This procedure explains how you can provide feedback about Children’s Services provided by Cambridgeshire County Council. This includes feedback about Early Help, Statutory Assessment Team, Special Educational Needs Disability Services and Children’s Social Care.
Your feedback may be a comment, enquiry, compliment or complaint. However, this procedure does not include feedback for Adult Services, nor does it include other Cambridgeshire directorates such as Place and Economy or Public Health.
Cambridgeshire County Council is committed to learning from customer experience to ensure we deliver the best possible service. Your feedback enables us to know what we do well and what we can improve upon.
If you are entitled to or have received a service from us, then you (or your representative) have the right to provide feedback about such services or about agencies who provide services on our behalf. All feedback will be considered and recorded. Learning obtained will be shared with senior managers and our staff group, with a view to making changes where appropriate.
We will give help and advice to anyone wishing to provide feedback. Please let us know if you have a disability, if you have difficulty communicating in English, or if you have other needs which we need to take into consideration. We will then make arrangements to support you as best as possible.
Please note: That all complainants are entitled to request a 3-stage formal complaint process, although we would hope to resolve complaints at an early point wherever possible.
This procedure describes the difference between the Corporate and Statutory complaint processes, with most complaints following the Corporate complaint procedure but concerns raised by or on behalf of children and young people regarding Social Care involvement, mainly following the Statutory complaint procedure.
If you have any queries about this procedure, or wish to provide feedback, please contact the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team.
Children's Complaints and Feedback Team
The Children's Complaints and Feedback Team is comprised of a full time Children's Complaints Manager and two full time Children's Complaints Officers. They coordinate and report upon all feedback received. The contact details for the Team are as follows:
Children's Complaints and Feedback Team
38 Buttsgrove Way
Tel: 01223 714765 or 03450 455 203
You should approach the school directly if you wish to make a complaint. The school's governing body handles complaints.
All schools publish a complaints procedure and you should follow that process.
All schools are independently governed and managed. Cambridgeshire County Council has no statutory powers of intervention in individual school complaints. The school’s complaints procedure should explain what to do if you are unhappy with a conclusion.
- writing to the Secretary of State for Education for a maintained school
- or the Education Funding Agency for an academy.
The latter cannot change a decision an academy has made. They will check if your complaint has been properly considered.
You must have exhausted the school complaints procedure before taking this step.
The school can explain these steps to you.
The Children's Complaints and Feedback Team produces an Annual Report that is published on our website.
Alternatively, you can request a copy to be posted to you by the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team.
Leaflets and publications
The Children's Complaints and Feedback Team produces information for the public as themes arise from complaints and other feedback with a view to clarifying the Council’s roles and responsibilities for the benefit of both the public and the staff. To date, these have included leaflets on
- Information for Parents following Relationship Breakdown
- Child Protection Conferences
- Children in Care
- Special Guardianship Orders
For access to any of these leaflets, please contact the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team.
Representations may not always be complaints, they might also be positive remarks or ideas that require a response from the Local Authority. Enquiries, questions or comments about the availability, delivery or nature of a service are likely to constitute representations, for example when children and young people wish to put forward ideas or proposals about the service they receive or the establishment they live in, without having this framed as a direct complaint.
In such instances it is usually best to raise these representations directly with the Service that is working with you and your family, as you are likely to receive a faster response. If you are unsure about who to speak to or feel your query is not receiving an answer, you are welcome to contact the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team, however as we are not involved in case work we will not automatically know all the details of your situation, so please be patient as we will need to gather specific information to know who best to direct your representation toward.
Where someone makes the same enquiry repeatedly, it may be more appropriate for the issues raised to be dealt with through our complaints procedure, which is described later in this procedure. If this seems to be the best course of action, the Children's Complaints Manager will let you know.
It is also important to know what has gone well, so do please tell us. This is not just something to celebrate but is also a valuable source of learning. You can either send your compliment directly to the Service or to the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team.
All compliments are forwarded to and logged by the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team, who report upon these within their Annual Report.
Sometimes we hear from a Member of Parliament (MP) or County/District Councillor (Cllr) on your behalf. These enquiries are usually sent to the County Council's Chief Executive or the Executive Director for People and Communities. Replies are sent back to the MP or Cllr, who may or may not decide to share the response with you. In the event that you are unhappy with the response given to your MP or Cllr, you can choose to make a complaint at Stage 1 of our complaints process.
