Compliments, comments and complaints about Children's Services
We take all compliments, comments and complaints about our services very seriously. By listening to children and young people and their parents/carers, and learning from their experiences, we can find out what people really think about the services we provide. We want to hear your views, so we can work together to improve services.
You may want to compliment a member of staff or a part of the service that you have found helpful. We will record your compliment and make sure that the people or services you have told us about are made aware of how you feel.
You may want to comment on how we could do things better. We will record your comment and make sure that it is passed to the relevant manager.
We want to resolve complaints quickly and informally if possible. If you are able to talk to your social worker, independent reviewing officer or the manager who delivers your service this is often the quickest and best way to get a problem solved.
However, if you feel you need to submit a formal complaint this may be because you feel we could have given you a better service. You can complain if:
- you think a service you received wasn't right or good enough
- you think our staff have not behaved or treated you in the way you would have liked
- you have been refused a service that you feel you should have received
- you are unhappy with our assessment, care management or review processes
- our policies have adversely affected you
- you have had to wait for a decision or a service or action to be taken
- you are unhappy with a decision - you can usually complain about the process for reaching a decision, but not the decision itself
This is not an exhaustive list and a complaints officer can advise further. Where there is an existing appeals process in place (for example, school place admission, home to school transport, statements of special educational needs, financial allowances) these issues can't be looked at through the complaints procedure but we can direct you to more information about these processes.
Please note that if it has been over 12 months since the subject of the complaint came to your attention and you then tell us about it, the council may not consider your complaint. This is in accordance with recommendations made by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
Complaints about schools and school staff must be made to the school directly using their own complaints procedure. Please speak to the head teacher or school office for more information in the first instance.
Who can make a compliment, comment or complaint
- Any child or young person (or a parent of theirs or someone who has parental responsibility for them) who is being looked after by the local authority or is not looked after by them but is a child in need.
- Any local authority foster carer (including those caring for children placed through independent fostering agencies).
- Children leaving care.
- Special Guardians or someone who has applied to be assessed as a Special Guardian.
- A child or young person (or their parent) for whom a Special Guardian order is in force.
- Any child or young person who may be adopted, their parents and guardians.
- Persons wishing to adopt a child.
- Any other person to whom arrangements for the provision of adoption services extend.
- Adopted persons, their parents, natural parents and former guardians.
- Any other person who the local authority considers has sufficient interest in the child or young person's welfare to warrant their representations being considered.
Get help to make a complaint
Some people may need help to make their views known. We can offer support for people whose first language is not English, or with a specific communication need such as Braille, large print or audio format.
You are welcome to have a friend or supporter speak on your behalf or be with you at every stage of your complaint. If you are a young person and want help to make a complaint, NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) can help and support you. This is an independent and confidential service. Call 0808 808 1001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to get in touch
Use any of the following contact details to arrange to speak to us in person:
- Email us at CYPSComplaints@durham.gov.uk.
- Write to us at Complaints Officer, Children and Young People's Services, Durham County Council, County Hall, Durham, DH1 5UJ.
- Call the complaints officer on 03000 265 762 or text for a call back 07387 252 448.
The complaints officer is your link to Children's Services within the council and will help you to have your say. Their role is to be impartial, independent and to ensure that your complaint is dealt with promptly and responded to appropriately. If you have any queries about making a complaint or our processes in general then please get in touch using any of the methods above.
You will need to provide us with:
- your name and address
- a contact telephone number
- an email address if you have one
- the name, address, date of birth of the child or young person if you are making a complaint on their behalf and your relationship to them
- an explanation of what you are unhappy about - your complaint detail
- what you would like to see happen as a result of your complaint - your desired outcomes
Learning from compliments, comments and complaints
We are committed to improving our services to children, young people and their families as a result of your comments. We want to hear about the areas of our service that you value and understand why. Your ideas about how we can improve our services are welcomed.
Children's Services complaints process
Most complaints about children's social care services are sometimes referred to as 'statutory complaints' because the council is duty bound to consider complaints that qualify under The Children Act 1989 Representations Procedure (England) Regulations 2006. Where this does not apply then complaints about Children's Services may be considered under the council's corporate complaints procedures. This has three stages (investigation by CYPS, review by Council Feedback Team, Ombudsman).
The statutory complaints process
The statutory complaints process has four stages once the complaint is received:
Stage 1: Local resolution, attempt to resolve issues
Our aim is to respond within 10 working days of receipt of a complaint, but in the case of more complex complaints an extra 10 working days is allowed in order to permit a more complete response.
If complaint is not resolved, move to Stage 2.
Stage 2: Formal enquiries, independent investigation
Response within 25 working days but this timescale can be extended up to a maximum of 65 working days and where this happens we will keep you informed.
If complaint is not resolved, move to Stage 3.
Stage 3: Review panel considers complaint
The review panel will be held within 30 working days of receiving your request and will consider the reasons for your continued dissatisfaction.
If complaint is not resolved, move to Stage 4.
Stage 4: Local Government Ombudsman
If you remain dissatisfied you have the right to refer your complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is there to consider complaints about council services and you can approach them at any time during your complaint.
Complaints dealt with under the council's corporate complaints procedure
Complaints about Children's Services that do not relate to statutory functions are dealt with under the council's corporate complaints procedures. A corporate complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction about the council's services that requires a response and is not covered by one of our other feedback mechanisms. Responses to corporate complaints should be issued within 10 working days whenever possible. If you are unhappy with the response you can contact the Council's Feedback Team to ask for a review of the response. If they feel there would be no value to a further investigation they may advise you to go to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO).
- Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, PO Box 4771, Coventry, CV4 0EH
- Telephone: 03000 610 614
- Text 'call back' to 07624 811 595 and someone from the LGSCO will ring you back
- Website: Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman
If you are an adult who needs help in submitting or pursuing a complaint and you have mental health difficulties, you may wish to contact the following advocacy service:
- Rethink Mental Illness County Durham Advocacy Service, Unit 15 Crook Business Centre, New Road, Crook, County Durham, DL15 8QX
- Telephone: 01388 766310
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: Rethink
Complaints that we can not consider or that may be limited in what we can investigate
Please note that the complaints processes in Children's Services do not allow the council to consider complaints about any matters which should be raised as part of a legal process. This includes the content of Section 7 reports written for private law cases in the Family Court. We also can't consider complaints about cases where there is an ongoing police investigation or prosecution via Court (you can re-submit the complaint on completion of the police investigation or court case).
We are also limited in what we can investigate in relation to:
- complaints about what a professional said or how they said it - without evidence
- complaints about how you 'felt'; we can only acknowledge your feelings
- issues about a child's case for whom you do not have Parental Responsibility (PR) - if you are complaining on behalf of a child for whom you do not have PR, any response would be very limited, due to the council not being allowed to share any information with you about the child's case
- CYPS not taking into account your mental or physical health needs, if you have not informed CYPS of such needs, how those needs affect you and what can assist you
Complaints where your objective is to claim compensation will be declined because for this, you would need to seek independent advice to make a legal claim against the council through Legal Services (Litigation). We can also decline a complaint if you have stated you are taking legal action against the council, or intend to.