Children’s Social Care
Annual Complaints & Compliments Report
The Social Services statutory complaints procedure requires that an annual
report must be produced for Children’s Social Care complaints. This report
provides information about complaints made during the twelve months
between 1st April 2011 and 31st March 2012 under the complaints and
representations procedures established through the Local Authority Social
Services Complaints (England) Regulations 2006, the Representations
(Children) Regulations 2006 and the Council’s corporate complaints
All timescales contained within this report are in working days.
What is a complaint?
The guidance ‘Getting the best from Complaints’ produced by Dfes
(Department for Education and Skills) provides advise for local authorities
on implementing the new Children Act 1989 complaints procedure for
children and young people and defines a complaint as: ‘A complaint may be generally defined as an expression of
dissatisfaction or disquiet in relation to an individual child or young
person, which requires a response.’
Who can make a complaint?
Section 26(3) and section 24D of the Children Act, 1989 and section 3(1)
of the Adoption and Children Act, 2002 require council’s to consider
complaints made by:
• any child or young person (or a parent of his or someone who has
parental responsibility for him) 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)
• children leaving care
• Special Guardians
• A child or young person (or parent of his) to whom a Special
Guardian order is in force
• Any person who has applied for an assessment under section 14F(3)
• Any child or young person who may be adopted, their parents and
• Persons wishing to adopt a child
• Any other person whom arrangements for the provision of adoption
• Adopted persons, their parents, natural parents and former
• Such other person as the local authority consider has sufficient
interest in the child or young person’s welfare to warrant his
representations being considered by them.
Stages of the complaints procedure and statistics
The complaints procedure has three stages
Stage 1 – Local Resolution
This is the most important stage of the complaints procedure. The
department’s teams and external contractors providing services on our
behalf are expected to resolve as many complaints as possible at this initial
The Council’s complaints procedure requires complaints at stage 1 to be
responded to within 10 working days (with an automatic extension to a
further 10 days where a complaint is complex).
The vast majority of complaints are successfully resolved at stage 1 which
indicates that front line managers are making an effort to listen to clients
and work with them to reach mutually acceptable outcomes.
Stage 2 - Investigation
This stage is usually implemented where the complainant is dissatisfied
with the findings of stage 1. Stage 2 is an investigation conducted by an
external investigating officer. An additional independent person also works
alongside the investigating officer. The Director of Targeted & Specialist
Children & Families Services adjudicates on the findings.
Stage 2 complaints falling within the social services statutory complaints
procedure should be dealt with within 25 days, although in certain cases
this can be extended to 65 working days.
Stage 3 – Review Panel
The third stage of the complaints process is the Review Panel.
Where complainants wish to proceed with complaints about statutory social
services functions, the Council is required to establish a complaints Review
Panel. The panel makes recommendations to the Director who then makes
a decision on the complaint and any action to be taken. Complaints Review
Panels are made up of three independent panellists. There are various
timescales relating to stage 3 complaints. These include:
• setting up the Panel within 30 days;
• producing the Panel’s report within a further 5 days; and
• producing the local authority’s response within 15 days.
A further option for complainants is the Local Government Ombudsman
(LGO) who is empowered to investigate where it appears that a Council’s
own investigations have not resolved the complaint. Complainants can
refer their complaint to the LGO at any time, although the Ombudsman
normally refers the complaint back to the Council if it has not been
considered under our procedure first.
Not all complaints relating to Children’s Social Care will be dealt with
under the Children Act procedures as those procedures relate particularly to
complaints made by or on behalf of a child or young person. Occasionally
the department receives complaints which do not fit into this category, for
instance a potential foster carer or adopter complaining about the process
and/or outcome of their assessment and these are dealt with using the
corporate complaints procedure. The corporate complaints procedure has 2
internal stages: stage 1 is responded to by the relevant manager within
CSC, and then stage 2 is an investigation by Corporate Complaints.
Thereafter complainants must refer to the Local Government Ombudsman.
Complaints in relation to child protection conferences and the registering of
children with a CP plan are also dealt with under their own procedures.
Stage 1 is a meeting with the CP manager who will then respond to the
complaint in writing. If the complainant remains unhappy they can request
that a panel is convened to review the conference decision. This panel is
made up of members of the Islington Safeguarding Children’s Board and
should be convened within 30 days of the conference.
