.
When Derbyshire County Council investigates complaints about commissioned services they will routinely inform Ofsted of their investigation and outcomes.
Only valid for 48hrs