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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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Stage two: Formal investigation

Stage two is the formal investigation stage

The timescale for this stage is 25 to 65 days.

The recording of the complaint

If the complaint was made verbally at the beginning of the complaints process, children’s services must now make a written record of it. They must ask the complainant (the person making the complaint) to agree or comment on, the written record. They may hold a meeting with the complainant to do this, or just write to them. This record will then form the complaint representations for stage 2 (see Regulation 16 of the Children Act 1989 Representations Procedure Regulations 2006).

Who will deal with a stage two complaint

For a formal investigation, children’s services must appoint two people to review the complaint. They are an Investigating Officer and an Independent Person.

The table below explains each of those roles. And the activities they must carry out. The role of a third person – the Adjudicating Officer – is also explained (see Getting the best from complaints 2006 at paragraph 3.6 and Appendix 1).

The investigation report

The investigation report should be completed by the investigating officer and a response sent to the complainant within 25 working days.

If children’s services want longer than 25 days to complete their report and response, they must:

  • Notify the complainant of any delay and
  • Explain the reasons that they need additional time.

The maximum time they can take to complete the investigation is 65 working days from the date that the investigation began (see regulation 17(6) of the Children Act 1989 Representations Procedure Regulations 2006 and Getting the best from complaints 2006 at paragraph 3.7).

The role of the adjudicating officer

When doing a child in need assessment, During the stage two formal investigation, the Adjudicating Officer must consider:

  • The complaint
  • The investigating officer’s report
  • Any report from the independent person
  • What the complainant wants to happen.

The adjudicating officer will give an ‘adjudication’. This is:

  • Their decision on the complaint
  • And the actions they will be taking with timescales for implementation.

The adjudicating officer must make sure any recommendations made are carried out.

See Getting the best from complaints 2006 at paragraph 3.8.

How children’s services may respond at stage two

Children’s services must send to the person making the complaint (the ‘complainant’):

If the complainant is not happy with the outcome, they can ask that a panel review the decision. The complainant has 20 days to tell children’s services they want a review. The complainant must say they want a panel review, and give reasons (see regulation 18).

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