During 2011-12 the complaints service recorded 57 stage 1 complaints
during the year, compared with 48 last year.
Total complaints made:
Between 1st April 2011 and 31st March 2012 we received and closed 57
stage 1 complaints.
Of these, 4 progressed to stage 2 under the Children Act, and 1 progressed
to stage 2 of the Child Protection complaints procedure (because it was a
complaint about registering a CP plan).
Of these, 1 progressed to stage 3.
There were no Ombudsman complaints during this period.
Comparison with the preceding year
This indicates a 19% increase in the number of complaints from last year
within the department.
This sits within the wider context of complaints activity in the Council as a
whole decreasing. Across the Council there was a 17% decrease in the
number of complaints recorded (from 2462 during 2010/11 to 2034 in
The data for the last 8 years is as follows:
2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10
49 63 46 39
4 stage 2 investigations were carried out this year, originating from the 57
stage 1 complaints received during 2011/12. This is an escalation rate of
7%, which is 1% down on last year. The escalation rate from stage 1 to
stage 2 can provide an indication of the success of stage 1 responses in
resolving people’s concerns and it is therefore encouraging that it has fallen
from last year. Under the Social Care Complaints Procedures it is not
possible to prevent service users from proceeding to stage 2 of the
complaints procedure if that is their wish. There will always be an element
of complainants who, having had their complaints not upheld at stage 1,
will automatically proceed to stage 2, in spite of having received properly
investigated and reasoned responses at stage 1.
The Council’s target escalation rate is 8%
Outcomes of complaints
Of the 57 stage 1 complaints, 9 were upheld, 8 were partially upheld and 40
were not upheld.
Stage 1 complaints
The deadline for responding to stage 1 complaints is 10 working days or 20
working days if a complaint is complex.
The department responded to 52 of the stage 1 complaints within the
relevant deadline, this being 91%.
This is a big improvement on the 79% of last year. A couple of the
complaints responded to outside of the timescale were done so with the
agreement of the complainant for legitimate reasons. Therefore the
response times are being well respected by managers and 91% is a real
Meeting the statutory timescales is obviously important. But achieving
resolution at stage 1, and preventing escalation to stage 2 is of primary
importance. Children’s Social Care receive some very complex complaints
and managers should not be unduly concerned about meeting the stage 1
deadline if they feel that they will be able to achieve resolution, given a
little more time.
In the Council overall the percentage of stage 1 complaints responded to
within timescale was 83%, compared to 86.5% last year. The Council’s
objective is that 90% of complaints are responded to within the target time.
Stage 2 complaints
The initial deadline of 25 working days is a very tight one and unrealistic in
most cases. However 1 of the 4 stage 2 complaint investigations was
completed within this period. 1 other was completed in 29 working days.
The remaining 2 investigations took 91 days and 98 days respectively but
there were very valid reasons for the delay in these cases that were
generally outside of the control of the investigating officers. The average
time taken to complete stage 2 investigations was 60 working days which
unfortunately isn’t as good as the previous year when the average was 48
Complaints by team
CIN Team 1 Barnsbury
CIN Team 2 Canonbury
CIN Team 3 Finsbury
CIN Team 4 Highbury
CIN Team 5 Hornsey
CIN Team 6 Holloway
Referral & Advice
Disabled Children’s Team
Self Directed Support
CLA Team 1
7 6 1 0
CLA Team 3
CLA Team 4
4 3 2 2
Child Protection Service
NB. For stage 1 complaints, all those responded to within 20 working days were
included as being within time. 3.5 Complaint
Following the guidance produced by the Department of Education and Skills, we are
identifying who is making the complaint to gain a greater understanding of our
Child in Need
Child/young person being looked after
Child leaving care
Persons with sufficient interest in the child’s welfare
Stage 2 complaints
related to Independent Futures. The complainant was a
young person who had been given a laptop four years previously. Over the
years it had needed occasional repair that the team had paid for. The young
person wasn’t consistently in education, having dropped out of a number of
courses and having low attendance at college in the past. However, she had
just started a new course and her laptop had broken. Her complaint was
that the Independent Futures team were refusing to provide her with a new
laptop to assist with her education. This complaint was not upheld because,
although the department were supportive regarding the supply of laptops,
she was not a priority and there were other young people who had not yet
had a laptop given to them at all. Budget constraints meant that laptops
were allocated in order of need. Although the complaint was not upheld
the investigating officer recommended that the department provide some
clarity around the allocation of laptops and who should be responsible for
also related to Independent Futures. The complainant was a
young person who was upset that the temporary receptionist seemed to
know some information about him. He made four separate complaints:
1) That the department had not kept his files confidential by allowing
the receptionist to access his records.
