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resources & information

what is a section 7 report?

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Section 7 reports (commonly referred to as a Welfare report) relate to private law proceedings when the Court is wanting information about a child's welfare, that is to say, what course of action will be best for the child in question. They are required under Section 7 of the Children Act 1989, & apply to applications made by individuals for an Order under Section 8 of the Children Act, 1989, which may be:


  • Child Arrangements Order
  • Prohibited Steps Order
  • Family Assistance Order


An Independent Social Worker may be required to write a Section Report for the Court in cases of divorce and separating parents. If a Childs parent have not even able to decide between themselves where their child is going to live and by who with and when the child will have contact with the other parent a decision will need to be made by the Court about where a child will live or when a child will visit.


It is the Independent Social Workers role to provide an independent evaluation and assessment of the situation that is evidence bases and advises the Court of the Childs wishes and feelings and what would be in the best interests of the child.

What is a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards Assessment?

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) ensures people who cannot consent to their care arrangements in a care home or hospital are protected if those arrangements deprive them of their liberty. Arrangements are assessed to check they are necessary and in the person’s best interests. Representation and the right to challenge a deprivation are other safeguards that are part of DoLS. 


  • The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards is an amendment to the Mental Capacity Act 2005. They apply in England and Wales only.
  • The Mental Capacity Act allows restraint and restrictions to be used – but only if they are in a person's best interests.
  • Extra safeguards are needed if the restrictions and restraint used will deprive a person of their liberty. These are called the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.
  • The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards can only be used if the person will be deprived of their liberty in a care home or hospital. In other settings, the Court of Protection can authorise a deprivation of liberty.
  • Care homes or hospitals must ask a local authority if they can deprive a person of their liberty. This is called requesting a standard authorisation.
  • There are six assessments which have to take place before a standard authorisation can be given.
  • If a standard authorisation is given, one key safeguard is that the person has someone appointed with legal powers to represent them. This is called the relevant person's representative and will usually be a family member or friend.
  • Other safeguards include rights to challenge authorisations in the Court of Protection and access to Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCAs

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ADULT SOCIAL CARE COMPLAINTS PROCEDURES & PROCESS

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Local Authority Adult Social Care Complaints Procedures

What the Legislation Says ….Each Local Authority has a responsibility in line with The Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations 2009 to have arrangements in place for dealing with complaints.   The Local Authority has a duty under the Regulationsto designate a “responsible person”the Regulations state this should be the Chief Executive of the Local Authority.  The responsible person must ensure compliance with these Regulations and that there is an effective system for the management, investigation, and resolution of complaints and concerns.  The responsible person must ensure that once a complaint investigation has been concluded, actions are identified and implemented where necessary.   The Local Authority under the same Regulations must also designate a “complaints manager” who is responsible for managing the procedures and considering complaints in accordance with the Regulations. These arrangements should ensure that:complaints are dealt with efficiently;  


  • complaints are properly investigated;
  • complainants receive, so far as is reasonably practicable 
  • complainants receive a timely and appropriate response;
  • complainants are told the outcome of the investigation of their complaint; and
  • the action that will be taken if necessary, in the light of the outcome of a complaint


Who Can Complain?

The following list is not exhaustive, but in short, the following people can make a complaint to adult social care:  


  • A person who receives or has received services from their local authorities Adult Social Care Service
  • A person who is affected, or likely to be affected by the action, omission or decision of their local authorities Adult Social Care Services
  • A person whose complaint about local authorities Children Social Care Services falls outside the remit of the Children Act 1989 Representation Procedure (England) Regulations 2006
  • A representative of a child or a person who has died or a person who is unable to make the complaint themselves due to physical incapacity or lack of capacity within the meaning of the Mental Capacity Act 2005
  • A representative of a person who has requested that the representative act on their behalf
  • A complaint can only be made by/on behalf or by someone to whom the Local Authority may have the duty or power to provide a service


What Can be Complained About?

