- Immediate Resolution
- Reconvened Conference
- Further Challenge
- Local Information
Complaints about an individual agency, its performance and provision (or non-provision) of services, should be responded to in accordance with that agency's complaints handling processes which should reflect relevant statutory guidance. This includes representations or complaints about services provided (or not provided) as a consequence of assessments and conferences including child protection plans.
Complaints about the functioning of child protection conferences should be passed on the local authority children's services which, since they relate to Part V of the Children Act 1989, should be responded to in accordance with the Local Authority Children Act 1989 Representations Procedure (England) regulations 2006 with accompanying guidance Getting the Best From Complaints 2006.
Children/parents / carers/ may have concerns about which they may wish to make representations or complain, in respect of one or more of the following aspects of child protection conferences:
- The process of the conference;
- The outcome, in terms of the fact of and/or category of primary concern when the child became subject of a child protection plan;
- A decision for the child to become, or not to become, subject of a protection plan or not to cease being subject of a protection plan.
All parties must be made aware this complaints process cannot itself change the decisions made and that during the course of a complaint's consideration, the decision made by the conference stands.
The end result for a complainant will be either that a conference is re-convened under a different chair, that a review conference is brought forward or that it confirms the status quo.
A complaint may be generally defined as an expression of dissatisfaction or disquiet in relation to an individual child or young person, which requires a response. Children and young people often express complaints as 'problems not being sorted out'. A common theme amongst children and young people is the need for complaints procedures to be both fast and effective: complaints procedures should 'get it sorted' straight away.
3. Immediate Resolution
An expressed concern about the conference itself, which arises in the course of the meeting, must be noted and an attempt made by the chairperson to resolve it with the service user.
If this initial attempt to resolve matters fails, the service user should be reminded of the conference complaints process, and be invited (if necessary assisted by the social worker) to write within twenty eight days of receipt of minutes, to the conference chair.
Stage 1 - exploration by conference chair
The conference chair should inform the Children's Services Social Care complaints manager, a child protection manager, relevant service manager and all professionals who attended the conference that s/he has received the complaint.
Complaints made outside the twenty eight day time limit may, in exceptional circumstances and at the discretion of the conference chairperson, be accepted.
The chairperson should meet with the complainant (who may be supported by a friend or relative) within ten working days of receipt of the complaint so as to:
- 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 her/his circumstances
- Gather relevant information
- In some circumstances, by agreement, this may be undertaken by phone or letter.
At the meeting with the complainant the conference chairperson should be accompanied by a colleague/administrator who can take notes.
Within a further ten working days, the conference chairperson should provide a written response to the complainant including notes of the outcome 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 Children's Services Social Care complaints manager.
Stage 2 - formal consideration by complaints manager
If, within twenty-eight 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 a further twenty eight days, a panel of a minimum of three senior representatives from LSCB member agencies.
The complaints manager in liaison with the child protection manager should make arrangements for the meeting, and the representative of the agency least directly involved in the case should normally chair it.
Panel membership should include at least two from amongst the Police CAIU, Children's Services (Social Care or Education) and health agencies and the individuals should have had no previous or present direct line management responsibility for the case.
The panel must be provided with the following documentation:
- 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.
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 twenty working days of the receipt of the complainant's request to progress the complaint to Stage Two and consider whether:
- Relevant inter-agency protocols and procedures have been observed correctly and
- If any disputed decision follows reasonably from the processes employed and information presented.
The panel will:
- Hear (directly or in writing) from the complainant, chairperson of the 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 chairperson should ensure the panel's conclusions are put in writing to the complainant within ten working days of its meeting and will:
- Confirm membership of the panel
- State the decision reached
- Provide concise information about how the decision was reached
- Include information on how to pursue concerns further if the complainant remains dissatisfied.
A recommendation must be made to re-convene the conference, under a different chairperson if:
- Procedures / protocols relating to the conference were not correctly followed and this may have affected the outcome of the conference or
- The procedures / protocols were correctly followed but the decision of the conference was unreasonable.
If the panel concludes 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.
If the complaint is recommended to be upheld but is about process only, and it is not believed to have affected the outcome of the conference, the panel may consider an alternative plan of action in order to resolve the complaint. This may be in the form of recommendations to appropriate agency managers or may consist of acknowledging that procedures were not correctly followed or that practice was not in accordance with expected standards.
The panel should also consider any specific and relevant concerns and may make recommendations relating to practice or procedure to any LSCB agency.
4. Reconvened Conference
The chairperson of a reconvened child protection conference (initial or review) must ensure that all those present have seen or are briefed at the conference about the decisions reached by the panel.
A distinction must be made by the chairperson between need to discuss the conclusions of the panel and the task of the child protection conference, which is to consider the child/ren's current circumstances.
5. Further Challenge
No further internal processes exist in those cases where the panel concludes that all relevant processes were followed and that the decisions which were made were reasonable.
A complainant who nonetheless remains dissatisfied may wish to pursue her/his grievances via Ombudsman or Judicial review.
In what are likely to be very rare cases, where a re-convened conference has been recommended, held and the complainant does not accept the outcome, the same panel may, (at the discretion of the complaints manager in liaison with the child protection manager) be asked to re-convene and review any remaining and clearly specified concerns.
Further local information may be added here as required.