Access to records
Sometimes, members of the public wish to access their own or their children’s records.
You can do this using an online form on our website.
If you do not have access to a computer, please let us know and we will send you the relevant form in the post.
We accept that there may be occasions when you are dissatisfied or disagree with something that has occurred, and we would encourage you to discuss it as soon as possible with the relevant member of staff. It may be that there has been a misunderstanding or that a process has not been fully explained to you. If we are unable to resolve the issue to your satisfaction or if you wish to make a formal complaint, please let us know as soon as possible.
How to complain
You can make your complaint in whichever way is most convenient for you. It does not have to be in writing, however there is an online form on the County Council website should you wish to submit it via this route.
People sometimes chose to write a letter, email or phone in with complaints or raise them in person. You can also use the Feedback Leaflet which contains a simple form with freepost address. This should have been given to you when we first started to work with you, however it is provided here should you require it.
If you wish to make a complaint in person, you can do so with any member of staff, who will then pass the details onto the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team.
The key information that we need is your name and contact details, name(s) of the child/ren involved and the nature of your complaint, ideally together with what you would like to happen as a result of raising your concerns.
We understand that people often find it stressful to make a complaint and may welcome assistance with this. You can always choose to have informal support from a relative or friend but if you believe an advocate would help, we will try to put you in touch with an appropriate service. Currently all Children and Young People who are designated Children in Care (CiC) or children subject to a Child Protection plan (CP) who wish to make a complaint about Children’s Social Care are put in touch with the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS), who will provide them with independent and confidential support through the process.
Complaints that involve other bodies
Wherever possible, complaints against the Local Authority will be dealt with through one investigation and response, including complaints that span Adults and Children’s Services, or those that involve Children’s Services and other agencies, such as Health. However, decisions will be made as to the timeliness of any such joint response and the complainant will be informed if more than one response will be sent.
Complaints that entirely concern other agencies must be dealt with by those agencies, and where they relate to independent providers, their own complaint procedure must be followed. For example, complaints relating to Child Minders, Playgroups and Nurseries should be addressed to Ofsted, and complaints relating to individual schools should follow the School's own complaint procedure.
Complaints made on behalf of or about a child or young person
Where a complaint is received from a representative acting on behalf of a child or young person, the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team will seek to confirm where possible that the child or young person is happy for this to happen and that the complaint submitted reflects their own views.
The Children's Complaints and Feedback Team is also likely to receive complaints by adults that relate to a child or young person but are not made on the child's behalf. The Children’s Act 1989, gives discretion to the Local Authority to decide whether or not the complainant is suitable to act in this capacity or has 'sufficient interest' in the child’s welfare to raise such concerns.
If the Children's Complaints Manager considers that you do not have sufficient interest, they will notify you in writing, explaining that no further action will be taken. The Children's Complaints Manager may need to discuss the matter with relevant operational managers in order to make this decision.
Deferring, freezing or suspending complaints
It may not be possible to accept a complaint about a matter which could prejudice a ‘concurrent investigation’ within any of the following situations: Court Proceedings, Tribunals, Disciplinary Proceedings or Criminal Proceedings. Once the concurrent investigation has concluded, you may resubmit your complaint for consideration, however, the complaints process outlined in this guidance is not an appeals procedure against Court, Tribunal, Disciplinary or Police decisions, therefore complaints should not be used as an additional means to try and achieve a desired outcome.
Complaints which have already been accepted can also be suspended in some situations, for example if the case is going before a Court/Tribunal or if a Child Protection investigation is taking place. If your complaint is about a proposed change to a Care Plan, a Placement or a Service, this decision may need to be deferred until your complaint has been considered. However, care will be taken if deferring a decision is likely to have a significant effect upon the mental or physical wellbeing of a child or young person.
Complaints outside of remit
Complaints are not usually accepted in relation to events which occurred more than 12 months prior unless you were unaware of those events until recently.(Complaints from children and young people may be accepted outside the 12 month period, where they were not able to make the complaint or did not feel confident in bringing it forward within the 12 month timeframe). Complaints will not be accepted if they have previously been raised and responded to more than 12 months earlier or have already been dealt with at all three stages of the complaints procedure.
