7.1 Complaints about Child Protection Conferences
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter deals with complaints by Service Users and other eligible persons acting on their behalf.
This chapter was reviewed and revised for the May 2011 edition of the manual.
- 1. Complaints Eligibility
- 2. Exclusion from this Complaint Procedure
- 3. Areas covered by this Complaints Procedure
- 4. Outcomes of the Complaint
- 5. Immediate Resolution
- 6. Stage 1 - Exploration by Conference Chair's line Manager
- 7. Stage 2 - The Complaints Panel
- 8. Decisions and Recommendations by the Complaints Panel
- 9. Communicating the Panel's Decisions and Recommendations
- 10. Reconvened Conference
- 11. Further Challenges
1. Complaints Eligibility
The following people are the only ones who can make a complaint:
- The child who is the subject of the Child Protection Conference, where s/he is of a sufficient age and understanding;
- A person who is acting on behalf of and at the written request of the child, where the child is of a sufficient age or understanding;
- Any parent and/or any person with Parental Responsibility for the child who is the subject of the Child Protection Conference;
- Where the child is subject to a Care Order or is otherwise Looked After by Surrey County Council, a person who has the care of the child at the time of the Conference e.g. a foster carer or the child's key worker in a children's home;
- Where the child has a disability, a person who attended the Conference to act as an advocate for or otherwise assist the child;
- The child's solicitor.
2. Exclusion from this Complaint Procedure
Where the complaint is in relation to the practice of a specific agency, the person who made the complaint will be directed to that agency's internal complaints procedure e.g. the complaint is that the social worker's report to the conference was not shared with the parents in good time prior to the Conference or the Chair of the Conference was rude in their manner to the child/parents in the pre-Conference meeting. Where a single agency decision, conduct or action is being challenged, the respective agency's Complaint Procedure should be followed.
If the complaint is solely about the decision to make or maintain a child subject to a Child Protection Plan, all parties must be made aware that this complaints process cannot itself change a Child Protection Conference decision and that during the course of a complaints consideration, the decision made by the Conference stands.
3. Areas covered by this Complaints Procedure
The things that happen
- The process, conduct or administration of the conference;
- Compliance with the Surrey Child Protection Procedures and other protocols about Child Protection Conferences;
- The exclusion of any person from the Conference;
- The outcome, in terms of the decision that the child should be or continue to be subject to a Child Protection Plan; and/or
- The category of Significant Harm on which the decision was based.
4. Outcomes of the Complaint
The person making the complaint will receive one of these outcomes:
- The complaint is referred to the relevant agency procedure;
- A new child Protection Conference will be convened with a different Conference Chair;
- The present Child Protection Conference with the same Conference Chair will review the case earlier than planned;
- There is no action to be taken.
5. 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 Conference Chair to resolve it with the child or parent or other person eligible to make a complaint. Information about the nature of the concern and how it was resolved should be provided to the Conference Chair's line manager.
If this initial attempt to resolve matters fails, the child or parent or other person eligible to make a complaint should be reminded of this Complaints Procedure by the Conference Chair, and be invited (and if necessary assisted by the social worker) to write within 28 days of the conference, to the Head of the Safeguarding Children Unit. The Head of Safeguarding Children Unit will consider complaints made outside the time limit on their merits.
6. Stage 1 - Exploration by Conference Chair's line Manager
Where the complaint concerns the personal conduct of the Conference Chair, the Conference Chair's line manager will contact Customer Relations to agree whether the Children Act's process or other process is appropriate. Where this complaints process is deemed appropriate the Conference Chair's line manager will:
- Acknowledge the complaint in writing within 3 working days of its receipt;
- Gather further information and if required meet with the complainant.
The Conference Chair's line manager will agree the next steps with the person who has made the complaint and:
- Ensure that the person making the complaint sufficiently understands the child protection process;
- Clarify the nature of the complaint/s and any additional support needed;
- Establish the outcome desired by the person who has made the complaint;
- Ensure the person who has made the complaint understands the scope and relevance of this complaints process with regard to their circumstances;
- Gather relevant information.
