Child Protection Conference Complaints Procedure

If a parent/carer or young person wishes to complain about a child protection conference then this procedure should be followed.

Introduction

Child Protection Conferences are held under the auspices of the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB). The LSCB is responsible for conference procedures and for the scrutiny and monitoring of those procedures, and reporting on safeguarding children work.

Where a parent/carer or young person wishes to complain about aspects of a child protection conference, including the outcome, this LSCB conference complaints procedure should be followed. However minor issues about a conference, including accuracy of the minutes, should be taken up directly with the Conference Chair.

The intention of this procedure is to resolve complaints fairly and as swiftly as possible. Any statement of dissatisfaction must be taken seriously. It is the responsibility of all agencies to assist anyone wishing to make a complaint and to facilitate appropriate action being taken.

For the duration of any LSCB complaints process the decisions and recommendations reached in the child protection conference stand, and must be adhered to by staff from all agencies.

Exclusions from this procedure

Complaints about the work of individual agencies, their performance, decision making, and/or the provision or non provision of services should be responded to in accordance with the particular agency’s own complaints process.

If the complaint is solely about the decision to make or maintain a child subject to a Child Protection Plan the complaints process cannot change the decision made by the conference which will stand.

Who can complain?

A complaint can be raised by:

  • 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 or person with parental responsibility for the child who is the subject of the Child Protection Conference;
  • the current carer for the child;
  • the child’s solicitor

What can be complained about?

  • the conduct or process of the Child Protection Conference;
  • whether or not the Tees Child Protection Procedures about Child Protection Conferences were followed;
  • the outcome, in terms of the fact and/or category of primary concern at the time the child became subject of a Child Protection Plan;
  • other decisions or recommendations made by the conference;
  • the decision for the child to become, to continue, or not to become, the subject of a Child Protection Plan
    the exclusion of any person from the conference. 

Immediate Resolution

An expressed concern about the Conference itself which arises during the course of the meeting must be noted and an attempt made by the Conference Chair to resolve it with the service user. It is anticipated that most issues of concern will be addressed at this stage.

If this initial attempt to resolve matters fails, the complainant 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 to the LSCB Business Manager.

Stage 1 – Informal Complaint Meeting

Upon receipt of the complaint the LSCB Business Manager will record that the complaint has been received and will acknowledge the complaint in writing within 3 working days of its receipt. The LSCB Business Manager will provide the Conference Chair with a copy of the complaint and will request that person to provide a report about the conduct of the conference. They will also inform the manager of the Conference Chair, relevant Service Manager, and all professionals who attended the conference, that a complaint has been received.

The Conference Chair and their Manager will offer the complainant the opportunity for an informal “complaint meeting” in the first instance. They may request other members of the conference to assist at this meeting. The meeting should take place within 10 working days of receipt of the complaint. It is good practice for this to be a face to face meeting however alternative methods can be considered, providing the complainant is happy with this.

If the complainant declines the offer of a complaint meeting the Manager of the Conference Chair will record the complainant’s reluctance to meet and will provide a written response.

If the complainant agrees to a complaint meeting, any such meeting should consider:

  • the written complaint
  • the reports placed before the relevant Child Protection Conference
  • the minutes of that conference
  • the report made by the Conference Chair
  • whether procedures or practice have been in accordance procedural guidance or expected standards.

The Manager may request a report from any other participant who was at the conference and request other documents to assist with the complaint meeting.

Should either a breach of the procedures or a lack of key information being shared strongly indicate that the outcome of the child protection conference might have been different; a recommendation to reconvene a child protection conference at the earliest opportunity should be made.

The Service Manager (Review Conferences) should ensure that accurate minutes of the complaint meeting are taken.

The meeting should ensure the complainant:

  • sufficiently understands the child protection process
  • clarify the grounds for, and the nature of, the complaint/s
  • establish the outcome desired by the complainant
  • ensure the complainant understands the scope and relevance of the complaints process with regards to their circumstances

If, as a result of the complaint meeting, the matter is resolved, the Manager will be responsible for confirming the outcome of the meeting to the complainant. This should be done in writing within 7 working days of the meeting taking place. A copy of the written outcome should be provided to the Conference Chair and LSCB Business Manager. Copies may be provided to other persons at the discretion of the author.

The letter will advise the complainant that if they remain dissatisfied they can request that the complaint is considered by the LSCB Complaints Panel by writing to the LSCB Business Manager within 10 working days of receiving the outcome of their complaint.

In the event that the complainant fails to respond within 10 working days the complaint will be deemed to have been concluded to the satisfaction of the complainant.

Stage 2 - LSCB Complaints Panel

When the LSCB Business Manager receives confirmation from the complainant that s/he wishes to have their complaint considered by the LSCB Complaints Panel the Business Manager will confirm with the LSCB Independent Chair that a Panel should be convened and will make arrangements for this to take place.

The LSCB Business Manager is responsible for informing the complainant in writing of:

  • the time, date, and place of the Panel meeting;
  • the complainant’s right to attend and be accompanied by a friend, relative or adviser;
  • if the complainant does not wish to attend the Panel they may make written representations.
  • The LSCB Business Manager shall notify the Conference Chair and their Manager of the Panel meeting. The Conference Chair shall attend the hearing for the purpose of providing information to the Panel, if so requested.

