This policy covers those circumstances where a child or other family member wants to make a comment or complaint about the application of multi-agency child protection procedures in child protection conferences.
Comments or complaints about individual agencies or staff will not be dealt with by these procedures but by the relevant agency. For example, local authority children’s social care are required (by section 26 of the Children Act 1989) to establish complaints procedures to deal with complaints arising in respect of Part III of the Act. Representations and complaints may be received by individual agencies in respect of services provided (or not provided) as a consequence of assessments and conferences, including those set out in child protection plans. Such concerns will also be responded to by the relevant agency.
Complaints about aspects of the functioning of child protection conferences are important matters for the Local Safeguarding Children Board as they relate to the operation of the multi-agency child protection procedures. However, such complaints should also be passed on to local authority children’s social care, which, since they relate to Part V of the Children Act 1989, should be responded to in accordance with the Complaints Directions 1990. (This section will be updated when regulations on the revision of Local Authority Complaints Procedures under the Children Act 1989 are revised).
Working Together to Safeguard Children (paragraphs 5.107 – 110) clarifies that a child or parents/carers may make a complaint in respect of:
- The processes employed by the conference
- The outcome, in terms of the fact of, and/or the category of, primary concern at the time the child became subject of a child protection plan
- A decision for the child to become, or not to become, the subject of a child protection plan, or to cease a child protection plan
The complaints process cannot change the decision to have a child protection plan and during the course of the complaints process, the decision made by the conference stands.
Stage One – Immediate resolution
An expressed concern about a conference itself, during the meeting, must be noted and an attempt made by the chair to resolve it with the child, parent or carer.
If the issue is not resolved, the chair should remind the family of the conference complaints process, and the timescales involved. Any discussion should be recorded as part of the child’s case notes.
Stage Two – Discussion with Conference Chair
Where concerns cannot be resolved immediately following a conference, the chair will ask the child or parent to set out their complaint in writing within twenty eight days (20 working days) of the conference. Assistance may be provided by a professional, or advocate. Where the issue relates to the chair themselves they should seek to resolve the matter but should inform their own line manager.
In all cases the conference chair should inform their manager, and children’s services complaints manager, that they have received the complaint.
The conference chair will then arrange to discuss the complaint with the parent/child in a meeting within five working days of receipt of the written complaint. The chair should:
- Ensure the complainant sufficiently understands the child protection process
- Clarify the grounds for, and 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
Brief notes will be made of the meeting, and copies will be sent to the complainant and the Safeguarding Children’s Board manager and/or Safeguarding Unit and copied to the Complaints Manager.
If the issues cannot be resolved the complainant will be advised that the matter will now be referred to the Safeguarding Children’s Board Manager. The Chair will update the Safeguarding Children Board Manager within three working days of the stage one meeting. Assistance can again be provided by a professional, or advocate.
On receipt of a representation or complaint, the Safeguarding Children’s Board Manager will consider whether the matter falls within the grounds for complaint. If the manager agrees that there are grounds for the complaint, they may direct that a child protection conference be reconvened with the same or different chair (dependant upon the nature of the matter).
If the Safeguarding Children’s Board Manager decides that the grounds are not met, the matter may be dismissed. The Safeguarding Children’s Board Manager will notify the complainant in writing of their decision and the reasons for their decision.
If the person complaining is not satisfied with the decision of the Safeguarding Children’s Board Manager, they can then request that their complaint be referred to the chair of the Safeguarding Children’s Board for consideration by a panel.
Stage Four – The Complaints Panel
Within 15 working days of receipt of written notification, a complaints panel will be held to consider the matter. The complainant will be notified of the details of the venue, date and time.
The panel will consist of a minimum of three members:
- The panel chair nominated by the chair of the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board
- At least two other members of the Local Safeguarding Children Board from different agencies who have had no previous or present direct line management responsibility for the case in question
Other professionals may be co-opted where specialist advice is needed.
The conference chair may attend the panel, at the discretion of the panel chair.
The panel will consider the complainant’s written submissions, the conference minutes and the notes of the first stage meeting, together with any relevant protocols and procedures. The panel meeting will review all the information and decide the process to be followed in considering the complaint.
The complainant will be invited to make further representations in person or writing if he or she so wishes. The conference chair may clarify points with regard to decision-making and other comments that may be useful.
Minutes will be taken.
The panel cannot reverse a conference decision but may make decide that:
- the Child Protection Conference procedures were followed correctly and the original Child Protection Conference decision was sound
- the Child Protection Conference procedures were not followed correctly, in what respects, and make a recommendation as to how this should be remedied
- the procedures / protocols were correctly followed but the decision of the conference was unreasonable
Where the decision raises concerns about the process or decision of the original conference, the panel should recommend whether a child protection conference be reconvened or not, with the same or a different conference chair.
The panel chair will then ensure that a letter outlining the decision is sent within five working days to the complainant and to all those who were sent minutes of the child protection conference.
The panel chair will communicate any specific concerns, learning points and recommendations relating to practice or procedure on the part of any Local Safeguarding Children Board agency to the relevant board member and the chair of the board.
The chair of a reconvened child protection conference will highlight the decisions and any recommendations made by the panel at the beginning of the meeting.
The conference will then proceed and consider whether the criteria for a child protection plan are met.
A complainant who remains dissatisfied with the outcome of the process may wish to pursue their grievance via the Local Authority Complaints Procedure, the Local Government Ombudsman or seek legal advice about other legal remedies such as Judicial Review.
Monitoring of complaints by the Local Safeguarding Children Board
All complaints and their outcomes will be reported to the Safeguarding Children’s Board and included in annual reports.
Individual Local Safeguarding Children Boards may have their own additional guidance which can be accessed