Making a complaint about services

Parents and carers can make a complaint if their council has refused to assess their child of if there are problems with the services they are receiving, such as:

  • service quality or appropriateness
  • delays in decisions being made or services being put in place
  • how services are delivered (or not delivered), including the way complaints are dealt with
  • the amount of help given, how frequently a service is provided, any changes made to services or how much they are asked to pay
  • the attitude or behaviour of staff
  • how eligibility and assessment criteria are applied
  • a local authority policy which impacts on the carer or child
  • any aspect of the assessment, reviews or care management.

England

Each local authority has a 'designated officer', called the complaints manager, who receives all complaints. They don't handle all stages of the complaint but are responsible for administering the scheme to make sure complaints are dealt with swiftly and effectively.

You should bring your concerns to the attention of the person providing the service. The local authority should make a first attempt to resolve matters within 10 working days, which can be extended by another 10 days (if, for example, an advocate needs to be appointed).

If the matter isn't resolved, the local authority will arrange an investigation and produce a report and a decision within 25 days. The investigation will be undertaken by a nominated complaints officer.

If you are still unhappy, you can ask for the matter to go to a Review Panel within 20 working days of the investigation decision. Three independent people will consider the complaint and make recommendations.

If the matter is still not resolved, you can take the complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman. For details, visit www.lgo.org.uk/contactus or call 0300 061 0614.

Wales

You can make a complaint to anyone at your local authority. They will inform the designated Complaints Officer.

There are two stages to the complaints procedure. At the first, the local authority will try to resolve the complaint with you within 10 working days. At the second stage, an Independent Investigator will investigate the complaint. They will respond within 25 days with a report and conclusions.

If you are still unhappy, you can take your complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

Scotland and Northern Ireland

Each council in Scotland and Wales has its own complaints procedure. Similarly, there are five health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland providing services to the public locally and on a regional basis. Each of these has its own complaints procedure.

Challenging a refusal to carry out a needs assessment (England and Wales)

Needs assessments are the process social services uses to decide if extra help is required to meet your family's needs.

The law says that councils must assess every child who is or may be a child 'in need'. Children are 'in need' if they need help from the council with their health or development or if they are 'disabled'. Carers who are the family or friends of disabled children are also entitled to an assessment, either as a separate assessment or addressed through the disabled child's assessment.

The template letter below, which we have produced with the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign, can be sent when a council has refused to carry out an assessment. The letter should be sent by fax, email and post, if possible, to the Director of Children's Services, to the social worker (if you have one) and to the Lead Member for Children's Services.

Template letter: Challenging a refusal to assess your disabled child for care and support services (Wales and England) [DOC]

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