Salford Children's Services Procedures Manual Salford City Council website
Greater Manchester SCB Procedures
Greater Manchester SCB Procedures Greater Manchester SCB Procedures

3.15.3 Comments, Complaints and Compliments

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This is the procedure for dealing with complaints made about Salford Children Care Services.

There are separate procedures for Salford City Council Corporate complaints. (See Section 16, Salford City Council Corporate Complaint Procedure.)

In addition, although it would be anticipated that concerns would be expressed within or to an organisation, there are links to three whistleblowing sites, including Ofsted and the NSPCC which can be used by staff and professionals.

Whistleblowing is when someone who works in or for an organisation and wishes to raise concerns about malpractice, wrongdoing, unlawful practices or risks within an organisation and this has not been dealt with despite concerns being raised; they believe their employer will cover it up or they feel they will be treated unfairly. Callers are protected in law.                                                                                                              

RELATED GUIDANCE

Raising Concerns At Work (Whistleblowing Guidance for Workers and Employers in Health and Social Care)

Ofsted, Whistleblowing about saefeguarding in local authority children’s services

NSPCC, Whistleblowing advice Line

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in May 2016 by adding links to the Ofsted Guidance and the NSPCC whistleblowing advice line. (See Related Guidance.)


Contents

  1. Legislative Background
  2. Approach when Service User Expresses Dissatisfaction with the Service
  3. Overview of Procedures under the Children Act
  4. Stage 1 - Complaints Received by the Customer First Officer
  5. Stage 2 - Formal Complaint
  6. Stage 3 - Complaints Panel - Review of Investigation
  7. The Local Government Ombudsman
  8. Settlements/Remedies
  9. Standards and Service Improvement
  10. Complaints Involving other Agencies
  11. Links to other Procedures
  12. Roles and Responsibilities
  13. Definitions
  14. Compliments
  15. Quick Guides for Staff, Children and Young People
  16. Salford City Council Corporate Complaint Procedure


1. Legislative Background

Salford Children Social Care Services has a statutory responsibility to respond to Complaints as defined under The Children Act 1989, Representations Procedure (England) Regulations 2006 and taking into consideration the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, and the Adoption and Children Act 2000. 

Every Child Matters: Change for Children sets out the Governments agenda for improving outcomes for every child. This guidance follows the core principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Every Child Matters: Change for Children which puts children’s views and wishes at the forefront of the decision-making process. Services must ensure that vulnerable children and young people get the help they need, when they need it, whenever they make a complaint however large or small. A person should not be hindered from accessing the Complaints Procedures because of their disability, race, age or gender.

There are separate procedures for Salford City Council Corporate Complaints.


2. Approach when Service User Expresses Dissatisfaction with the Service

If someone says they are unhappy with their service:

  • Attempt to resolve their problem / dissatisfaction immediately;
  • Avoid passing them on to someone else, if it is something that can be resolved with the staff member’s capability and knowledge;
  • Be sympathetic (you can agree they have a problem but not necessarily agree that the problem is our fault);
  • Do not take sides;
  • Do not criticise colleagues or the directorate;
  • Repeat back to them what has been said by them;
  • Say sorry that they are upset.

If the problem cannot be resolved:

  • Say what happens next. Outline the complaint process that is summarised within the quick guide for staff. Sign post the complainant to the online complaint form that can be accessed on www.salford.gov.uk or provide the complainant with the name and contact number of the Customer First Officer;
  • If the complainant speaks another language that you don't; make every effort to get their name, address, telephone number and the language they speak. Pass this information to the Customer First Officer and they will make the necessary arrangements;
  • In recording a complaint ask the complainant what is the outcome they are seeking. This may not always be possible to achieve but it helps to clarify the nature of the complaint. (See also acknowledgement);
  • The complainant has the option of sending the complaint to the Customer First Officer or of addressing the complaint to the first line manager of the particular team or service;
  • Advice regarding the handling of a complaint should be sought from the Customer First Officer.