Particular aspects of a Child Protection Conference such as how the Conference was run, the decision of the Conference to make the child the subject of a Child Protection Plan, or the decision of a Review Conference to continue with the Child Protection Plan, are outside of remit of our complaints procedure. However, it maybe possible to raise such issues with the Conferencing Service; the Conference Chairperson, their line manager or directly with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Safeguarding Children Partnership Board (SCPB).
Claims for significant compensation
The complaints procedure is not a way to obtain financial compensation per se. If you seek only compensation as the result of your complaint, you should take legal advice about making a claim against Cambridgeshire County Council. The Council can, however consider complaints where its actions (or lack of) have resulted in you incurring unnecessary expenses or suffering financial loss or hardship.
Please note that the complaint procedure, whether Corporate or Statutory, is completely separate from any Disciplinary Procedure and as such, details of which are kept strictly confidential. Complainants are not informed of any such action, although we accept that sometimes complainants may wish for members of staff to be disciplined.
The Local Authority is committed to dealing with all complaints fairly and impartially, providing a high quality service to those who complain. However, there are a small number of complainants who because of the frequency of their contact with the Local Authority, hinder consideration of their own complaints.
Where someone is perceived as being a persistent complainer, a meeting may be offered to determine whether the frequency of their contact is because they really believe things have gone wrong or if their actions might be deemed as unreasonable.
If you are persisting with your complaint because you feel the issues raised have not been considered in full, then the Children's Complaints Manager will consider any outstanding issues. If it is found the Local Authority has already addressed your concerns and has demonstrated this to you, then the Children's Complaints Manager will consider whether you meet the criteria as inappropriately persistent.
Where the relationship becomes unworkable, possibly due to abusive, threatening or other unreasonable behaviour, the Children's Complaints Manager will write to you to explain why your behaviour falls into that category. They will advise you what action will be taken and the duration of that action.
If you continue to behave unreasonably, or override the restrictions placed on your access to our Service, we may decide to terminate contact with you and end any investigation into your complaint.
New complaints from people whose behaviour has previously been deemed unreasonable will be treated on their own merit. Restrictions imposed in respect of an earlier complaint will not automatically apply to a new matter.
You will understand that great care is needed with regard to Data Protection, especially where complainants do not have Parental Responsibility for the children about whose services they are complaining. We cannot share information with you to which you are not entitled, without the explicit, signed consent of the person to whom the information belongs.
Sometimes complaints are received from extended family members. In these situations, the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team will ask whether or not at least one parent with Parental Responsibility or the child or young person concerned is aware of your complaint. If so, we may contact that parent/child/young person to seek permission to communicate directly with you. Where this permission is not given, only very brief information can be shared. Another option is for the response to be sent to either the person with Parental Responsibility or the child/young person, who then has the choice whether to share it with you.
Additionally we may receive a complaint from a parent who does not have Parental Responsibility, where we would again need to seek permission before replying in detail.
Three stage complaint procedure
Certain complaints against Children’s Social Care are subject to Statutory Regulations
- The Local Authority Social Services Act (1970) (GOV.UK website)
- Children Act 1989 Representations Procedure (England), Regulations (2006) GOV.UK website)
and Department for Education and Skills Guidance
- Getting the Best from Complaints – Social Care Complaints and Representations for Children, Young People and Others (GOV.UK website)
These involve external scrutiny at Stages 2 and 3. All other complaints are dealt with under the Local Authority’s Corporate complaint procedure, with all 3 Stages being considered internally.
The Children's Complaints and Feedback Team is central to the management of all Children’s Services complaints. On receiving your complaint, the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team will send you an acknowledgement letter, explaining:
- Whether your complaint is being dealt with under the Statutory or Corporate complaint procedure;
- Which Manager will be investigating and responding to you;
- The due date for the complaint response to be sent to you.
The Children's Complaints Manager will raise any urgent issues about practice, should these become apparent.
- An acknowledgement letter will be sent within 3 working days of receipt of your complaint;
- The response will usually be sent on or before 10 working days of receipt of your concerns (the date of receipt is counted as day zero);
- A holding letter will be sent if there is going to be a delay, with a maximum of 20 working days for the response letter to be sent (in complex cases, 20 days maybe given from the outset).
The Responding Manager may contact you to discuss your complaint or invite you to a meeting, especially where you have raised a number of issues or if the situation is particularly complicated. In such circumstances, the Manager will have 10 working days from the date of the meeting, in which to send you a written response, detailing the discussion and any actions agreed.
