7.1 Complaints by Service Users

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Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010 paragraph 5.107 (now archived) clarifies that parents / carers or a child (considered by the conference chair to have sufficient understanding), may make a complaint in respect of one or more of the following aspects of the Child Protection Conferences:

  • The process employed by the conference;
  • The outcome, in terms of the fact of and/or the category of primary concern at the time the child became subject of a Child Protection Plan;
  • A decision for the child to become, or not to become, the subject of a Child Protection Plan or to cease the child being the subject of a Child Protection Plan.

All parties must be made aware that:

  • This complaints process cannot itself change the decision to have a Child Protection Plan; and
  • During the course of the complaints process, 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 conference chair;
  • A Review Conference is brought forward; or
  • It confirms the status quo.

Complaints about individual agencies, their performance and provision (or non-provision) of services should be responded to in accordance with the relevant agency's ordinary complaints handling processes.

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 chair 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 (and if necessary assisted by the social worker) to write within 10 working days of their receipt of the minutes, to the conference chair.

Stage 1 - Exploration by Conference Chair and/or their Manager


The conference chair should inform the senior child protection manager, social services complaints manager, and all the professionals who attended the conference, that (s)he has received the complaint.


Complaints made outside the 10 working days' time limit may, in exceptional circumstances and at the discretion of the conference chair, be accepted.


The conference chair should meet with the complainant (who may be supported by a friend or relative) within 10 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 their circumstances and any potential complaint against single agencies;
  • Gather relevant information.

At the meeting with the complainant, the conference chair should be accompanied by a colleague who can take minutes.


Within a further 10 working days, the conference chair should provide a written response to the complainant including notes 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 Social Care complaints manager.

Stage 2 - Formal Consideration


If, within 20 working days of 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 20 working days, a panel of a minimum of 3 individuals from the safeguarding partnership or its sub groups.


The complaints manager in liaison with the senior child protection manager will make arrangements for this meeting, and the representative of the agency least directly involved in the case will normally fulfil the role of Panel chair.


The Panel membership should include at least two from amongst Safeguarding Investigations Unit, Children's Social Care, education and health agencies and the individuals should have had no previous or present direct line management responsibility for the case in question.


The Panel must be provided with the following documentation:

  • A formal request to convene;
  • A copy of the relevant conference record and the reports that were made available to the conference;
  • Stage 1 meeting notes and correspondence;
  • A list of names, addresses and telephone numbers of the conference chair, all other professionals involved and the family concerned.

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 20 working days of the receipt of the complainant's letter and consider whether:

  • Relevant inter-agency protocols and procedures have been observed correctly; and
  • If any decision in dispute follows reasonably from the processes employed and information presented.

The Panel will:

  • Hear (either directly or in writing) from the complainant, the chair of the relevant 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 Panel chair should ensure that the Panel's conclusions should be put in writing to the complainant within 10 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.

A recommendation must be made to re-convene the conference, under a different chair if:

  • Procedures / protocols relating to the conference were not correctly followed; or
  • The procedures / protocols were correctly followed but the decision of the conference was unreasonable.

If the Panel concludes that 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.


The Panel should also consider any specific concerns that may be relevant to communicate to agencies involved with the case and may make recommendations relating to practice or procedure to any safeguarding partner agency.

Reconvened Conference


The chair 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 chair between the 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.

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 the Ombudsman or a 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 senior child protection manager) be asked to re-convene and review any remaining and clearly specified concerns.

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