3. Overview of Procedures under the Children Act

  Action Timescale
STAGE 1 Problem solving
Attempt to resolve the complaint without a formal investigation.
Undertaken by direct line manager; support available from the Customer First Officer
Acknowledgement within 3 working days Inform the Customer First Officer of the complaint.
Full response (Stage 1) within 10 working days
If a response cannot be provided within 10 working days an extension of a further 10 working days should be agreed with the complainant and the Customer First Officer.
STAGE 2 Formal investigation
Undertaken by an Investigating Officer who is either fully independent or without direct line management involvement and who has no other involvement with the Complaint and an Independent Person.
Full response within 25 working days from acceptance of complaint as having proceeded to Stage 2
STAGE 3 Complaints Panel Review
If complainant remains dissatisfied with response to Stage 2
Panel to be convened within 20 working days of receipt of request.
Panel make recommendations to the Strategic Director with 5 days of the panel Director’s written response to complainant within 15 working days of the review.
  Contact the Local Government Ombudsman. Once the Directorate has had reasonable opportunity to address the Complaint the complainant may contact the Local Government Ombudsman. (I.e. the complaint does not have had to progress through all stages, if it is considered there has been unreasonable delay).

Who can complain?

  • Service users (past, current or potential) e.g. children leaving care, potential adopters, parents of looked after children, etc.;
  • Someone acting on behalf of a Service User. E.g. Advocates, friends etc.;
  • Foster carers (when related to child’s welfare).

Representations: 

The Directorate is also committed to organisational learning through taking note of when members of the public compliment the Directorate on the service it has provided. The Customer First Officer receives these compliments, and provides reports to Leadership Team on aspects of the service that have been praised or commended.


4. Stage 1 - Complaints Received by the Customer First Officer

Where a Complaint is received directly by the Customer First Officer s/he will:

  • Acknowledge the complaint in writing within 3 working days;
  • Agree the statement of the full nature of the complaint with the complainant;
  • Clarify the complaint, if necessary arranging to meet the individual. Ensure adequate information is obtained regarding the complainant / the service user (if this is different) / the service that is involved / outline of the complaint;
  • Clarify who is to look into the complaint (normally direct line manager), and inform them of the timescales within which the complainant should expect a response;
  • Ensure the manager responding to the complainant provides a full response to the complainant within 10 working days;
  • Give advice as necessary on looking into the complaint, of information required for recording purposes and advice on the response to the complainant;
  • Ensure the complaint is fully documented and correspondence filed.

Complaints received at front-line

A Stage 1 Complaint may be received directly by any member of staff. (See approach when service user expresses dissatisfaction) The complaint has equal importance as one received directly by the Customer First Officer, and the manager has responsibility to:

  • Notify the Customer First Officer that they have received a complaint, either by phone, email or by completing the online complaints form at intranet.salford.gov.uk;
  • Acknowledge the complaint in writing within 3 working days;
  • Look into the complaint, seeking to resolve problems asking for procedural guidance from the Customer First Officer as necessary;
  • Send a draft of the response letter to the Customer First Officer for a quality assurance check - and amend draft as necessary based on advice;
  • Provide a final written response to the complainant within 10 working days setting out the findings of the Stage 1 problem solving process;
  • Keep the Customer First Officer informed if any further contact is received from the complainant;
  • Notify the Customer First Officer of any ‘Learning Issues’ for the Service which have been identified as part of the complaint;
  • Ensure the complaint is fully documented and correspondence filed.

Where the line manager is directly involved in the issues referred to in the complaint, the manager will need to seek advice from the Customer First Officer and identify another manager to consider and respond to the complainant.

Extension

Where a complete response cannot be provided within the timescale a further 10 days’ extension can be implemented. If necessary, the local authority may also suspend Stage 1 until an Advocate has been appointed. The maximum amount of time that Stage 1 should take is 20 working days. After this deadline the complainant can request consideration at Stage 2 if s/he so wishes.

If the complainant remains dissatisfied s/he has the right to request a Stage 2 formal investigation within 20 days of receiving the Stage 1 response.

Summary Stage 1 Clarify who is to look into the complaint (normally direct line manager)

Stage 1
Receipt of complaint
Acknowledgement within 3 working days by the Customer First Officer
Appoint Investigating Officer (normally direct line manager)
Informal investigation/attempt to resolve the complaint
Investigating Officer sends draft response to the Customer First Officer
Aim to provide a full response to the complainant within 10 working days

Additionally:

A complainant may withdraw a complaint at anytime.

There may be some circumstances where a complaint may be suspended.

Where a complainant is complaining about a decision, it is often appropriate to freeze (defer) implementing that decision until the outcome of the complaint is known.