You will be sent a feedback form with the response letter which we invite you to return if you have any further comments to make, including whether there are any unresolved issues. If we do not hear from you within 20 working days, your complaint will be closed.
Dissatisfaction with outcome of Stage 1
We will always try to find a satisfactory resolution to any issues that continue to cause you concern. If we have not met with you beforehand, we may arrange a face-to-face meeting with you so we can discuss your dissatisfaction in person, and you will be able to bring a supporter with you to any meeting arranged.
Where the matter has not been resolved locally, the complainant has the right to request consideration of their complaint at Stage 2.
The process for Stages 2 and 3 is different depending on whether the complaint is being dealt with under our Corporate or Statutory Complaint procedure. In all cases, Stages 2 and 3 are coordinated by the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team, however the expectation is that the majority of complaints should be considered (and resolved) at Stage 1.
Where your request for consideration at Stage 2 has been accepted, it is passed by the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team to a Manager with greater seniority than the Responding Manager from Stage 1. Together with the request for Stage 2, the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team passes the original complaint and response to the relevant Senior Manager.
The Team will write to you within 3 working days to say which Senior Manager is to be involved and to give a due date for a response, 10 working days from agreement to go to Stage 2 (or 20 working days in complex cases).
Dissatisfaction with outcome of Stage 2 – Corporate Complaints
As with earlier dissatisfaction, the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team together with the Manager, will attempt to find a resolution that is acceptable to you before going to Stage 3.
If you remain dissatisfied you may ask for your case to be reviewed at Stage 3. At Stage 3 your complaint and the Stage 1 and 2 responses are shared with the Council's Chief Executive, who will facilitate a review of your complaint.
We aim to complete the Stage 3 review within 10 working days, however this timescale may be extended in complex cases. If there is to be a delay, the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team will let you know when you may reasonably expect a response.
Where Stage 2 of the Statutory complaints procedure has concluded, if you remain dissatisfied, you may request further consideration of your complaint by a Review Panel at Stage 3. You will have 20 working days to request a Stage 3 Panel from receiving the Stage 2 reports and ‘letter of adjudication’ or within 20 working days of any adjudication meeting.
Unlike Stages 1 and 2, Stage 3 of the Statutory Complaint Procedure is not another investigation, therefore it is not possible to consider a complaint that has not yet been fully considered at Stage 2. It is a review conducted by three new independent people, also employed by Coram Voice, who have not been previously involved with the complaint. The Panel should be appointed within 10 working days of the request being received, and held within 30 working days.
The Review Panel will decide if the complaint has been properly investigated and whether there should have been any different or additional findings and recommendations. The Panel Chair will produce the 'Panel findings' within 5 working days of the Review meeting, following which a different Senior Manager will write to you within 15 working days. This is the final Stage of the Statutory Complaint Process.
No party should feel the need to be represented by lawyers at the Review Panel. The purpose of the Panel is to consider the complaint and wherever possible, work towards a resolution. It is not a quasi-judicial process and the presence of lawyers can work against the spirit of openness and problem-solving.
The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO)
The LGO can be approached by complainants at any point during the complaint process but you will usually be re-directed to the Local Authority to complete all 3 Stages of its complaint procedure first.
The LGO will consider if there has been any maladministration and it makes recommendations to the Local Authority where it feels this has been the case.
Useful contact details
The Local Government Ombudsman
PO Box 4771
Tel: 03000 610 614 (Calls to 03 numbers cost no more than calls to national geographic numbers starting 01 or 02).
Text: ‘call back’ to 07624 811 595
Fax: 02476 820 001
The Local Government Ombudsman website
Information Governance Team
Cambridgeshire County Council
Scott House, 5 George Street
Tel: 01223 699 137
Information Commissioner's Office
Tel: 0303 123 1113
Information Commissioner's Office website
Department of Health and Social Care
39 Victoria Street
Tel: 0207 210 4850
Department of Health and Social Care website
Department of Education
Tel: 0370 000 2288
Department of Education website
Social Work England
1 North Bank
Tel: 0808 196 2274
The National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS)
1 Tower Road
Telephone: 0808 808 1001 (This is a Freephone number from landlines. Calls from mobiles may be chargeable). Text: 0743 596 7405