2) That the department had failed to provide the documents that he had
been asking for, which seemed to be the document that the
receptionist had mentioned.
3) That his complaint hadn’t been investigated properly at stage 1.
4) That there was an unacceptable delay in locating the whereabouts of
The first complaint was partially upheld because, although his files were
kept securely, there was a risk assessment held in a file in reception that
didn’t need to be there and it did indeed appear that the receptionist had
read it and commented on the contents to the young person. None of the
other complaints were upheld. Complaint 3
related to the Finsbury Children in Need Team. The
complainant was a father who was estranged from his girlfriend but who
was seeking contact with their son. In total he made seven separate
complaints but fundamentally his complaint was about alleged inaccuracies
in the section 7 report. None of the complaints were upheld. Complaint 4
was made by parents whose three children had recently been
removed. In total they made nine separate complaints:
1 & 2) related to inaccuracies and manner in which the initial assessment
had been carried out -neither of these complaints was upheld.
3) That the children were given misleading information about a proposed
foster placement – this complaint was not upheld.
4) That the standards of care at a foster placement were poor – for the most
part these weren’t substantiated but there was one element which was
considered sub-standard and the complaint was therefore partially upheld.
5) That the department failed to investigate the circumstances under which
her son was restrained at the foster placement – not upheld.
6) That the department had failed to take any actions to rehabilitate the
family – not upheld.
7) That the department were inconsistent in dealing with and supporting
their son when he had been arrested – this complaint was upheld on the
basis that the parents were allowed on occasion to act as appropriate adults
at the police station but were later informed that they could not do this.
8) That the department had falsely accused the father of ‘kidnapping’ his
son when they knew that the placement had agreed to the son leaving with
his father – not upheld.
9) The decision to place their son in a residential placement was made on
the basis of an assessment which was founded in part on the inaccurate
information contained within the initial assessment – not upheld.
Stage 3 complaints
There was only one stage 3 panel during this period and this actually
related to a stage 2 investigation that took place during the previous 2010-
2011 period. Timescales relating to statutory social services stage 3
• The Panel is required to produce a report within 5 working days
detailing its recommendations
• The Local Authority should send a response within 15 days of the
All timescales were met in this case.
The Panel reached the same conclusions as the stage 2 adjudicator.
Ombudsman complaints and enquiries
There were no Local Government Ombudsman (stage 4) complaints during
There are ongoing costs attached to delivering an effective complaints
service for the Department. These costs should be seen against the inherent
costs of not providing this service (users would continue to be dissatisfied
if there was no complaints procedure or team, but the Department would
not have a strategic approach and there would be fewer opportunities for
resolution). Of course the complaints procedure is a statutory one that must
Cost of delivering stages 2 and 3
The amount spent last year was £6,854.85 so the costs are almost exactly
The average cost for a stage 2 investigation was £2047.00
The following compensation was paid in relation to complaints generated
£1670.00 at stage 1
£50 at stage 2
£0 at stage 3
£0 at Ombudsman stage
Compensation should be paid at stage 1 if it is appropriate to do so. The
stage 1 compensation in this case is broken down into two complaints. One
was from a young person in relation to her lack of savings. The other was
from a young person in relation to items that had gone missing between
The £50 compensation paid at stage 2 was in relation to complaint 2 in
section 4 above and was for distress in terms of the receptionist having
access to confidential information.
Total compensation for 2011/12 complaints: £1720
This compares favourably with the £3225 paid in compensation last year.
As a result of one of the stage 2 complaints a new, clear policy has been
written regarding laptops, detailing who will be eligible to receive them,
how they will be repaired if they break down, who will be responsible for
paying for that repair and whether a second laptop would ever be provided
and in what circumstances.