It should be noted that an anonymous letter or call cannot be registered as a complaint - however, there may still be grounds to investigate the issues raised.

Only in certain circumstances, is it appropriate to decide not to investigate. Please contact the Customer First Officer for further advice.


5. Stage 2 - Formal Complaint

Stage 2 procedures will normally follow the conclusion of stage 1. A complainant has the right to contact the Customer First Officer to request a Stage 2 investigation. The Customer First Officer may also consider it appropriate to instigate an independent investigation under Stage 2 (bypassing Stage 1) where a Stage 2 investigation is requested:

  • The Customer First Officer must ensure that the details of the complaint and the complainant’s desired outcome are recorded in writing and agreed with the complainant. This may be achieved either by correspondence or by meeting the complainant to discuss, followed by a written record of what was agreed. S/he may wish to do this in conjunction with the Investigating Officer and Independent Person appointed to conduct Stage 2;
  • The Customer First Officer will liaise with the Assistant Director Specialist Services to identify an Investigating Officer and whether this person is internal or external of the directorate;
  • The Customer First Officer will appoint an Independent Person;
  • A meeting will be convened by the Customer First Officer with the Independent Person and the Investigating Officer to pass relevant information and to clarify roles and responsibilities;
  • The Customer First Officer will acknowledge the request informing the complainant of the people involved in the investigation, and the Adjudication Officer who will consider the completed reports;
  • The Customer First Officer will give advice throughout the investigation and give advice on the reports to be prepared for the Adjudication Meeting;
  • Once the reports have been prepared The Customer First Officer will convene an Adjudication Meeting chaired by the Adjudicating Officer. The Adjudicating Officer may wish to meet the Customer First Officer, IO and IP, to clarify any aspects of the reports;
  • Ensure a response to the complainant is made within 25 working days of the request to proceed to Stage 2 by the Adjudication Officer. This response should establish whether the complaint was upheld, not upheld or partially upheld;
  • The response will also inform the complainant of their right to ask for their complaint to be considered by a Complaints Review Panel, providing they request this in orally or writing within 20 working days;
    • Where they remain dissatisfied with the response;
    • Where the investigation was not completed within specified timescales.
  • Where it is not possible to complete the investigation within 25 working days, Stage 2 may be extended to a maximum of 65 working days. All extensions should be agreed by the Customer First Officer. The complainant should be informed of the reasons for the delay and a date for completion in writing;
  • Where the complaint refers to a service commissioned by the Council (e.g. purchased foster care placement), there will be an expectation that the agency undertakes an investigation and provide written report, which complies with the standards of national regulations. The Independent Person will be appointed by the Council.

Summary of Stage 2

Complainant request Stage 2
Clarification of complaint
Acknowledgement within 3 working days by the Customer First Officer
Appointment of IO and IP
Customer First Officer meets IO and IP
IO and IP meet complainant to agree terms of reference and desired outcomes. Explore possibilities of resolution
Formal investigation
IO sends draft report to the Customer First Officer and IP
IP sends report to Customer First Officer
Reports sent to Adjudication Officer
Adjudication meeting. Plan of action completed
Customer First Officer sends response from Adjudication Officer, reports from IO and IP, action plan and information about Stage 3 within 25 working days


6. Stage 3 - Complaints Panel - Review of Investigation

If the complainant remains dissatisfied with the response of the department, they can request to move to Stage 3. The complainant contacts the Customer First Officer within 20 working days of being notified of the outcome of the Stage 2 investigation, and wishes the matter to be referred to a Panel for consideration stating his/her reasons for this request, the Customer First Officer will make arrangements for the Panel to be convened within 30 working days of the request.

The Panel will consist of three independent persons who do not work (or have not worked for the last 3 years) for Salford City Council. Good practice would dictate that consideration be given to panel members being of an appropriate gender and ethnic balance and also consideration of any special needs of the complainant.

When the Panel meets, it will consider;

  • Oral or written statements from the complainant;
  • Oral or written statements from the Adjudication Officer and Investigating Officer;
  • Oral or written statements from the Independent Person involved in the Stage 2 investigation.

The complainant is entitled to attend the meeting of the Panel, and may be accompanied by a support person or Advocate, who can be nominated to speak on the complainant’s behalf.

Within 5 working days of the conclusion of the review, the members of the Panel must decide upon their recommendations.

