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4.2 Complaints in Relation to Designated Officer Strategy Meetings

This chapter was revised in September 2017.


Contents

  1. Eligibility to Use this Procedure
  2. Areas of Disagreement which fall within this Procedure
  3. Dealing with a Complaint
  4. Resolution Under Second Formal Stage
  5. The Complaints Panel
  6. Reconvened Strategy Meetings Following Panel Decision
  7. Further Challenges


1. Eligibility to Use this Procedure

The subject of concern, any person with Parental Responsibility and children (of sufficient age and understanding) and also the referrer may have concerns they wish to express regarding the Designated Officer (formerly known as LADO) strategy meeting.

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

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

N.B. Complaints about individual agencies which contribute to the Strategy Meeting, their performance, their conduct at a strategy meeting 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

The subject, parents, the referrer  and, on occasion, children, may have concerns they wish to make as representations or complaints, in respect of one or more of the following aspects of the functioning of the Designated Officer (formerly known as LADO) strategy meeting:

  • The process of the meeting;
  • The outcome of the DO Strategy Meeting, and agreed actions;
  • A decision/ categorisation for the allegations to be substantiated/ unsubstantiated.

Where the subject, the parents, the referrer and, on occasion, children, (of sufficient age and understanding) 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

Informal Complaint

Wherever possible, disputes or complaints should be resolved informally in discussion with the DO. If the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the informal discussion, then the complaint should progress to the first formal stage.

The First Formal Stage

Complaints about aspects of the functioning of Strategy Meetings described above (see Section 2, Areas of Disagreement which fall within this Procedure) should be addressed to the relevant DO in writing. The DO should attempt to resolve the complaint with the complainant. A written response and decision of this resolution must be produced and sent to the complainant within ten working days of the complaint being received. Copies must be sent to the LA Complaints Manager and the DO’s Line Manager.

Complaints about the conduct of the DO (not in relation to criteria noted inSection 2, Areas of Disagreement which fall within this Procedure) should be directed to the Service Manager (Child Protection).

The Second Formal Stage

If the complaint remains unresolved the DO will advise the complainant 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 DO 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 strategy meeting 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 Strategy Meeting is re-convened chaired by a different DO; that a Review Strategy Meeting is brought forward or that the status quo is confirmed.


4. Resolution Under Second Formal Stage

If the Children’s Services Complaints Manager decides that the complaint falls within these procedures then a copy should be sent to the DO, the relevant manager identified to respond to the complaint (The Team Manager for the LADO, or the Service Manager, Child Protection) - the Service Manager (Child Protection) and the child's Lead Social Worker/allocated social worker and their relevant Team Manager. The complaints manager will identify the relevant manager to respond to the complaint, usually the Team Manager for the LADO or the Service Manager, Child Protection.

The (relevant manager) should consider, in consultation with the Service Manager (Child Protection), whether, in the light of the substance of the complaint, the strategy meeting 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 strategy meeting, then the complaint is ended as the re-convened strategy meeting is the outcome of the complaint and the complainant should be advised accordingly. Where the complainant remains dissatisfied following the reconvened strategy meeting, then he/she must lodge a fresh complaint in relation to the re-convened strategy meeting.

If the complainant remains dissatisfied he/she can ask the Service Manager (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 Strategy Meeting Minutes 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 DO.

The complainant and DO 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 DO will then leave for the Panel to make their decision.

The Panel will base its decision on the complainant's written submissions, the Strategy Meeting 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 DO strategy meeting procedures were followed correctly and support the original strategy meeting decision;
  • To recommend that the strategy meeting be reconvened with the same or a different DO to reconsider the previous decisions;
  • 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 strategy meeting should be reconvened, a written statement of the reasons will be available to all Strategy Meeting members. 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 DO who chaired the meeting, who will ensure that a copy is circulated to all those who were sent minutes of the strategy meeting.

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 Strategy Meetings Following Panel Decision

The DO of the reconvened Strategy Meeting must ensure that all those present have seen or are briefed at the start of the strategy meeting about the Panel decision, the Panel's written statement of reasons for the decision and any recommendations made by the Panel.

The Strategy Meeting should again consider, taking fully into account any recommendation made, whether or not allegations are substantiated.

The DO should notify the outcome of the reconvened Strategy Meeting 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