There is a statutory process for handling complaints from certain individuals “who may complain” about specified functions of Specialist Children's Services. The current regulations were introduced in 2006.
Kent County Council receives a substantial number of complaints which do not fall under the regulations either because the complainant, because of his/her relationship to the child, does not have the right under the legislation to make a statutory complaint, because the complaint is about a function not included in the complaints legislation, or is out of time. This policy sets out how they should be handled.
2. Legal Framework
Section 7B of the LASS Act 1970 placed a duty on Local Authority Social Services to have a complaints process for “service users”.
A specific process for handling complaints about Children's Services was first set out in 1991 regulations under the Children Act 1989 following the Waterhouse Enquiry. The requirements included an independent element, specified “who may complain” but only applied to functions under Part III of the Children Act 1989.
Kent, like other Local Authorities, continued to handle other complaints about Children's Social Services as required by the LASS Act 1970. In practice, this usually meant handling the complaints under the Local Authority's own complaints procedure.
Section 7B of the LASS Act was repealed in 2006 and was replaced by new regulations for Adult Social Care and Health complaints under the Health and Social Care Act 2003.
New regulations were introduced in 2006 for children's complaints. The original draft covered complaints about all statutory Children's Services however, as the legislation progressed through Parliament, various functions were removed from the requirements. It would be inappropriate to handle non-statutory complaints under the statutory, or similar, procedure as this was clearly considered inappropriate by Parliament.
3. The Handling of Non-Statutory Complaints
The only complaints about statutory services which should be handled as complaints should be those which fall under the 2006 regulations. Other complaints received about statutory services, some of which were formerly handled as non-statutory complaints, should be handled as “representations”.
Complaints about non-statutory services such as children's centres, will continue to be handled under the Council's corporate complaints procedure.
Non-statutory complaints received which are more appropriately handled by another process for example in a court of law, appeal procedure, disciplinary action or compensation claim, will continue to be redirected by the Customer Care Team.
Some statutory complaints, e.g. about Child and Family Assessments, will continue to be deferred until the assessment is complete. Discretion will continue to be exercised on handling of statutory complaints when cases are in court; decisions will be taken case by case on the basis of the risk of jeopardising proceedings.
The Appendix 1: Complaints re Specialist Children's Services Functions sets out statutory functions included in and excluded from the statutory complaints procedures and the appropriate route for each. Most representations will be in connection with child protection or from people not closely involved with the child and with whom it would be inappropriate to share case details.
4. Process for the Handling of Representations
Action by the Customer Care Team
The Customer Care Team will:
- Advise staff on the handling of complaints and representations received;
- Acknowledge receipt;
- Check current status of the case on Liberi and discuss with local staff if necessary to ensure the correct decision is taken;
- Provide a written explanation to the complainant as to why the issue does not fall under the complaints procedure;
- Advise the complainant that the representation will be placed on the record and forwarded to the appropriate manager for information;
- (If the representation is about an open case) advise that the representation will be forwarded to the appropriate manager for the complainant's views to be taken into account in the handling of the case;
- Forward correspondence to the local Service Manager;
- Scan in correspondence, note decision/action on the complaints database and close the record.
Action by the Local Team Responsible for the Service
- The Service Manager should ensure that the representation is recorded on the case file and shared as appropriate;
- Unless there is a good reason not to, the Service Manager should write to the originator to thank them for making the representation and sharing their views;
- Professional judgement should be exercised as to the need to contact the originator to discuss or explore the issues further. Any further action should be decided on the basis of the interests of the child and in the context of the management of the case;
- Complaints and representations received locally should continue to be forwarded to the Customer Care Team as before to ensure that the appropriate route is followed consistently and in accordance with statutory requirements.
Appendix 1: Complaints re Specialist Children's Services Functions
Children Act 1989
|Complaint Status||Current Practice/Issues Arising|
|Part I||non-statutory||Complaints about S7 reports common. Inappropriate to deal - redress via court of law.|
|Part II||non-statutory||Court issues - inappropriate to deal.|
|Part III||statutory||Risks involved in handling complaints about assessments carried out under S17**. Do not handle complaint while assessment ongoing - complainant advised that it may be possible to investigate once process finished. Once finished handle as representation if case escalated to S47 (non-statutory).|
Care and supervision orders
Statutory if complaint about the decision of the LA to initiate care and supervision orders - but not if about the court decision itself.