The Customer First Officer will ensure that the complainant, Strategic Director of Children Services, the Adjudication Officer, Investigating Officer and Independent Person receive copies of the recommendations.

The Strategic Director must consider what action should be taken in relation to the Complaint in the light of the recommendations made by the panel, and should invite comment from all the attendees, including the Independent Person from Stage 2.

The Strategic Director will ensure that a written response to the complainant is made within 15 working days of receiving the Panels report.

The response should advise the complainant that they may refer the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman should they remain dissatisfied.

Summary Stage 3

Complainant request Stage 3
Request by complainant within 20 working days of receiving the Stage 2 response stating the reasons why s/he wants to proceed to Stage 3.
Review Panel organised within 30 working days
Panel sends report to Strategic Director of Children Services within 5 days
Strategic Director of Children Services sends response within 15 days


7. The Local Government Ombudsman

The Local Government Ombudsman is completely independent of Council procedures.

If the complainant remains dissatisfied with the decision, they may contact the Local Government Ombudsman who can decide whether to investigate a complaint where it is alleged that there has been ‘mal-administration’ which has caused’ personal injustice’. The Ombudsman will not normally investigate a complaint which has not first been considered under either the Directorates or the Councils complaints procedures.

However the Ombudsman will consider the following exceptions amongst others;

  • Complaints where there has been unreasonable delay by the Council in processing a complaint;
  • Complaints made by children and young people - up to the age of 21 or 25 if disabled.

Where the Ombudsman decides that it is appropriate for an investigation to take place, notice is given to the Chief Executive; and the complaint is then forwarded to the Customer First Officer who has responsibility for coordinating responses on behalf of the Council.

In cases where the complaint is against Children’s Services, the Strategic Director will nominate an appropriate person to work with the Customer First Officer to ensure that the necessary information is provided so that a response can be made to the Ombudsman within the allocated timescale of 15 working days.

The Ombudsman may discontinue their involvement in the complaint at any stage. In the majority of cases a decision is reached once the Council’s comments have been provided. A letter explaining the Ombudsman’s reasons for not pursuing the complaint further is sent to the complainant and the Council.

In a small number of cases, however, the Ombudsman may wish to interview any officers or members with involvement in the complaint, or require access to any relevant files or documentation. (The Ombudsman has the same right of access to information as the High Court).

When an investigation has taken place the Ombudsman may if considered appropriate, prepare a draft report of key issues, which is circulated to the Council and complainant and any involved third parties and after considering any comments, a formal report is then issued. (An announcement is made in the press and the report is made available for public inspection for a period of three weeks - although the Council is named, the real names of individuals are not used in the report. Where the Ombudsman has found mal-administration causing injustice, the Council must consider the report and advise the Ombudsman of the action it has taken or proposes to take.

Early referral:

A complaint could be referred directly to the Ombudsman after a Stage 2 when:

  • There is very robust report;
  • A complete adjudication has taken place;
  • An outcome where all complaints have been upheld (or all significant complaints relating to service delivery in respect of the qualifying individual);
  • The Council is providing a clear action plan for delivery; and
  • The Council agrees to meet the majority or all of the desired outcomes presented by the complainant regarding social services functions.

Where this is the case, and the complainant agrees, the Customer First Officer can then approach the Local Government Ombudsman and ask him to consider the complaint directly, without first going through a Review Panel.


8. Settlements/Remedies

At any stage of a complaint the Directorate may accept that a complaint was justified, the complainant suffered injustice and that the complainant is entitled to a ‘remedy’. Section 92 of the Local Government Act 2000 confirms that councils are empowered to remedy ‘injustice arising from mal-administration’ without having to wait for the involvement of the Ombudsman.

The object of a settlement / remedy is to put the complainant back into the position he or she would have been in but for the fault. The Directorate must ensure consistency and fairness in dealing with cases, whilst recognising that each case needs to be considered on its own merits. The Directorate must be clear that the injustice was caused by the consequences of its ‘mal-administration’. The remedy must be appropriate and proportionate to the injustice and may include one or more of the following:

In some cases an apology is all that is required by way of a remedy.

In some cases an outcome of the complaint is to review specific practice, procedure or policy. (The complainant should normally be informed where this of the action taken place).

In some cases specific actions will be required as part or all of the remedy.

