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1.3.1 Representations, Complaints and Claims Procedure


This procedure covers complaints, representations, claims and potential claims received in respect of services to children.

Those wishing to make complaints in relation to a Looked After Child can, at any time, refer their complaints to OFSTED.


If there is a Child Protection Concern please see London Child Protection Procedures.


This chapter was updated in September 2014 to more clearly distinguish the two stage complaint process and establishing more specifically the time scales expected throughout the process.


  1. Who May Make a Complaint or Representation?
  2. Informing Children about the Complaints Procedure
  3. Receiving Comments, Complaints and Compliments
  4. Stage One - Local Resolution
  5. Stage Two - Independent Investigation
  6. Stage Three - Reviews
  7. Claims for Compensation

1. Who May Make a Complaint or Representation?

A complaint or representation may be made by:

  1. Any child who is Looked After or who, although not Looked After, is a Child In Need;
  2. A Parent;
  3. A local authority Foster Carer;
  4. Such other person as the authority consider has sufficient interest in a child's welfare to warrant a complaint or representation being considered by them;
  5. An Eligible Young Person, Relevant Young Person or Former Relevant Young Person;
  6. A young person qualifying for advice and assistance under the Leaving Care procedures;
  7. A person aged up to 24 who is or was a former relevant young person or qualified for advice and assistance under the Leaving Care procedures and whom the local authority may still assist in connection with education and training.

2. Informing Children about the Complaints Procedure

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 should include an explanation of the role of an Advocate and provide contact details for advocates to make complaints on children's behalf.

For procedures relating to advocacy services for Looked After Children see Advocacy and Independent Visitors Procedure.

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 and the option to go straight to a Stage Two Independent Investigation (see Section 5, Stage Two - Independent Investigation below) if the complaint is serious, complex or, at any time, if the complainant wishes to.

In these circumstances, where a child insists that they wish to make a formal complaint, s/he should be referred to the relevant manager or to the Designated Complaints Officer

If the complaint relates to a child in foster care or residential care, it may also be directed to the Regulatory Authority

3. Receiving Comments, Complaints and Compliments

All complaints, representations and comments about services to children should be recorded either by the front-line manager who receives them or the Designated Complaints Officer. Comments about service delivery should be passed to the appropriate service manager.

If comments made by users about a service indicate dissatisfaction with the service, the front-line service provider or the line manager should in most instances initially deal with them, if they have the delegated responsibility to do so.

Wherever appropriate, complainants should be asked to agree to a 'local' resolution. If they do not wish to do so, complaints must be passed to the Designated Complaints Officer.

Where a complaint includes an allegation of Significant Harm, the matter must be directed to be dealt with under the London Child Protection Procedures and must be referred to the relevant team this purpose immediately.

Staff may not deal with complaints relating to their own practice and must pass such matters to their own manager.

If the matter cannot be resolved to the user's satisfaction, s/he should be advised that they may make a formal complaint and given assistance to do so as necessary.

4. Stage One - Local Resolution

If a question of compensation is raised as part of the complaint, the complaint must be dealt with formally. See also Section 7, Claims for Compensation below.

If it is to be dealt with locally, then the Designated Complaints Officer will:

  1. Notify the complainant of this decision;
  2. Notify the appropriate team manager and ask the manager to deal with the matter as in the Section 3, Receiving Comments, Complaints and Compliments above;
  3. Request that the manager respond to the complainant within 10 Working Days and send a copy of the response to the Designated Complaints Officer, together with a brief resume of any points not covered in the letter.

5. Stage Two - Independent Investigation

A leaflet will be made available to the user to explain how to make a formal complaint and what will happen to the complaint. This leaflet will include a Form upon which to make a complaint.

Complainants can be supported to make a written complaint, but do not have to do so. A formal complaint may be accepted in any form.

The Designated Complaints Officer will deal with all complaints regarding children receiving services, their parents or foster carers in accordance with the following procedures.

