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7.1 Complaints in Relation to Child Protection Conferences

Contents

  1. Eligibility to use this Procedure
  2. Areas of Disagreement which fall within this Procedure
  3. Dealing with a Complaint
  4. Initial Review
  5. The Complaints Panel
  6. Reconvened Conferences
  7. Further Challenges


1. Eligibility to use this Procedure

Parents, those with Parental Responsibility and children (of sufficient age and understanding) may have concerns about which they wish to complain, in respect of one or more of the following aspects of the functioning of Child Protection Conferences.

The information leaflets sent out prior to Child Protection Conferences will include a statement about the right to use this Complaints Procedure.

All potential complainants must be made aware, however, that this complaints process cannot itself change the original Child Protection Conference decision, albeit other measures can be decided to remedy any defects within the original conference. Therefore during the course of a complaint being considered, the decision made by the Conference stands.

At all stages of this complaints process, the complainant may have a supporter/advocate to assist them.

NB Complaints about individual agencies which contribute to the conference, their performance, their conduct at a conference and/or the 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.


2. Areas of Disagreement which fall within this Procedure

Parents and, on occasion, children, may have concerns about which they wish to make representations or complain, 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.

Where a parent, person with Parental Responsibility or child (of sufficient age and understanding) etc. indicate in whatever form that one of the above applies, this should be identified as a complaint to be dealt with in accordance with this procedure.


3. Dealing with a Complaint

Wherever possible, disputes or complaints should be resolved informally in discussion with the conference chair.

The First Formal Stage

Complaints about aspects of the functioning of conferences described above should be addressed to the conference Chair. The conference Chair should meet with the complainant and attempt to resolve the complaint. A written summary and decision of this meeting needs to be produced and sent to the complainant within ten working days of the complaint being received and copied to the LA complaints manager and the Conference Chair’s Line Manager.

Complaints about the conduct of the Conference Chair should be directed to the Head of Child Protection.

The Second Formal Stage

If the complaint is unresolved the Conference Chair will advise the child, parent or person with Parental Responsibility of their right under this procedure to write to the Children’s Services Complaints Manager setting out the specific grounds of their Complaint.

Any written complaints received by the Conference Chair or the child's Lead Social Worker/allocated social worker must be referred immediately to the Children’s Services Complaints Manager.

On receipt of the complaint, the Children’s Services Complaints Manager will initially write to confirm whether the complaint falls within these procedures and if so how the complaint will be dealt with.

Where necessary the Children’s Services Complaints Manager will contact the complainant to clarify the nature of their complaint, or to obtain additional information, Whilst a complaint is being considered, the decision made by the original/last conference stands.

Complaints about individual agencies, their performance and provision (or non-provision) of services should be responded to in accordance with the relevant agency’s own complaints management process.

Remedies- possible outcomes of complaints

The outcome of a complaint will either be that a conference is re-convened under a different Chair, that a review conference is brought forward or that the status quo is confirmed.

Remedies- possible outcomes of complaints

The outcome of a complaint will either be that a conference is re-convened under a different Chair, that a review conference is brought forward or that the status quo is confirmed.


4. Initial Review

If the Children’s Services Complaints Manager decides that the complaint falls within these procedures then a copy should be sent to the Conference Chair of the relevant Child Protection Conference, the Head of Child Protection and the child's Lead Social Worker/allocated social worker.

The Conference Chair should consider, in consultation with the Head of Child Protection, whether, in the light of the substance of the complaint, the Child Protection Conference should be reconvened. The response must be made within 10 working days unless delay is authorised by the Designated Manager.

If it is decided to reconvene the conference, then the complaint is ended as the re-convened case conference is the outcome of the complaint and the complainant should be advised accordingly. Where the complainant remains dissatisfied following the reconvened conference, then he/she must lodge a fresh complaint in relation to the re-convened conference.

If the complainant remains dissatisfied he/she can ask the Head of Child Protection to consider whether the case should proceed to a Complaints Panel.


5. The Complaints Panel

The Complaints Panel will be arranged by the HSCB Business Unit. Where a Complaints Panel (the Panel) is convened to hear the Complaint, the complainant will be notified in writing of the details of the venue, date and time.

The Panel will consist of three professionals who have had no previous or present direct line management responsibility for the case in question nominated by the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board (HSCB), Panel members may be appointed who are independent of the HSCB member agencies.

The Panel Chair has the authority to co-opt other professionals where specialist advice is needed.

A copy of the conference report and any written submissions made by the complainant will be sent to Panel members 5 days before the date of the Panel meeting.

The Panel Chair will invite the following to attend the Panel:

  • The complainant, together with a supporter/advocate, in order to explain his or her reasons verbally for making the complaint and to make further representations if he or she so wishes;
  • The conference chair.

The complainant and conference chair will be invited to present their views to Panel the panel will then ask questions and each party may ask questions of the other party. The Complainant and the Conference Chair will then leave for the Panel to make their decision.

The Panel will base its decision on the complainant's written submissions, the conference report, together with any relevant protocols and procedures and any other documentation considered relevant by the Panel.

The Panel may make one or more of the following decisions based on a majority decision:

  • To conclude that the Child Protection Conference procedures were followed correctly and 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 the previous decision regarding the Child Protection Plan and/or reconsider the Categories of Abuse or Neglect;
  • 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 make recommendations for future practice.

The Panel Chair will ensure that a clear record is made of the proceedings, decision and the reasons for the decision. Where the decision is that the conference should be reconvened, a written statement of the reasons will be available to all conference members (see Section 6, Reconvened Conference).

The record of the Panel meeting will be sent within 5 working days of the Panel, to the complainant, the investigating officer, the child's social worker or Lead Social Worker and the Conference Chair who chaired the conference, who will ensure that a copy is circulated 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 partner agency to the relevant Board member and to the HSCB Chair.

6. Reconvened Conference

The Conference Chair of the reconvened Child Protection Conference must ensure that all those present have seen or are briefed at the start of the Conference about the Panel decision, the Panel's written statement of reasons for the decision 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 Categories of Abuse or Neglect.

The Conference Chair should notify the outcome of the reconvened Conference to the Complaints Panel Chair.

7. Further Challenge

A complainant 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.

End