In other cases it will be appropriate for the Directorate to consider the payment of financial compensation either for direct loss and/or for distress caused. Decisions on offering a financial remedy need to taken at the level of Deputy Director or above.


9. Standards and Service Improvement

Learning from Complaints - Ensuring Service Improvement

Compliance with the Complaints Procedure allows the service to consider and then make improvements to service delivery. In this way the Directorate seeks to avoid wherever possible similar problems/ service deficiencies occurring in the future.

Managers investigating any complaint must consider whether there are learning issues arising from the investigation. At the conclusion of a complaint at Stage 1 the investigating manager will complete the Learning from Complaints Section included within the complaint action plan and return to the Customer First Officer.

Recommendations are to be recorded by the Customer First Officer who will ensure they are reported to the relevant service. Significant (or cross- cutting issues) will be reported to the Head of Service. Each Head of Service will confirm their intention to address the issue, and allocate a lead officer responsible for implementation.

Improvements to service as a result of upheld complaints will be reported as part of the annual report on complaints.

Monitoring Standards

The ability of the Directorate to address complaints within the timescales specified within the procedures will be monitored on a monthly basis and a quarterly report prepared for the Senior Management Team.

Annual Report

An annual report of the Directorate’s ability to respond to complaints will be prepared which will be available to Leadership Team, Senior Leadership Team, Scrutiny, Elected Members, staff and general public.


10. Complaints Involving other Agencies

Complaints received about a service provided by another Agency

Where the Directorate has received a complaint in relation to another agency which is providing a service on behalf of the Directorate the Customer First Officer has a responsibility to notify the agency and pass on the complaint. In these circumstances the Directorate will seek confirmation that the complaint was fully investigated by the other agency.

Complaints received by other Directorate’s.

Where another directorate receives a complaint referring to Children Social Care Services this should be forwarded by them to the Customer First Officer as promptly as possible. All response times to the complainant are based on the first date on which the council received the complaint.

Complaints received from another agency

When a complaint is received from another organisation (e.g. school or Health Service) the Customer First Officer will refer it to the manager of the appropriate team to deal with outside this procedure.

Complaints received which refer to more than one Directorate / Agency

Where a complaint received refers to more than one directorate of the Council the Customer First Officer will ensure that there is a named officer responsible for coordinating the response to the complainant.


11. Links to other Procedures

Member enquiries

Where a MP or Local Councillor contacts the directorate to enquire about an issue, this normally is dealt with outside of the complaints procedures. However, where the most appropriate course of action is to refer the issue to the Customer First Officer, the member will be informed that this is the course of action to be taken.

Employee complaints

The complaints procedure does not address employee complaints. Employees have recourse through the employee grievance procedures.

Internal complaints

The Social Services Complaints Procedure is not the appropriate procedure to deal with disputes between directorates.

Management investigations

When a complaint raises a management concern that leads to a management investigation, the complainant must be informed that the complaint is being addressed through a management investigation. The Customer First Officer will respond to the complainant, and advise on the information that will be disclosed to them.

Police investigation

Where the complaint leads to police involvement, the Customer First Officer will consider whether it would be appropriate to suspend the complaint process, for example where the complaint investigation may impede or hinder police action, and will keep the complainant informed.

Child Protection

Where consideration of a complaint leads to concerns about the welfare of children, these should be referred immediately to the Child Protection Unit or the Police. The handling of any associated complaint can be suspended if necessary.

Allegations

Any allegation received regarding an adult working with children in Salford should be referred to the Allegations Officer (LADO) (Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Unit) immediately.

Unreasonably persistent complainants

If the complainant is persisting because his complaints have not been considered in full then The Council must address this (normally by invoking the next stage). However, if the Council has already done so and has demonstrated this to the complainant, then the Customer First Officer should consider whether the complainant is now inappropriately persistent. The following guidance should only be pursued where absolutely necessary.

  • Persistent complainant;
  • Unreasonably persistent complaints.

Action in response

Where the relationship becomes unworkable, the Customer First Officer should ensure that s/he demonstrates that s/he has considered the complaints as fully as is appropriate. This should normally be through advising the complaint that:

  • He does not constitute a person who may complain and/or that his complaints do not fall within the relevant criteria for what may be complained about;
  • The Council has either offered or provided consideration of the issues through another procedure (e.g. the corporate complaints procedure);
  • The Council will consider the substantive issues at all stages of the complaints procedure; or
  • The matters raised are not sufficiently different to justify being considered as a new complaint.