A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction and can be made about anything that is connected with the Local Authority exercising it's adult's social care function.  For example:  


  • If you receive poor service from the Local Authorities Adult Social Care Services– including services that the Local Authority has arranged but are delivered by an independent care provider
  • a failure to provide a service
  • a delay in providing a service
  • poor quality of service
  • a failure of staff to comply with Council policies  
  • the conduct or behavior of a member of staff


As a result of a complaint other issues may arise which may require the intervention of different procedures, for example:  


  • Allegations of safeguarding which should be dealt with under the Local Authorities Multi-Agency Safeguarding Policy and Procedures (Care Act 2014, s.42)
  • Conduct that should be investigated under the Local Authorities Staff Disciplinary Procedures
  • Allegations of criminal offences which should be investigated by the Police
  • Where legal proceedings are pending concerning the substance of the complaint


What does the Complaints Procedure Work?

The complaints process varies across council to council, but usually, they include 2 or more stages, each operated by a more senior member of staff than the last stage or, in some cases, elected councillors. At each stage, the council should send the complainant, or the representative written response and requesting that the complainant makes comments. On receipt of an adult social care complaint, the council will assess the complaint to ensure that their adult social care complaints procedure is the most appropriate procedure to use. In some instances, the complaint may relate to other bodies working in partnership with the council; in this instance, the parties should jointly respond and determine which procedure the complaint will be administered under.  In some cases, the complaint may be outside of the jurisdiction of the local authority; in these circumstances, the council should notify the complainant as to which organisation they should raise their complaint with. 


The complainant may make the complaint orally, in writing or electronically.  The council must ensure that all complaints are recorded as they have a duty under the Regulations to provide an annual report on complaints and compliments.  A copy of this record should be sent to the claimant. It should be noted that in line with the Regulations a complaint cannot be made after 12 months has elapsed after the date of when the complaint occurred or if later, the date the complainant became aware of the issue that has caused them to raise the complaint.  However, if the council is satisfied that the complainant had good reasons for not making the complaint in that period or notwithstanding the delay it is still possible to investigate the complaint effectively and fairly the complaint will be accepted. 


The local authority must ensure that they have acknowledged the complaint no later than 3 working days after the day on which they received the complaint. Usually, this will be in writing, but it can be orally.  At this stage, the council must offer to discuss the complaint with the complainant and how the complaint will be handled and the amount of time the investigation into the complaint will take.   


Most Local Authorities at this stage of the process and after gaining a clearer picture of the complaint from the complainant will forward the complaint and relevant information to a manager of the service the complaint is about to investigate the complaint.  The complaints manager and the allocated investigating manager should attempt to resolve the complaint as quickly and efficiently as possible and should keep the complainant updated throughout this process.  Most, but not all, Local Authorities call this either the Local Resolution Stage orInformal Stage.  A report should be compiled with the following matters addressed;  


  • an explanation of how the complaint has been considered
  • the conclusions reached concerning the complaint; including any matters that the complainant specifies may resolve the complaint and whether the Local Authority agrees to this and confirmation as to whether or not the Local Authority has found fault and how they will remedy this or not.


The report is generally sent to the complainant within 20 working days. However, the Regulations give up to 6 months from the date the Local Authority receives the complaint to complete their investigation and report.  Complex complaints can be extremely time consuming, in some instances, the Local Authority, if they believe there will be a delay, can in agreement with the complainant extend the 6 months.   


What if the claimant or their representation is not satisfied with the response from the Local Authority?

This is dependent on the Local Authority that the complaint has been made to and about as each has their own interpretation of the Regulations built into their Adult Social Care Complaints Procedure.  Some Local Authorities call this the Formal Stage 1 or Internal Review. However, in general, there are three approaches;  


  • The complaint and associated reports and information will either be given to a more senior manager within the service, who will review the report and investigate further if required or;
  • A Designated Officer will be appointed who is a senior manager in another department other than the service the complaint is about who will again review the report and investigate further if required, or;
  • An Internal Review where 3 senior managers will discuss the report, findings and investigate further if needed.


All these processes result in a written report and or letter to the claimant either, upholding the original recommendations or may provide other recommendations and or remedial action. 

If the claimant or their representative is still not satisfied with the response from the Local Authority? 