The Independent Futures team now ensure that only the risk management
plan for service users, rather than full risk assessments, is available to the
Although the Complaints Unit sends out questionnaires to all complainants,
none were returned during the 2011-12 period.
We also record compliments, some of which are featured below:
Lough Road - She (mum) wanted me to pass on her many thanks and
gratitude to everyone that we are able to facilitate this change for her son
To Ceridwen Bolton, Lough Road – just wanted to say thanks so much for
a really useful appointment. As always you were helpful, supportive and
professional, especially when dealing with some of the more sensitive
subjects we raised. Really appreciate it!
To Lucy Elkins, Finsbury CIN team – I also give thanks to Lucy Elkins,
she did a really good job.
To Lorette & Audrey in Specialist Family Support – Lynn from Voice
mentioned Lorette and Audrey as examples of good work being done. She
said they are working with a young person who was very complimentary
about the work of both of them.
To Bryan Rackham in Holloway CIN team from Solace – just to let you
know that mum was extremely happy with the support you are providing.
She feels comfortable with you and she finally feels things are getting
better, so thank you very much indeed. She said she found you extremely
supportive and great to deal with. Your excellent work is being very much
To Mary Treacy and Marina Ogun from UCL – I just wanted to thank you
again for the excellent teaching session you provided for our medical
students last week. From my perspective it was an excellent session and
really brought to life the complexities of working with young people with
substance misuse problems, along with a lot of practical advice. It is
invaluable to have such a session taught by those actively working in the
field and offered the students much more than their standard
teaching/reading on the epidemiology of substance misuse problems ever
could. I know they particularly enjoyed seeing what exercises you use to
engage with young people and valued the enthusiasm with which you
To Matt Hart at Lough Road from Hackney Council – I think your efforts
and preparations played a key role in the success of contact. Also it is great
that you are contacting his school to ensure that there is consistency of
approach. Great to work with you Matt.
From Cafcass lawyer to Hornsey CIN team – I would like to thank you
(Rania in Legal), Miss Kulazikulabe and Ms Ghouse for your assistance at
the hearing. Your attendance provided great assistance both to the parties
and the guardian. I echo Mrs Justice Theis’ sentiments in that the s.37
report was very thorough and professional. In fact I think the judge went as
far as to say it is ‘the best report she had seen in a long time (high praise
To Michelle Julien in DCT – thank you very much for your report on my
son. I found the report 100% accurate, and also I found you to be very
skilled in your knowledge of young people like my son. It’s a great help
when people are very understanding so, we would like to thank you very
very much for this, you are a nice person.
To Natalie Koussa in CIN Barnsbury from the NHS – I would just like to
write to express the mother and baby unit’s opinion, and my own, regarding
the work of Ms Koussa which we have observed in the last 6 months.
During this time we have been consistently impressed by the quality of
imput Ms Koussa has given to the client and her family. She had been
utterly reliable, committed, responsible, thoughtful, humane and kind
throughout a period which has been very difficult for our patient and
therefore for her children. Ms Koussa is an excellent team player but is
also clearly able to work to a high level independently and creatively. I
have worked for 12 years now in this unit and rarely have I seen such
consistent, patient and committed work. I just wanted you to know this as I
hope that an outside opinion on a member of staff might be of value.
To Victoria Souter and Pam Dudman – mum just rang to say thank you for
the help you’ve given her. She wanted me to let you both know that you
have ‘blown apart’ her preconceptions of social workers. Whereas the
thought of social workers used to make her feel very anxious, she now feels
more positive about it, as she found you to be supportive and kind, rather
To Audrey Hylton in Specialist Family Support – I am writing to express
my gratitude for the support, humility and professional level of
understanding from Audrey. She came to my home on several occasions
recently to support my son and I with potty training and boundaries. I
found her to be very professional with a great sense of understanding, the
little tips she gave me were very helpful and indispensable and I found her
very easy to communicate with. Her ability to mediate, interact and reach
out to my son and I was second to none.