Where the Council has attempted to move the complaint on to the next stage but the complainant has either refused or delayed such progression through excessive objection to the process rather than addressing the substantive issues of the complaint themselves, the Council should advise the complainant that this is causing delay and is unreasonable use of the complaints procedure.

In some instances, abusive, threatening or other unreasonable behaviour may be a feature of the complainant’s disease or mental illness (e.g. chronic anxiety). In such cases, if possible, the Council should consider securing a whole case review from all professionals involved. The Council should refer to the Mental Capacity Act.

In all cases where the Customer First Officer decides to treat someone as an unreasonably persistent complainant, s/he should write to tell the complainant why s/he believes his behaviour falls into that category, what action s/he is taking and the duration of that action. S/He should also inform the complainant how he can challenge the decision if he disagrees with it (this should normally include information regarding the Local Government Ombudsman).

Where a complainants’ complaint is closed and he persists in communicating about it, the Customer First Officer may decide to terminate contact with that complainant.


12. Roles and Responsibilities

Customer First Officer (Responsibility at Stage 1)

The Customer First Officer is responsible for:

  • Coordination of the complaints procedure;
  • Ensuring advocacy services are explained, offered and provided when required for children and young people;
  • Agreeing the statement of a complaint;
  • Ensuring everyone involved in responding to a complaint is familiar with the procedure;
  • Identifying any special issues/ needs that would need to be accommodated to address and respond fully to the complaint;
  • Liaising with senior managers on aspects of the complaint - including designating managers to respond to complaints on behalf of Social Services;
  • Liaising with other agencies or departments as necessary - e.g. Solicitors, Legal Department, and Corporate Complaints Team etc.

Customer First Officer (Responsibility at Stage 2)

  • In liaison with senior managers, helping to identify and appointing investigating officers, as necessary;
  • Identifying and appointing Independent Persons as necessary to meet the requirements of the procedures.

Customer First Officer (Responsibilities- general)

  • Providing written and oral advice to members of the public;
  • Providing advice on good practice to Children’s Services social care staff;
  • Ensuring that procedures are undertaken within the time frames specified;
  • Ensuring adequate records are maintained;
  • Ensuring standards of responding to complaints are maintained;
  • Monitoring and reporting on performance and issues for service improvement;
  • Compiling the annual report and such other reports as required;
  • Providing training to managers involved in dealing with complaints.

Stage 2 Adjudication Officer (Responsibilities- general)

The Adjudicating Officer will consider the complaints, the findings, conclusions, and recommendations, any report from the IP and the complainants desired outcomes.

This will normally be the Assistant Director Specialist Services

Investigating Officer (Responsibility at Stage 1)

The Investigating Officer will take the lead in conducting the investigation:

  • Providing a comprehensive, open, transparent and fair consideration of the complaint through:
  • Sensitive and thorough interviewing of the complainant clarifying the complaint with the complainant, and the desired outcomes;
  • Establishing the facts of the case, consideration of records and other relevant information;
  • Interviewing with staff and other people relevant to the complaint, analysing information;
  • Preparation of the draft response in a clear, plain language;
  • Effectively liaising with the complainant or his Advocate and the Customer First Officer as appropriate;
  • Having the child/ young person/ adult’s best interests at the centre of the investigation.

Investigating Officer (Responsibility at Stage 2)

The Investigating Officer will take the lead in conducting the investigation:

  • Providing a comprehensive, open, transparent and fair consideration of the complaint through:
  • Sensitive and thorough interviewing of the complainant clarifying the complaint with the complainant, and the desired outcomes;
  • Consideration of social work records and other relevant information;
  • Establishing the facts of the case, and examining relevant procedures, policy and legislation;
  • Interviewing with staff and other people relevant to the complaint; a analysing information;
  • Preparation of the report of the investigation in a clear, plain language;
  • Effectively liaising with the complainant or his Advocate, the Independent Person and the Customer First Officer as appropriate;
  • Having the child/ young person/ adult’s best interests at the centre of the investigation;
  • Looking for points of resolution throughout the investigation and, taking appropriate action;
  • Providing a written report to the Adjudication Officer with recommendations for action, suggestions for resolution and areas of good practice - within statutory timescales;
  • Negotiating timescales with the complainant (bearing in mind statutory timescales), and keeping the complainant informed throughout the investigation;
  • Provide a verbal feedback to the complainant at the conclusion of the investigation.