The LSCB Complaints Panel meeting should be within 28 days from the date the complainant confirmed their wish to have their complaint heard by the LSCB Complaints Panel. Where this cannot be met the reasons must be given to the complainant and recorded, with revised timescales. However, panel members must take into account the date of the next child protection conference. The whole process should in any event not exceed three months and should, wherever possible, be concluded before the next child protection conference.

The Panel will consider whether relevant inter-agency protocols and procedures were observed correctly and whether any decision which is being complained about follows reasonably from proper observation of those protocols and from the information available to the conference.

The Panel should comprise of a minimum of three senior representatives from LSCB member agencies, all of whom must be independent of line management responsibility for those professionals involved in the child protection conference. The LSCB Independent Chair will select the Panel and will designate a representative of the agency least directly involved in the case to the role of Chair.

At least seven days in advance of the LSCB Complaints Panel meeting the Panel members shall be provided with:

  • the complaint;
  • reports and minutes relating to the relevant child protection conference;
  • the report made by the Conference Chair;
  • any other relevant reports.

The complainant shall also be provided with the documents mentioned above with the exception of any document to which they would have been refused access if applying for access to records about themselves, which are maintained by the relevant agencies.

Procedure at the LSCB Complaints Panel

It is the responsibility of the LSCB Business Manager to ensure that accurate minutes of the Complaints Panel meeting are taken.

The Panel Chair will be responsible for the conduct of the Panel meeting.

The Panel Chair will ensure that all parties to the hearing have been introduced to each other and will state the purpose of the Panel and its structure. The Panel Chair will remind all those participating of the confidentiality of the material being presented and will be responsible for ensuring that participants are given the opportunity to present their case.

The complainant will be given the first opportunity to present his/her complaint. The Panel may ask questions of the complainant. The Conference Chair will then be invited to respond to the complaint. The Panel may ask questions of the Conference Chair.

Questions for clarification will be put to the Panel Chair. Unless the Panel Chair considers it necessary to adjourn to obtain further information, then at the conclusion of the Panel meeting, the members of the Panel will take the opportunity, without the complainant present, to discuss the matters arising and reach a decision.

In the event that the Panel cannot agree on any matter the decision shall be determined by a show of hands. The Panel Chair shall have a second or casting vote.

The Panel’s decision and any voting shall be recorded by the minute taker to the Panel.

The Panel Chair will advise those present that the decisions and recommendations of the Panel will be distributed in writing within 15 working days.

Decisions of the Panel

The LSCB Complaints Panel will recommend to the LSCB Independent Chair that the complaint, or components of it, should be upheld or not upheld.

If the recommendation is that the complaint should be upheld in respect to one of the following: 

  • the category of concern (where the child has been made the subject of a child protection plan);
  • a decision to make the child the subject of a child protection plan or not, or to continue with the child protection plan where one already exists;
  • the process of the conference where it is thought to have affected the above;

the Panel Chair should recommend that the child protection conference should be re-convened, and consider the points and decision(s) of the LSCB Complaints Panel.

As far as possible the reconvened conference should consist of the same representatives who were present at the original conference. However the child protection conference must be chaired by a different conference chairperson.

Where the complaint is recommended to be upheld but is about process only, and it is not believed to have affected the outcome of the conference thereby not requiring a reconvened conference, the Panel should recommend an alternative plan of action in order to resolve the complaint. This may be in the form of recommendations to appropriate agency managers or may consist of acknowledging that procedures were not correctly followed or that practice was not in accordance with expected standards.

Following the LSCB Complaints Panel meeting, the Panel Chair will write to the LSCB Independent Chair, with a copy to the other members of the Panel, within ten working days of the panel meeting, setting out the issues raised in discussion, the recommendation(s) reached and the rationale behind the recommendation(s), stating any agreements reached with proposed actions.

The LSCB Independent Chair will write to the complainant within five working days of receiving the report from the LSCB Complaints Panel, enclosing a copy of the panel’s report and indicating his/her response to the recommendation(s). The Manager of the Conference Chair and LSCB Business Manager should be sent a copy of this letter.

A copy of the Panel report and the LSCB Independent Chair’s response will also be sent to the Conference Chair and all those who attended the original child protection conference.

If the complaint is not upheld

The Panel Chair will write to the LSCB Independent Chair within ten working days setting out the issues raised in discussion, the recommendation(s)) reached and the rationale behind the recommendation(s), and stating that the complaints process has come to a conclusion.

The LSCB Independent Chair will write to the complainant within five working days of receiving the LSCB Complaints Panel report, enclosing a copy of the panel’s report and indicating his/her response to the recommendation(s). The Manager of the Conference Chair and LSCB Business Manager should be sent a copy of this letter.

A copy of the Panel report and the LSCB Independent Chair’s response will also be sent to the Conference Chair and all those who attended the original child protection conference

Actions in relation to a child protection conference following a complaint

At the reconvened or next review child protection conference following the LSCB Complaints Panel, the following should occur:

  • the Conference Chair should make it clear at the conference that a complaint has been received and considered by the LSCB Complaints Panel and should detail the conclusions and recommendations;
  • A distinction must be made by the Conference 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.
  • the members of the LSCB Complaints Panel should be notified by the Conference Chair of the decisions and recommendations of the reconvened child protection conference. 

Further Challenge

No further processes exist in those cases where the Panel concludes that all relevant processes were followed and that the decisions which were made were appropriate and consistent with LSCB procedures.