Complain – Community Care – A Guide

Focus on Disability - For Disabled People, the Elderly and their Carers in the UK

Complaints about assessments and complaints about children’s services

Care services that are arranged or provided by the local authority social services department, mainly to adults (and children) who have care needs. Community care services include a place in a care home or services to help you carry on living in your home

Complaints about assessments –

Advice for carers

If you or the person you’re looking after want to complain about a decision made by social services, you can use the statutory complaints system.

Since April 1 2009 a new procedure has been in place for making complaints to your local authority. If you made a complaint before April 2009, then the previous regulations still apply to you.

If you want to complain about your local authority you should do so in writing or verbally within 12 months to the complaints manager.

Your local authority will respond within three working days to acknowledge receipt of your complaint. They will then discuss with you how long your complaint is likely to take to investigate. They must respond fully within six months unless a different time period has been discussed and agreed with you.

Each local authority is responsible for arrangements for dealing with complaints, so contact your local authority for a copy of their complaints procedure.

If you are not satisfied with the response you receive from your local authority, contact the independent Local Government Ombudsman. The ombudsman investigates complaints about local councils.

Complaints about children’s services

Local authorities must have procedures to deal with complaints from children and young people, or from people complaining on their behalf, such as parents and guardians. This is a legal requirement according to the Children’s Act (1989).

Complaints about children’s services normally need to be made within 12 months, but the local authority can consider complaints made later than this. If they decide not to deal with the complaint, the local authority should tell you why. If you’re not happy with the local authority’s decision regarding your complaint, you can get help from the Local Government Ombudsman.

The complaints process should take into account the concerns of the child or young person involved, and should be appropriate for their age and level of understanding.

If the child or young person wants to make a complaint themselves, the local authority should provide information about advocacy services and help them to access these.

The complaint process consists of three stages.

Stage one: local resolution

The first step is to speak to someone who works for the service you want to complain about. They should discuss the complaint with you and address it as quickly as possible. Ideally, you will both be able to agree a resolution.

You should be given a copy of the complaints process, including details of how to contact the complaints manager, who will record and monitor the complaint.

Stage one should be completed within 10 working days. If the local authority can’t provide a complete response in this time, they can ask for an extension of another 10 working days. Stage one can also be extended to allow time for a child or young person to get support from an advocacy service, or if you agree to or request an extension yourself.

After 20 working days, if the complaint is resolved, the local authority must write to you with the agreed resolution. The complaints manager must be told of the outcome.

Most complaints should be considered and resolved at this stage.

If the complaint is not resolved after 20 working days, you have the right to ask for it to be investigated.

Stage two: investigation

At this stage, the complaint is investigated by an investigating officer and an independent person. The investigating officer may be a local authority employee, but they shouldn’t be working for the service or member of staff under complaint. The independent person shouldn’t be a local authority employee, but they might be a former employee.

The investigation should be carried out within 25 working days, but this can be extended to a maximum of 65 working days. This must be agreed by the complaints manager, and you should be kept informed.

When the investigation is complete, the investigating officer will produce a written report, including:

  • each point of complaint and whether it is upheld or not upheld
  • recommendations about actions that should be taken to address any upheld complaints

The independent person should write a report for the local authority. This states whether they think the investigation was carried out fairly, and if the investigating officer’s report gives an accurate picture of the investigation.

When the investigation is complete, the local authority will look at the evidence and decide what their response will be. This is called adjudication. A senior manager will consider the complaint and the results of the investigation, and decide:

  • how the local authority will respond
  • its decision on each point of complaint
  • any action to be taken and when it should be completed

The local authority will write to you with their response and will include the reports from the investigation and the results of their adjudication. They must also make sure that any recommendations mentioned in their response are carried out.

If you’re not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation, you have the right to have your complaint submitted to a review panel. You have 20 working days to request this.

Stage three: review panel

A review panel is independent to the local authority. The panel will meet to listen to everyone involved in the complaint and, where possible, work towards a resolution. The process should be as informal as possible.

You have the right to attend the review panel, and to talk about your complaint and the outcomes you would like to see. You also have the right to be accompanied by another person, who can speak on your behalf if you want.

When the review panel has made its decision, it must send you a written report summarising its recommendations. It should send this within five working days of the review panel meeting. This report will also be sent to the local authority.

The local authority must send you its response to the panel’s report within 15 working days of receiving it. This sets out what action the local authority will take in response to the panel’s recommendations.

Local Government Ombudsman

If you’ve gone through the local authority’s complaints procedure for children’s services and are unhappy with the result or the way your complaint was dealt with, you can get help from the Local Government Ombudsman