Independent Person (Stage 2)

An Independent Person is someone from outside of the department, with sufficient understanding and knowledge of Social Services and of the Complaints Procedures to make a full and independent deliberation of the complaint. The role of the Independent Person is to introduce an objective view to the investigation. The Independent Person is required to:

  • Have the client’s best interests/welfare at the centre of the investigation;
  • Work co-operatively with the Investigating Officer;
  • Ensure that the process of investigation is open, transparent and fair;
  • Be able to comment on the speed, thoroughness and fairness of the investigation;
  • Find out all the facts by being actively involved in all meetings, discussions and interviews, together with the Investigating Officer. Undertake additional interviews as necessary and have access to all relevant documentation to obtain an independent view;
  • Provide an objective written report based upon the evidence with recommendations for action and resolution and also suggest improvements to methods of working;
  • Provide verbal feedback to the complainant along with the Investigating Officer, based upon their report.


13. Definitions

Representations

The Directorate is committed to organisational learning through taking note of when children, young people, their family, their carers and members of the public compliment the service. The Customer First Officer receives these compliments, and provides reports to service areas on aspects of the service that have been praised or commended.

Acknowledgement:

An acknowledgement must be made to the complainant in writing within 3 working days. It should

  • Identify who will be the Investigating Officer responding to the complaint;
  • Timescales within which the complainant should expect a response;
  • Contact details of the Customer First Officer.

A face to face may be required with the complainant to ensure that all these elements are covered.

Once full details of the complaint and the desired outcomes are known a written complaint action plan should be sent to the complainant for agreement and signature as soon as possible.

Withdrawal of a Complaint

An individual can withdraw a complaint at any time. The manager investigating the complaint will notify the Customer First Officer of the complainant’s intention. The Customer First Officer will acknowledge the withdrawal by letter.

Suspension of a Complaint

There are a number of circumstances where the complaint may be suspended (e.g. at the individuals request, where at risk of prejudicing Court or Police Proceedings or management investigations), in all cases the complainant must be notified of a decision to suspend, and it should be made clear in what circumstances the complaint will continue to be addressed.

Frozen / Deferred Decision

If the complaint is about a proposed change to a care plan, a placement or a service, the decision may need to be deferred (frozen) until the complaint is considered. Care should be taken if deferring a decision is likely to have a significant effect upon the mental or physical wellbeing of an individual.

The decision to defer should normally be made through detailed discussion and risk assessment between the Customer First Officer and the manager responsible for the service, within the context of the work being undertaken with the child or young person. Decisions need to be made on a case-by-case basis, but there should generally be a presumption in favour of freezing, unless there is a good reason against it (for example, if leaving a child or young person where they are would put them at risk). In cases where decisions are met with opposing views, advice should be sought from the appropriate Director in the Council.

Decision not to Investigate 

There is a presumption in favour of accepting complaints. However, where a complaint is made more than one year after the grounds to make the complaint arose and the complainant was capable to make the complaint earlier, or where there is now not sufficient access to information or individuals involved at the time to carry out a fair investigation, the Council may decline to investigate, but will provide the complainant with the reasons not to proceed.

Formal Complaint / Stage 2 Complaint

A Stage 2 complaint can investigated by a manager within the service without direct involvement with the complaint and without direct line management responsibility for the service being investigate or by an external person independent of the City Council. The investigation is undertaken with an independent person. Both investigators provide the Assistant Director Specialist Services with a report; on the basis of these reports the Assistant Director provides a response to the complainant.

Adjudication Meeting

An adjudication meeting is held towards the end of a Stage 2 Complaint. The meeting will consider the complaints, the findings, conclusions, and recommendations, any report from the IP and the complainants desired outcomes. The purpose of the adjudication meeting is to consider the reports and identify: its response; its decision on each point of complaint; and any action to be taken (with timescales for implementation). This will be recorded in an Action Plan that will be sent to the complainant and all the relevant managers.

