Complaints about Child Protection Conferences
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter reflects that a parent/carer or child subject to a Child Protection Conference, or their advocate, may wish to complain about the outcome of a Conference and distinguishes this from both the professionals escalation/resolution process and single agency complaints. The chapter details the issues that can form a legitimate complaint together with the investigative process and the stages that the complainant can pursue if still not satisfied with the outcome.
AMENDMENTThis chapter was reviewed in September 2021 as part of the three year review process. No changes have been made. The next review will take place in 2024.
Parents and, on occasion, children, may have concerns about a Child Protection Conference about which they wish to make representations or complain. The following procedure sets out who is eligible to make a complaint, under what circumstances this complaints procedure can be used, and how to make a complaint.
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 complaint's consideration, the decision made by the Conference stands.
At all stages of this complaint process, the complainant may bring an Advocate or friend to support them.
The Complaint must be made within 6 months of Child Protection Conference decision.
2. Complaints Eligibility
The following people are the only ones who can make a complaint: (if others have concerns they should follow the Professional Resolution and Escalation Protocol).
- The child who is the subject of the Child Protection Conference where s/he is of a sufficient age and understanding (is deemed to have the capacity or competency to make this decision under the Fraser Competency Guidelines or if the child is 16 years of age or over under the Mental Capacity Act (2005);
- A person who is acting on behalf of including an Advocate and at the written request of the child, where the child is of a sufficient age or understanding (is deemed to have the capacity or competency to make this decision under the Fraser Competency Guidelines or if the child is 16 years of age or over under the Mental Capacity Act (2005);
- 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 Lincolnshire 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 legal representative.
3. Exclusion from this Complaint Procedure
Where the complaint is in relation to the practice or information shared by a single agency, the person who made the complaint will be directed to that agency's complaints procedure e.g. the complaint is that the report to the conference was not shared with the parents prior to the Conference.
4. Areas Covered by this Complaints Procedure
- The process, conduct or administration of the conference;
- Accuracy of minutes of conference;
- Compliance with the Lincolnshire 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 the subject of a Child Protection Plan; and/or
- The category of Significant Harm on which the decision was based.
5. Outcomes of the Complaint
The person making the complaint will receive one of following outcomes:
- The complaint is referred to the relevant agency procedure, if the complaint does not meet the areas covered by the complaint procedure;
- The finding is that the Child Protection Conference procedures were followed correctly and no further action is required;
- The finding is that the Child Protection Conference procedures were not followed correctly, and a clear recommendation is made as to how this should be remedied;
- To support the original Child Protection Conference decision and that no further action is required;
- To recommend that the Child Protection Conference be reconvened with the same or a different Conference Chair to reconsider any recommendation regarding the decision that the child should be or continue to be subject to a Child Protection Plan, or to consider the Category of Significant Harm on which any such decision was based.
N.B. 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.
6. Complaint Stages
Any concerns or complaints about the Conference itself, which arises in the course of the meeting, must be noted and an attempt made by the Conference Chair to immediately resolve it with the individual making the complaint Information about the nature of the concern and how it was resolved should be put in writing by the chair and given to the Conference Chair's line manager. At this stage all attempts should be made by the Conference Chair and their line manager to talk to the complainant either face to face or by telephone in order to understand the content of the complaint.
If this initial attempt to resolve matters is not an acceptable resolution, the child or parent or other person eligible to make a complaint, should be advised of the following two stage Complaints Procedure by the Conference Chair, and be invited (and if necessary assisted by the Social Worker) to write within 20 working days of the conference, to the Conference Chair or if the complaint is about the Chair, it should be addressed to the Chair's line manager. At this stage the complaint would move to stage 1 and the LSCP Business Manager would undertake an independent desktop review.
Stage 1 - Independent Desktop review by Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP) Business Manager
Once the Business Manager and/or Chair's line manager receives a complaint she / he in the first instance will send a letter of receipt to the complainant within 5 working days.
The Business Manager will obtain from the Chair's line manager all the information relevant to the complaint and will then undertake an independent review of the complaint through evaluation of the Chair's written record of the complaint, the conference minutes, the reports made available to the conference and the written complaint from the complainant. The Business Manager will respond in writing to the complainant in 20 working days of receipt of the complaint.
The response should also advise the complainant of their right, if they are dissatisfied with the finding, to move to Stage 2 of the process within 20 working days. Notice of dissatisfaction must be received by the Chair or Chair's Manager in writing from the complainant within 20 working days of receiving the Business Managers response.
A copy of this letter should be kept by the LSCP and on the Children's Social Care file.
From receipt of the complaint, finalising Stage 1 should take no longer than 20 working days.
Stage 2 - Complaint Panel
The LSCP will make arrangements for the complaint meeting.
A Complaint Panel Meeting at Stage 2 should be arranged and held within 30 working days of receipt of the letter from the complainant and attempt to resolve the areas of concern.
The Complaint Panel Meeting should have access to and will consider:
- The complaint;
- Minutes of the Child Protection Conference;
- Reports to Child Protection Conference;
- All Correspondence regarding the complaint;
- The Panel will have the opportunity to hear from the Complainant, Independent Chair, the Chairs line manager and the LSCP Business Manager, as appropriate. Attendance of the complainant is optional; however this must be confirmed to the LSCP Team Officer (Panel Facilitator) at least 5 days before the Panel is scheduled to meet. The complainant can bring an advocate or friend to support them.
The Panel membership should include three senior representatives of the Safeguarding Children Partnership partner agencies. The agencies representatives should have had no previous or current direct line management responsibility for the case in question. The role of the Panel Chair will be fulfilled by one of the members of the Complaints Panel. The Panel will be supported by an LSCP Team Officer who will act as the Panel Facilitator and a Minute Taker. The Panel Chair has the authority to co-opt other professionals where specialist advice is needed. A decision will be made by simple majority.
It is important to note that the role of the Panel is to review the original complaint and the decision made at stage 1 and it will not consider any new areas of complaint.
Following the meeting the complainant will receive a report to confirm the decision of the Panel within 20 working days of the Panel meeting. The Panel Chair will be the author of the report.
A copy of this report should be kept both by the LSCP and on the Children's Social Care file.
The Manager of the Child Protection Conference Chairs will maintain a record of all complaints together with outcomes.
7. Further Challenge
A complainant who continues to be dissatisfied with the outcome of the above process could pursue their grievance via the Local Government Ombudsman or seek legal advice about other legal remedies such as Judicial Review.