At this stage, there are a number of different approaches which will be dependent on the Local Authorities interpretation of the Regulations.  Some Local Authorities call this Formal Stage 2or Ombudsman.  The approaches are as follows;  


  • The Local Authority provides the claimant or representative the details of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman to raise the complaint if they so wish (we will discuss the role of the Ombudsman further down), or;
  • An Investigation Officer will be appointed; this will usually be a senior manager in another department other than the service the complaint is about. It is their role to undertake the investigation from the beginning and compile a report with a conclusion as to the outcome and if any recommendations or remedial actions are necessary or not. 


A Designated Officer will also be appointed whose role is to hear the details of the report from the Investigating Officer; they should carefully scrutinise and review the report and its conclusions. This is usually called Stage 2 Hearing.  Some Local Authorities invite the Claimant or the representative to this hearing so their views can be heard in person. 


The Designated Officer is usually the service Director, and they have the final say as to the outcome of the complaint, or;·  An Independent Investigating Officer and or Independent Designated Officer will be appointed. The process is the same as above, but neither independent roles are attached to the Local Authority or the claimant and representativeIf the claimant or representative remain unsatisfied, then the Local Authority will provide the claimant or representative details of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman to raise the complaint if they so wish. 


Who or what is the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman?

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) looks at complaints about councils and some other authorities and organisations, including education admissions appeal panels and adult social care providers (such as care homes and home care providers). The service is free, independent and impartial. Although a claimant or their representative can make a complaint to the Ombudsman at any stage of the complaints procedure, the law says that the Ombudsman has to allow the Council a reasonable amount of time to consider the complaint, this is usually around 12 weeks.  All complaints regarding adult social care must by law go to the council first as it is deemed that councils and their commissioned care providers are best placed to resolve complaints via their own complaint's procedures.

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CHILDREN'S SOCIAL CARE COMPLAINTS PROCEDURES & PROCESS

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How does the Local Authority Children’s Social Care Complaints System Work?

From 1 September 2006, the Department for Education and Skills produced new Regulations and Guidance for dealing with social services complaints and their representations.  The overall principle is that children and young people who make representations (complaints or enquiries) have their concerns resolved swiftly and if possible, by the staff who have been dealing with them locally.  


The complaints procedure should be a positive aid to informing and influencing service improvement, not a negative process to apportion blame.

The Regulations and Guidance 2006 requires each Local Authority to have a designated Complaints Manager; however, this does not mean that only one person is responsible for carrying out all actions of the complaints process.


What is a complaint?

A complaint may generally be defined as an expression of dissatisfaction or disquiet concerning an individual child or young person, which requires a response.


What can be complained about?

Complaints under Part 3 of the Children Act, 1989

Section 26(3) of the Children Act, 1989 provides that all functions of the local authority under Part 3 of the Act may form the subject of a complaint, such as (to note this list is not exhaustive:  


  • an unwelcomed or disputed decision
  • concern about the quality of appropriateness of a service
  • delay in decision making or provision of services
  • delivery or non-delivery of services including complaints procedures
  • quantity, frequency, change or cost of a service
  • attitude or behavior of staff
  • application of eligibility and assessment criteria
  • the impact on the child or young person of the application of a local authority policy
  • assessment, care management, and review


Complaints under Part 4 of the Children Act, 1989


  • the decision by the local authority to initiate care and supervision orders (section 31)
  • the effect of the care order and the local authority’s actions and decisions where a care order is made (section 33)
  • control of parental contact with children in care (section 34)
  • how supervisors perform their duties where a supervision order is in force (section 35)


Complaints under Part 5 of the Children Act, 1989


  • matters that do not relate to the Court and which are specifically actions of the local authority can be considered, regarding applications for and duties in relation to child assessment orders (section 43)
  • matters relating to applications for emergency protection orders and decisions regarding the return of children who have been removed (section 44)


What is exempt from the Complaints Procedure?


  • the person wishing to complain does not meet the requirements of “who may complain” and is not working on behalf of such an individual
  • the complaint is not in regard to the actions or decisions of the Local Authority complained to, or of anybody acting on its behalf
  • the same complaint has already been dealt with at all Stages of the procedure

Who may complain?

