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Every local authority has to publish a complaints procedure. This should set out how people can make a complaint about children’s services. This will include the actions and decisions of social workers.
The duty to publish a complaints procedure is in the Children Act 1989. Each local authority have details of the complaints procedure on their website. Children’s services, schools, NHS and other public services will have their own procedures.
The Children Act 1989 specifies who can make a complaint to children’s services. This includes:
- Any child who is a child in need (under Section 17).
- Any child who is looked after (i.e. either in care under a court order or voluntarily accommodated).
- A parent of a child in need or a looked after child. This includes any other person with parental responsibility of a child in need or a looked after child.
- A care leaver.
- A child who is under a special guardianship order, their parent or special guardian.
- An approved foster carer.
- A child who is (or might be) adopted, their birth parents, their adoptive parents, or anyone wanting to adopt the child.
If you are outside these categories, you can still make a complaint. The law also allows children’s services to consider complaints from anyone who has a ‘strong connection to the child’. This is referred to as having a ‘sufficient interest’ in the child’s welfare.
Complaints can be made in relation to difficulties such as:
- Not receiving enough help or support.
- Contact arrangements.
- How a decision was reached. For example, if you think your views were not taken into account by a social worker.
- Decisions relating to adoption and child protection enquiries. Children’s services may have a separate procedure for complaints about child protection conferences.
For more information about how to make a complaint and what will happen see:
- Government statutory guidance: Getting the Best from Complaints: Social care complaints and representations for children, young people and other
- The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman guidance: Effective Complaint Handling for local authorities. This guidance provides information on how children’s services should handle your complaint.
- Our advice pages on: Complaints