2.6 Complaints and Appeals
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This procedure relates to the rights of parents/carers and children (if of sufficient age and understanding) to complain about the process of Child Protection Conferences or appeal against a Conference outcome.
- Eligibility to use this Procedure
- Grounds for Appeal against Conference Outcome
- Stage One - Discussion with Conference Chair
- Stage Two - The Complaints and Appeals Panel
- Reconvened Conference
- Further Challenge
Parents/carers and children (with sufficient understanding) may have concerns about which they wish to complain or appeal, in respect of one or more of the following aspects of the functioning of Child Protection Conferences:
- The process of the conference;
- The outcome, in terms of the fact of and/or the category of primary concern at the time the child became the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
- A decision for the child to become, or not to become, the subject of a Child Protection Plan or a decision not to discontinue 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 complaint/appeal’s consideration, the decision made by the Conference stands.
At all stages of this complaint/appeals process, the complainant/appellant may bring an advocate or friend to support them.
NB Complaints about individual agencies, their performance and provision (or non-provision) of services will not be dealt with under this procedure and should be responded to in accordance with the relevant agency’s complaints handling process.
The grounds for appealing against a conference outcome may be:
- That the criteria for the decision that the child should have a Child Protection Plan were not met (see Section 13.4, The Decision Making Process of Initial Child Protection Conference Procedure);
- That the criteria for the decision that the child should continue to have a Child Protection Plan were not met (see Section 1, Purpose of Child Protection Review Conferences Procedure);
- That the criteria for the decision that the Child Protection Plan should be discontinued were not met (see Section 2, Criteria for Discontinuing the Child Protection Plan of Child Protection Review Conferences Procedure); and/or
- That the information on which the conference decision was based proved subsequently to be incorrect.
If any concerns cannot be resolved immediately following the conference, the Chair will ask the child or parent to set out their complaint/appeal in writing within 3 working days of the conference. Assistance will be provided by a professional, where appropriate, to help with the written complaint/appeal.
The Conference Chair will then arrange to discuss the complaint/appeal with the parent/child in a meeting within 5 working days of receipt the written complaint/appeal.
Notes will be made of the Stage One meeting, including reasons for the Conference Chair’s decision-making. The Conference Chair will then ensure that the notes are sent to the complainant/appellant. A copy of the notes will also be sent to the Safeguarding Children Board Manager and/or Safeguarding Unit.
If the issues cannot be resolved after discussion with the Conference Chair under Stage One, then the complainant/appellant will be advised by the Conference Chair to write to the Safeguarding Children Board Manager within 3 working days of the Stage One meeting. Assistance will be provided by a professional, where appropriate, to help with the written appeal.
Complaints/appeals made outside the 3 working day time limit may, in exceptional circumstances and at the discretion of the Safeguarding Children Board Manager, be accepted.
Within 10 working days of receipt of the written notification from the complainant/appellant, a Complaints and Appeals Panel (the Panel) will be arranged to hear the complaint/appeal. The complainant/appellant will be notified of the details of the venue, date and time.
The Panel will base its decision on the complainant/appellant’s written submissions, the Conference minutes and the notes of the Stage One meeting, together with any relevant protocols and procedures.
The Panel will consist of a minimum of three members:
- The Chair of the Local Safeguarding Children Board or his/her nominee (the Panel Chair);
- At least two other members of the Local Safeguarding Children Board from different agencies who have had no previous or present direct line management responsibility for the case in question.
The Panel Chair will decide on the precise composition of the Panel based on the expertise needed to resolve the issues presented by the case. The Panel Chair has the authority to co-opt other professionals where specialist advice is needed.
The Panel Chair will invite the following to attend the Panel:
- The complainant/appellant in order to explain his or her reasons verbally for making the complaint/appeal and to make further representations if he or she so wishes;
- The Conference Chair in order to clarify points with regard to his or her decision-making and other comments that may be useful.
A minute taker will also be present.
The Panel meeting will begin with:
- Reviewing the information available;
- Deciding what further evidence or information is needed;
- Deciding the process to be followed in considering the complaint/appeal - the Panel will see the complainant/appellant in the presence of the Conference Chair unless there are exceptional reasons for their being seen separately.
The Panel may make one or more of the following decisions based on a majority decision:
- To state that the Child Protection Conference procedures were followed correctly;
- To state that the Child Protection Conference procedures were not followed correctly, in what respects, and make a recommendation as to how this should be remedied;
- To support the original Child Protection Conference decision;
- 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 and the Category of Significant Harm on which any such decision is based;
- To decide that they have insufficient information to make a decision and set out a timescale for completing the task and set a date for a further hearing;
- To decide whether there are any learning points for a specific agency.
NB The Panel does not have the authority to reverse a Conference decision.
The Panel Chair will then ensure that the minutes of the Panel meeting are sent to the complainant/appellant and to all those who were sent minutes of the Child Protection Conference.
The Panel should communicate any specific concerns and recommendations relating to practice or procedure on the part of any Local Safeguarding Children Board agency to the relevant Board member.
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 decisions and any recommendations made by the Panel.
The Conference should again consider, taking fully into account any recommendation made, whether the criteria for a Child Protection Plan are met (namely the risk of continuing significant harm), and if so, the relevant Category of Significant Harm.
A complainant/appellant who continues to be dissatisfied with the outcome of the process may wish to pursue their grievance via the Local Government Ombudsman or seek legal advice about other legal remedies such as Judicial Review.