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South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

1.6.1 Complaints and Representations


This chapter highlights the relevance of Children In Care being able to make a complaint and the process around making Complaints as well as 'scoping' what a 'complaint' is.

Young Persons Guide to the Children and Families Act 2014


  • Getting the Best from Complaints (DfES 2006);
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989;
  • The Children Act 1989 Representations Procedure (England) Regulations 2006;
  • The Children Act 1989;
  • Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000;
  • The Adoption and Children Act 2002.


This chapter was updated in May 2015 when a link to the young Persons guide to the Children and families Act 2014 was added.


  1. Glossary of Terms
  2. Background / Rationale
  3. Statutory and Policy Framework
  4. Policy Goal 
  5. Policy Objectives
  6. Who can Complain? 
  7. What can be Complained about?
  8. Time Limits for Making a Complaint 
  9. Programme Measures 
  10. Implementation Arrangements

1. Glossary of Terms

Advocate A person who provides assistance under arrangements made by a local authority under section 26A (1) of the Children Act 1989. They will provide independent and confidential information, advice, representation and support to the complainant.
Complaint An expression of dissatisfaction or disquiet about the actions, decisions or apparent failings of a local authority in relation to social care services provided to children and young people which requires a response.
Complainant Any person who makes or has made a complaint in accordance with the social care complaints procedures and includes a person acting as a "representative" for someone else.
Customer Relations Manager The person appointed under regulation 11 of the Social Complaints Regulations to manage the local authority's social care complaints process.
Independent Person A person who is appointed to ensure that the process of investigation is open, transparent and fair, and to work alongside the Investigating Officer to provide an independent, objective view to the investigation. The person appointed should neither be a member nor an officer of the local authority, or related to any officer of the local authority.
Investigating Officer A person who is appointed to provide a comprehensive, open transparent and fair consideration of the complaint, prepare a report of the investigation in clear, plain language and identify solutions and recommend courses of action to resolve the complaint. The Investigating Officer can be employed by Plymouth City Council or be independent.

2. Background / Rationale

The Government's message is that as a service we work together so that every Child and Young Person In Care is able to achieve better outcomes. It is also about making sure that vulnerable children and young people get the help they need, when they need it, however large or small their complaint is.

3. Statutory and Policy Framework

The Statutory Acts and Policy documents that this policy adheres to are listed below.

Core Legislation

Complementary Legislation

4. Policy Goal

To safeguard and promote the rights of children and young people.

5. Policy Objectives

Under the auspices of Plymouth City Council, the Children's Social Care Department, within Services for Children and Young People, adheres to the principles set out in Getting the Best from Complaints, the current government guidance which accompanies The Children Act 1989 - Representations Procedure (England) Regulations 2006.

This policy aims to facilitate a pro-active complaints and representations service for Children's Social Care that is accessible, efficient and responsive to the needs of its service users.

Children's Social Care aims to resolve complaints and representations made by children and young people quickly and effectively with an emphasis on learning from complaints and improving the services generally. This also applies to complaints made by parents, foster carers and other adults making a complaint.

Children's Social Care recognises and values all people, irrespective of age, gender, sexuality, faith, ethnicity or disability and will reflect this within its complaints service.

Children's Social Care will ensure that any complaint will not result in the service user experiencing any reduction or loss in a service that they are entitled to.

6. Who can Complain?

Complaints can be received from:

  • Any child or young person who is being looked after by the local authority or is not looked after by them but is in need;
  • Children leaving care;
  • A child or young person to whom a Special Guardian Order is in force;
  • Any child or young person who may be adopted, their parents and guardians;
  • Any parent or someone who has Parental Responsibility for them who is being looked after by the local authority or is not looked after by them but is in need;
  • Any local authority foster carer (including those caring for children placed through independent fostering agencies);
  • Special Guardians;
  • A parent to whom a Special Guardian order is in force;
  • Any person who has applied for an assessment for Special Guardianship support services. (Section 14F(3) or (4));
  • Persons wishing to adopt a child;
  • Any other person whom arrangements for the provision of adoption services extend;
  • Adopted persons, their parents, natural parents and former guardians;
  • Such other person as the local authority consider has sufficient interest in the child or young person's welfare to warrant their representations being considered.