Annual Report

An annual report (Apr - Mar) is to be prepared by the Customer First Officer, covering;

  • Representations made;
  • The number of complaints at each stage and any that were considered by the Local Government Ombudsman;
  • Who made complaints;
  • The types of complaints made;
  • The outcome of complaints;
  • Details about advocacy services provided under these arrangements;
  • Compliance with timescales, and complaints resolved within extended timescale as agreed;
  • The number of Compliments received;
  • Learning and service improvement, including changes to services that have been implemented and details of any that have not been implemented;
  • A summary of statistical data about the age, gender, disability, sexual orientation and ethnicity of complainants;
  • A review of the effectiveness of the complaints procedure.

Persistent complainant

  • A person who makes the same complaint repeatedly (with minor differences), but never accepts the outcomes;
  • A person who seeks an unrealistic outcome and persists until it is reached;
  • A person with a history of making other unreasonable persistent complaints.

Unreasonably persistent complaints

An unreasonably persistent complaint is likely to include some or all of the following:

  • An historic and irreversible decision or incident;
  • Frequent, lengthy, complicated and stressful contact with Council staff;
  • The complainant behaving in an aggressive manner to staff or being verbally abusive or threatening;
  • The complainant changing aspects of the complaint partway through the investigation or Review Panel;
  • The complainant making and breaking contact with the Council on an ongoing basis;
  • The complainant persistently approaching the Council through different routes about the same issue in the hope of getting different responses.

The complainant should receive the same standard of response as any other service user, and the Council can show that it has not discriminated against the persistent complainant.

If the situation is challenging but it is possible to proceed, staff should avoid giving unrealistic expectations on the outcome of the complaint.

Restricting access

The decision to restrict access to the complaints procedure should be taken by the Customer First Officer and should follow a prior warning to the complainant. Any restrictions imposed should be appropriate and proportionate. The options that the Customer First Officer is most likely to consider are:

  • Requesting contact in a particular form (for example, letters only);
  • Requiring contact to take place with a named officer;
  • Restricting telephone calls to specified days and times;
  • Asking the complainant to enter into an agreement about his future contact with the Council;
  • Informing the complainant that if he still does not cooperate with the advice given, any further correspondence that does not present significant new matters or new information will not necessarily be acknowledged, but will be kept on file.

Any new complaints from people who come under this policy should be treated on their individual merits.

In extreme cases, the Council may consider the following actions:

  • Referring the complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman before the complaints procedure has been exhausted;
  • Advising the complainant that it cannot assist further and informing them of their right to approach the Local Government Ombudsman.

The distinction between the two options above is that early referral to the Local Government Ombudsman is a positive action that can only be undertaken in agreement between the Council and the complainant. This is therefore the less likely option with persistent complainants.

Option 2 may arise where the Council does not agree with the complainant that the complaints are substantively valid and the two parties disagree on the way forward. This is more likely with a persistent complainant. Should the Council take this option, it should not contact the Local Government Ombudsman directly, but should indicate to the complainant that he may make this approach. The Council should confirm to the complainant that it is not responding to the complaint further.

The Local Government Ombudsman is likely to apply the test of reasonableness over the Councils response in a similar manner to an early referral and will have a range of options open to him.


14. Compliments

How to Send Compliments:

The preferred option to receive compliments is by using the online form that can be accessed on www.salford.gov.uk, however any other way (letter, e-mail etc) will be also accepted as long as it contains the following information:

  • Name of the Team;
  • Name of the person (service user or staff) sending the compliment;
  • Date;
  • Relation with service user;
  • Name of the service user if different;
  • Content of compliment.

Compliments need to be sent as soon as received. If they are sent after the cutting point (end of each quarter) it will not be reflected in the quarterly reports (although it will appear in the Annual Report).

What is a Compliment?

  • Compliments let us know when service users are happy with the service they receive;
  • It is an indication when things are working well and good service is recognised.

What happens with Compliments?

  • Compliments are logged on the corporate database (Citizen) and the figures are included in quarterly reports to Leadership Team and in the Annual report;
  • The Service Manager for the service complimented is notified by the Customer First Officer so the member of staff complimented can be informed of the compliment received.


15. Quick Guides for Staff, Children and Young People

Please find attached quick guides outlining the complaint process for staff, children and young people.


16. Salford City Council Corporate Complaint Procedure

To access Salford’s corporate complaint procedure and on-line complaint form please use the following link www.salford.gov.uk

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