How to complain

Children and young people's social care complaints

This page sets out our process for children and young people's social care complaints.

To begin this process, read how to make a complaint.

Stage 1 – local resolution

You should receive a response to your complaint within 10 working days. If your complaint is complex or if an advocate is required, a further 10 working days may be needed to consider and send you our response.

Stage 2 – investigation

If you ask in writing for a stage 2 investigation, our complaints manager will first assess whether alternative dispute resolution (ADR) may be a quicker and simpler way of resolving the complaint for you.

ADR can involve our Complaints Team working as a neutral third-party, with you and the service area you've complained about, to agree a quicker outcome for the complaint. It can also involve mediation with you and the service area together. If you don't wish to take part in any form of ADR, the complaint will move to stage 2.

If a stage 2 investigation is needed, we will appoint an investigating officer and an independent person to look at your case. Based on the investigating officer's report, a response will be sent to you by the head of our children's social care services.

Stage 2 complaint investigations should be completed within 25 working days or a maximum of 65 working days if the investigation is complex.

Stage 3 – review panel

If you ask in writing for your complaint to move to stage 3, our complaints manager will again assess whether ADR might be a quicker and simpler way of resolving the complaint for you. If you don't wish to take part in any form of ADR, the complaint will move to stage 3.

If stage 3 is needed, a review panel of 3 independent members will be appointed within 30 days of the request. One of these will chair the review meeting that will hear your complaint.

The review panel will make recommendations to the director of children's services within 5 working days from the date of the review meeting. The director will then write to you within 15 working days of receiving the recommendations, with a final decision based on those findings.

After stage 3

If you are still not satisfied after a stage 3 response, you can refer your complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

What the law says

Our procedure for children's social care complaints is governed the statutory guidance at GOV.UK: children's social care – getting the best from complaints. This covers:

  • services to children in need or in care
  • how we apply to take a child into care
  • fostering, adoption and special guardianship services
  • services to children leaving care

We have a duty to investigate complaints:

  • by children
  • on behalf of children
  • by parents, foster carers, adopters, special guardians and others who are concerned for a child's well-being

As well as the general list of what you can't make a complaint about, the procedure doesn't cover:

  • when the initial contact is a request for service
  • when that complaint is not about social care services
  • anonymous complaints
  • concerns about safeguarding – keeping children safe

Although not covered by law, we will review anonymous complaints and take action, if needed.

Safeguarding concerns will be referred to our Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).