Registration of Complaint

Upon receiving a complaint, the Designated Complaints Officer will:

  1. Record the complaint. At this stage the Designated Complaints Officer will decide whether the complaint should be investigated under this procedure or whether it should be referred elsewhere, for example under staff disciplinary procedures;
  2. Ensure that a copy of the complaint is sent to any staff member named in it and to that person's line manager;
  3. Appoint an Investigating Officer (who is not involved in the management of the services to the child concerned) and an Independent Person (who cannot be an employee or an elected member of the authority) to the investigation. The Independent Person is appointed to shadow the Investigating Officer. Under the arrangement, the Independent Person accompanies the Investigating Officer throughout the investigation and may see the child concerned alone if considered necessary;
  4. Acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 7 days, and advise the complainant of how the complaint is being dealt with, the timescales and the name of the Investigating Officer.

The Designated Complaints Officer 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.

The Investigation

Upon being appointed, the Investigating Officer will:

  1. Conduct an investigation, interviewing the complainant and staff as appropriate;
  2. Produce a report making recommendations about action to be considered;
  3. Send a copy of the report to the Designated Complaints Officer bearing in mind that this needs to be sent to the complainant within 25 Working Days of the receipt of the complaint. If this timescale is not possible, the Investigating Officer should consult with the Designated Complaints Officer and agree a timescale for extension. In any event, this extension must not exceed a full response to the complaint within 65 Working Days.

    The Designated Complaints Officer will inform the complainant of this agreement;
  4. During the investigation, the Investigating Officer should consult with the Designated Complaints Officer it it is felt that the involvement of the Police, Child Protection Procedures or Disciplinary Procedures is required.
  5. Staff and carers need to be aware that it is a legal requirement upon the authority to undertake investigations when a complaint is made. It is therefore essential that they cooperate with the investigation and provide information to the Investigating Officer through their verbal responses to questions and access to written material.

Action following Investigation

Upon receiving this report, the Designated Complaints Officer will:

  1. Send a copy of the report to the complainant (within 25 Working Days of receipt of the complaint), the manager of the service complained about and, if the complaint concerns front-line service providers, the staff themselves;
  2. Ask the Head of Service what action they are able or willing to implement in relation to the investigation's recommendations. This written response from the Head of Service must be received within the 25 or 65 working day deadline;
  3. Advise the complainant of the Stage Three Review procedure;
  4. Monitor the outcome of the complaint in terms of consumer satisfaction with the process and the eventual outcome, and the implications for future service delivery and training.

6. Stage Three - Reviews

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. A Review Panel should be set up and meet within 30 working days of the complainant's request being made.

The Review Panel must be made up of 3 people. The Chair of the Panel and panel member should be independent of the Local Authority.

The membership of the Panel will be:

  1. An Independent Chair who will be selected by the Designated Complaints Officer and must have relevant experience and ability to chair a Panel, and must not be:
    1. An employee of the authority;
    2. An elected member of the authority;
    3. A spouse or partner of either of the above.
  2. Two other independent people.

The Review Panel's recommendations should be recorded in writing within 5 working days of completion of their deliberations and formally sent to the Director of Social Services and the complainant.

The Director of Social Services 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 Ombudsman if they are still not satisfied.

7. Claims for Compensation

Where a member of staff considers that there may be a valid complaint or claim for compensation against the local authority, they should assist the child to obtain an Advocate or advise and assist them in obtaining independent legal advice.

In any situation where a member of staff considers that there is a potential claim against the local authority, he or she should notify the Principal Insurance Officer of the Finance Department as a matter of urgency.

Where a claim has been made or is likely, advice should be obtained from the Principal Insurance Officer before any access to files or information is given. Where a claim for compensation is received, it should be brought to the attention of the District Manager and a copy sent to the Designated Complaints Officer.

Where the claim for compensation is linked to a complaint, the Designated Complaints Officer will liaise as necessary with the appropriate managers within the Social Services Department, the Principal Insurance Officer and Legal Services.

Where the claim is not linked to a complaint, the District Manager will liaise as necessary with appropriate managers, the Principal Insurance Officer and Legal Services.