Complaints about Child and Family Assessments and court reports common but Guidance allows decision not to handle if to do so risks jeopardising court case - discretion exercised. Either statutory complaint or directed to legal process (not representation).
|S31 (2-11)||non-statutory||Inappropriate to deal at all -redress in court|
|S33 (1-2), (5-8)|
|S33(3), (4), (6) and (9)||statutory||If complaint is about the LA's actions and decisions and their effects following the Care Order being made.|
|S34 (1-5), (7), (9-11)||non-statutory||Inappropriate to deal - redress in court|
|S34 (6) and (8) (refusal of contact to safeguard child's welfare)||statutory||Decisions re contact and nature of contact are statutory unless the complaint is about a decision taken in a court of law.|
|S35||statutory||Statutory process - if how supervisors perform their duties - but not if about the court decision to make a supervision order.|
|S37||non-statutory||Common cause of complaint - inappropriate to deal as under direction of the court and challenge via court.|
|S38 - 42||non-statutory||Inappropriate to deal - court issues|
Actions of the LA re applications for and duties in relation to child assessment orders.
Only statutory if about actions of the LA (rare).
Would be inappropriate to deal if re issue subject to decision of the court.
|S43 (2-5)||non-statutory||Inappropriate to deal - court issues|
|S44 (1) (emergency protection)||statutory||Complaints about matters relating to applications by the LA for emergency protection orders and decision around the return of children that were removed.|
|S44 (2-9)||non-statutory||Inappropriate to deal - court issues.|
|S44 (10) and (11)||statutory||Statutory process re actions of the LA in the return of children (rare).|
|S44 (12 - 16)||non-statutory||Court issues.|
|S45 - 52||non-statutory||S47 actions and decisions are frequently the subject of complaints. Inappropriate to deal as complaints and particularly risky while enquiries and decisions being made, always inappropriate to handle complaints about professional decisions made properly e.g. strategy discussions. Handle as representations.|
|Parts VI - XII||non-statutory||
Inappropriate to deal re provision of homes, vol orgs, etc, and rules of court.
Complaints about Private Fostering arrangements are often cause of complaints (S67-69). Handle as representation if risk of detracting from focus on child. However it is more common that complainants dispute that child is privately fostered and claim child was placed by the LA / should have been regarded as CIC - usually handled as statutory complaints as failure under Part III.
Adoption Support Services Regulations 2005
|statutory||Limited to complaints about the provision of Adoption Support Services to enable adoptive children to discuss matters relating to adoption.|
|Regulation 3 and Parts 4 and 5||statutory||Re assessments and related decisions for Adoption Support Services.|
|S 18-29 of the 2002 Act||statutory||Placing children for adoption (but not court decision or issue more appropriately raised in court) including Parental Responsibility and contact issues.|
|S30-35||statutory||Removal of children who are or may be placed by adoption agencies.|
|S36-40||statutory||Removal of children in non-urgent cases.|
|S44||statutory||LA duties on receipt of a notice of intention to adopt.|
|Adoption Agency regulations 2005|
|Part 3||statutory||LA considering adoption for a child.|
|Part 5||statutory||Proposed placement of child with prospective adopters.|
|Part 6||statutory||Placement and reviews.|
|Adoptions with a Foreign Element Regulations 2005|
|Part 3||statutory||Parental Responsibility prior to adoption abroad.|
|Special Guardianship Support Services regulations 2005||statutory||
The following functions:
|Children (Leaving Care) Regulations 2001 and S117 ACA 2002||statutory||Family Support Services and specified duties in the care and supervision and child protection provisions of the Children Act 1989 - different process and restricted to the child, eligible child, relevant child, an individual for whose needs provision is made in ACA 2002 or person the LA considers has sufficient interest in the child's welfare.|
|Working Together to Safeguard Children||non-statutory||Complaints about CP conferences, reports, behaviour of staff, CP plans etc are common. Handle as representation - usually to the chair.|
**A number of serious case reviews have resulted in recommendations against handling complaints while Initial Assessments ongoing, notably Birmingham - Kyra Ishaq, Barking and Dagenham - child T and child R 2011.