In order to establish that the grounds on which the complaint could proceed have been identified or clarified, the Conference Chair's line manager will agree with the person who made the complaint any actions to be taken which may include:
- A meeting or discussion of which the outcome is confirmed in writing;
- Clarification of policy or procedures;
- A full response to the complaint;
- From receipt of the complaint/s, Stage 1 should normally take no longer than 20 working days to complete. The outcome of the Stage 1 should be provided to the Head of Safeguarding Children Unit
7. Stage 2 - The Complaints Panel
The Conference Chair's line manager in liaison with the Head of Safeguarding Children Unit will make arrangements for the meeting of the Complaints Panel. The role of the Panel Chair will normally be fulfilled by one of the members of the Complaints Panel. The Panel membership should include at least two senior representatives of Safeguarding Children Partnership member agencies who should have had no previous or present direct line management responsibility for the case in question.
The Conference Chair's line manager will liaise with the person making the complaint throughout the process.
The Conference Chair's line manager must provide the Panel with the following documentation:
- A formal request to convene;
- The complaint;
- A copy of the relevant Child Protection Conference minutes and the reports that were made available to the Conference;
- The formal outcome of Stage 1.
The Conference Chair's line manager in discussion with the Chair will decide who should attend the Panel hearing and send written invitations as appropriate.
The Conference Chair's line manager will be available at the Panel to advise on relevant processes.
The matters about which the Panel can consider complaints are:
- The decision for the child to become, to continue or not to become the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
- The category(ies) of abuse, determined by the Conference Chair, under which the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan;
- The conduct or process of the Child Protection Conference;
- Whether the Surrey Child Protection Procedures about Child Protection Conferences and other protocols were followed;
- The exclusion of any person from the Conference.
The Panel should be convened within 28 days of the receipt of the complaint and consider whether:
- Relevant inter-agency protocols and procedures have been observed correctly;
- The decisions made follow reasonably from proper observation of the relevant protocols and procedures.
The Panel will:
- Invite the person making the complaint to make representation, either in writing or in person;
- Consider any written or verbal submissions made by the person making the complaint, the Chair of the relevant Child Protection Conference and any other relevant person;
- Consider all the written material provided;
- Reach a decision;
- Agree the content of their decision letter to the person making the complaint.
8. Decisions and Recommendations by the Complaints Panel
The Complaints Panel must reach a majority decision on the basis of whether the Child Protection Conference Procedures were followed correctly and therefore whether:
- The complaint is justified;
- The complaint is partially justified;
- Inconclusive with no further action;
- The complaint is not justified;
- There is insufficient information to make a decision and a date for a further hearing needs to be established.
The Complaints Panel may:
- Recommend that the Child Protection Conference be reconvened with a different Chair to reconsider any recommendation regarding the decision that the child should be or continue to be subject to a Child Protection Plan and the category of Significant Harm on which any such decision is based;
- Identify any learning points for a specific agency.
9. Communicating the Panel's Decisions and Recommendations
The Panel Chair will write to the complainant and the Chair of the Conference within 5 days of its meeting explaining the Panel's decisions and any recommendations.
All Panel responses will be considered at the Quality Assurance and Evaluation Sub-Group and progressed as appropriate.
10. Reconvened Conference
The Chair of a reconvened Child Protection Conference must ensure that all those present have seen or are briefed at the start of the Conference about the recommendations reached by the Panel.
A distinction must be made by the Conference Chair between the need to discuss the conclusions of the Panel and the tasks of the Child Protection Conference, which is to consider the child(ren)'s current circumstances.
The Conference should again consider, taking fully into account any recommendation made, whether the criteria for a Child Protection Plan is met (namely the risk of continuing Significant Harm), and if so, the relevant category of Significant Harm.
11. Further Challenges
A person making a complaint who remains dissatisfied may wish to pursue their grievance via the Local Government Ombudsman or seek legal advice about other legal remedies such as Judicial Review.