Stage 1: The informal stage
Children’s Services should respond to your complaint as soon as possible, and definitely within ten working days (two weeks) from the date they received it. If your complaint is very complicated Children’s Services can take an extra ten working days (two weeks) to get back to you.
First of all Children’s Services will try and sort things out by involving your child’s social worker’s manager or a more senior manager. The manager may want to meet with you. Or, the manager might arrange a meeting for both you and the social worker to try to sort things out. It may help to have a friend with you.
Stage 2: the formal investigation stage
If you are not happy with the outcome of the first stage, you should ask for your complaint to go to the second stage. This is usually called the ‘formal investigation’ stage.
Children’s Services should respond to your 'stage 2' complaint within twenty five working days. If they can’t finish their investigation within this time they must tell you why in writing and give you a new date when they will have finished. This date should be no more than 65 working days (13 weeks) from the start of stage two.
In stage 2, they should appoint two people to look into your complaint. These people are the Complaints Officer (or Investigating Officer), and someone else who is independent (i.e. they are not involved in your case).
The Complaints Officer is an employee of Children’s Services but the independent person is not an employee of Children’s Services.
These two people must investigate your complaint and write a report about what they found out during their investigation of it. Usually they make recommendations about how things might be sorted out.
A senior person in Children’s Services reads the report and the recommendations. They then makes the final decision about whether or not they agree with your complaint, and what must be done to put things right (if anything).
You will be informed about their decision on the outcome of stage 2.
Stage three: the Review Panel stage
If you are not happy with outcome of stage two you have 20 working days to ask for your complaint to go to the Review Panel. Children’s Services then have 30 working days to hold a Review Panel meeting.
This panel is made up of three people who are not employed by Children’s Services. They will hold a meeting and invite you to come and explain your views. The Children’s Services managers and the independent person involved at the second stage of the complaint will also go to this panel meeting.
At least ten days before the meeting you should be told when and where the Panel meeting will be held. You should also be sent copies of all the reports and other papers that the Panel will see.
It you don’t want to speak for yourself, or you want support, you can take someone with you to the meeting, including a solicitor or advocate to represent you.
The panel will listen to you and the other people invited to the meeting and then decide whether or not they agree with you about your complaint.
They should write to you and Children’s Services with their recommendations within five working days of the panel meeting. These recommendations can include suggestions as to what Children’s Services should do next, including who needs to do what and by when.
Children’s Services then have 15 days to write to you and tell you what they are going to do.
If you are still not happy you can ask the Local Government Ombudsman to look at the way Children’s Services reached its decision about your complaint.