Complaints made on behalf of a child or young person.

Where a complaint is received from a representative acting on behalf of a child or young person, the service will confirm, where possible, that the child or young person has agreed for this to happen and that the complaint submitted reflects their views.

As laid down in Getting the Best from Complaints, the Customer Relations Manager has the discretion to decide whether or not the representative is suitable to act in this capacity or has sufficient interest in the child's welfare. If the Customer Relations Manager considers that the representative does not have sufficient interest, they will notify the representative in writing, explaining that no further action will be taken. The Customer Relations Manager should discuss this decision with relevant operational managers as appropriate.

Complaints relating to a child or young person.

Children's Social Care may also receive complaints by adults that relate to a child or young person but are not made on the child's behalf. The Children Act, 1989 gives discretion to local authorities to decide in cases where eligibility is not automatic, whether or not an individual has sufficient interest in the child's welfare to justify their own complaint being considered by this process.

To inform this decision, the Customer Relations Manager may check that, wherever possible, the child or young person has agreed that this person can make a complaint.

7. What can be Complained about?

Although not an exhaustive list, complaints can relate to the following:

  • An unwelcome or disputed decision;
  • Concern about the quality or appropriateness of a service;
  • Delay in decision making or provision of services;
  • Delivery or non-delivery of services including complaints procedures;
  • Quantity, frequency change or cost of a service;
  • Attitude or behaviour of staff;
  • Application of eligibility and assessment criteria;
  • The impact on an individual of the application of a local authority policy;
  • Assessment, care management and review.

Exemptions under the complaints policy

The complaints policy does not apply when:

  • The person wishing to complain does not meet the requirements of "who may complain", and is not acting on behalf of such an individual;
  • The complaint is not in regard to the actions or decisions of the local authority complained to; or of any body acting on its behalf;
  • The same complaint has already been dealt with at all stages of the procedure;
  • The same complaint has already been investigated by a local commissioner;
  • The complaint relates to a cross-boundary issue, but has been fully investigated and concluded, through the full complaints procedure of a partner agency;
  • The complaint is unclear, or it is frivolous or vexatious.

The complaint policy also does not apply when the matters should be dealt with under other proceedings such as:

  • Disciplinary proceedings;
  • Grievance procedure;
  • Complaints from staff about personnel issues;
  • Complaints that should be considered under the local authority's corporate complaints procedure, see Have Your Say;
  • Services for which an alternative statutory appeals process already exists;
  • Criminal investigation where Court action is pending.

When a complaint is received that relates to issues already under investigation through other procedures, the Customer Relations Manager has the discretion to decide whether to accept this complaint, or to consider that to do so may prejudice the outcome of such investigations e.g.

  • Court proceedings;
  • Tribunals;
  • Disciplinary proceedings;
  • Criminal proceedings.

Anonymous Complaints

These complaints fall outside of the scope of the statutory procedure and it is the responsibility of the Customer Relations Manager to decide what action if any should be taken. This could include passing the information to the relevant manager for further consideration within the service area concerned.

8. Time Limits for Making a Complaint

Children's Social Care do not have to consider a complaint made more than one year after the grounds to make the complaint arose. However, decisions will be made on a case by case basis and generally complaints will be accepted unless there is a good reason not to.

Although not exclusive, possible grounds for accepting an overdue complaint include:

  • Genuine issues of vulnerability;
  • There is still a benefit to the complainant in proceeding;
  • There is still likely to be sufficient access to information or individuals involved at the time to enable an effective and fair investigation to be carried out.

A briefing on the complaints procedure is given during the induction presentation for all new social care staff members.

9. Programme Measures 

Development of procedures within Children's Social Care that are grounded in good practice, with accompanying training for staff.

Consultation with children and young people and other key stakeholders in the development, review and implementation of the complaints policy and procedures.

Children and young people will be offered appropriate advocacy and support services.

Awareness raising for children and young people, parents, foster carers and other adults on how to make a complaint.

10. Implementation Arrangements

Unless specifically highlighted in the procedures document, this policy will be implemented through the established structures and working arrangements of Social Care Management Team and in line with the Corporate Complaints Structure.