To Tony Beckles, Highbury CIN team, from Chance UK – I have some
very positive feedback about how Tony has dealt with this case in
particular. His openness towards external agencies, and co-ordination of
those involved has been second to none. He has shared relevant
information appropriately and promptly, allowing us to update our plans
(and make broader ones) in good time. His huge patience with the case has
meant that he has kept a good overview whilst never losing sight of the
finer detail. Throughout the twists and turns of the case, he has maintained
his focus on the child’s wellbeing. I hope that you will find an appropriate
way to congratulate Tony for his hard work, especially around this case
which has been very demanding. Tony has made a fantastic
difference……..the staff said that Tony has done ‘absolutely everything
possible’ and is most certainly ‘one of the best’.
To Tony Beckles in Highbury CIN team from William Tyndale School –
they mentioned how impressed they were with his practice with a child
from their school. They said he was a really pro-active social worker and
had really moved things forward for the child and family, improving the
outcomes for this child.
To Claudia Shillingford from a solicitor – I just wanted to say thank you so
much for your wonderful support with regard to her immigration matter.
To Independent Futures – I would like to say the support I received has got
me to the stage where I am now: confident, employable and educated. The
very friendly and understanding staff at Independent Futures have helped
me with every little extra push to being the best all the time. The help I
received regarding my education was excellent, and knowing that someone
out there would be there for you if you needed any help was comforting.
Once more I would like to thank everyone that have helped me all the way.
In a thank you card to the Contact Centre – to all the contact people, thank
you for everything that you have done for us as you have helped us a lot.
To Yvonne Brown in Independent Futures – just wanted to thank you for
all your support throughout the past years. You have been inspirational and
helpful. And thanks for the kind wishes and birthday cards you’ve sent,
you’ve surprised me each time you remembered my birthday. This year I
used the money enclosed to do my hair!! Took a pic to remind me of you!
To Jason Ward in CLA team 3 – I’d like to take this opportunity to say that
we were both very impressed with Jason’s practice. It was a surprise to
learn in the early days that he was still a social work student as he has been
so professional. Throughout his involvement with us, especially during
some difficult moments, he was both capable of empathy and impartiality,
and always remained very boundaried when expressing his views or
sharing information. His interest and care for the child were obvious and
clearly genuine, and we have truly enjoyed working with him.
Re. Josie Lennox in CLA2 – a young person mentioned at her review that
Josie was the best social worker that she’d ever had.
To Veronica Jolley, Adoption team, from a judge – one of the best and
most honest statements by a family finding social worker that I have
read….it gives hard evidence….
To Paula in Independent Futures – I heard you are leaving and that wasn’t
very good news for me. I would like to say thank you for every single
thing you have done for me. You were the one whom showed me the way
of living in this world, the way of improving myself, the path way which I
need to walk in, the way of forgetting the past and how to see my future.
I’m 21 years old now and I know how to solve my own problems and how
to deal with people in a very good way, which I learned from you. I really
want to say thank you from my deepest heart but I don’t know how? And
that because you didn’t teach me this one!!! I’ll tell my mum about your
kindness one day, thank you.
To Sonya Genus in Family Plus, she was given a box of chocolates and a
thank you card – a big thank you, for all your support through our
assessment. You took your time to listen to us talking about difficult times
and you always came on time with a smile on your face. But best of all you
made us laugh and feel comfortable bringing us closer together as a family.
I give thanks to child protection co-ordinator, Sarah Pepper. Also my
thanks goes to people in child protection conference meets and core group
I thank you every member of Child Protection teams that were involved in
my family case since the beginning. Thanks for your caring and support.
To Lynne Richardson, CP admin, from Met Police – forgot to say Lynne
what a superb set of minutes they were. Do you want to come and work for
To Niamh Moriaty, Access to Records – I am very grateful and thank you
so much for your help.
To Niamh Moriarty, Access to Records – Thank you for being so helpful
and for facilitating the access to these documents so promptly, it is very
To Niamh Moriary, Access to Records – Thank you once again for your
To CAIS – thanks for all your help, support and advice you have given me.
You are all amazing workers who want to do the best for the young people
you work with.
To Complaints from Voice – on a more positive note, even though she sent
us bad news, I found that as usual Carole was very efficient, fair and
approachable. I really rate her highly as a complaints manager. Could you
feed back to the Council that my experience with her has always been
positive even when we do not agree.
To Complaints – thank you Carole for your quick and consistent help. It is