  • any child or young person (or a parent of the child or young person or someone who has parental responsibility for the child or young person) 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) to whom a Special Guardian order is in force
  • any person who has applied for an assessment under section 14F (3) or (4)
  • any child or young person who may be adopted, their parents and guardians
  • persons wishing to adopt the child or young person
  • any other person whom arrangements for the provision of adoption services extend
  • adopted persons, their parents, natural parents, and former guardians
  • such other person as the local authority considers has sufficient interest in the child or young person's welfare to warrant representations being considered by them


Where the complaint is received from a representative acting on behalf of the child or young person, the Local Authority should where possible confirm that the child or young person is happy for this happen and that the complaint submitted reflects their views.


What is the Complaints Process?

Complaints may be made orally, in person, in writing or electronically.  The local authority must ensure that their complaint handling processes are child and young person friendly and appropriate to their age.  The local authority must offer and help the child or young person to source an advocate who will support them with the complaint process.


It should be noted that the local authority does not need to consider complaints made more than 12 months after the grounds arose that gave rise to the complaint. In such circumstances, the Complaints Manager should write to the claimant or representative to advise them that their complaint will not be considered and why.  The complainant or representative may contact the Local Government Ombudsman if they disagree with this decision.


Stage 1 Local Resolution

A complaint is made on the date that the Local Authority first receives it. If the Complaints Manager or Senior Manager of the service that the complaint is about believes that it would not be appropriate to consider the complaint at Stage 1, then they should discuss this together with the complainant. Where both parties are agreed, then the complaint can move directly to Stage 2

Most complaints should ideally be concluded within 10 working days. This period can be extended when:


  • The Local Authority cannot provide a complete response, in which case it can implement a further 10-day extension
  • The complainant has requested an advocate, in which case the Local Authority may also suspend Stage 1 until an advocate has been appointed, providing the suspension doesn't last more than 10 days


The total maximum time for a Stage 1 response is 20 working days. If a response is not provided within this time, the Complaints Manager should advise the complainant or representative that they have the right to move on to the next Stage.


It may, however, be that the complainant is happy for the next Stage to be put off for the time being and this period can be extended with the complainant's agreement or request.


To note where the matter is not resolved locally, or the complainant is dissatisfied with the Local Authority's response, the Complaints Manager should invite the complainant to request Stage 2 within 20 working days.


Stage 2 Investigation
Once the complainant and Complaint Manager agree to take the complaint to Stage 2, the Complaint Manager will usually commission an Investigating Officer (IO) and Independent Person (IP) to investigate the complaints and produce a report. Consideration of the complaint at Stage 2 should be fair, thorough and transparent, with clear and logical outcomes. 

The first job for the IO and IP is to meet with the complainant and agree on the detail of the complaint, the outstanding issues, and the complainant's desired outcome. A statement of complaint should then be produced and signed by all parties.


The IO will investigate the complaint then prepare a written report for adjudication by a Senior Manager or the Head of Service. The IP will be involved in all aspects of the investigation and can raise issues as necessary.

The IP will produce their own brief report. The IO and IP will have access to all relevant records and staff. Any records should be released within the bounds of normal confidentiality and with regard to Freedom of Information and also Data Protection.


A copy of the complaint should be sent to any person that is involved with the process unless where doing so would prejudice consideration of the complaint.

The Investigation should be completed, and the response sent to the complainant within 25 working days from the date the statement of the complaint was agreed. However, where it is not possible to complete a Stage 2 within 25 working days, Stage 2 may be extended to a maximum of 65 working days.


The Complaint Manager should agree all extensions, and the Local Authority must inform the complainant as soon as possible in writing. They must include the reason for the delay and the date by which the complainant can expect a response.


Stage 2 Reports

On completion of the consideration of the complaint, the IO will write a report on their investigations. The report should include:


  • all relevant background information so that an accurate picture of the facts is clear
  • details of findings, conclusions, and outcomes against each point of complaint, i.e. whether upheld, not upheld or partially upheld
  • evidence for any findings
  • details of recommended actions to remedy any injustice to the complainant 
  • plain English, avoiding jargon
  • distinguishing between fact, feelings and opinion. 


The IP should also provide a report on the Investigation. Their report should include the following:


  • Whether they feel the investigation has been conducted entirely in an impartial, comprehensive and effective manner 
  • Whether all those involved have been able to express their views fully and fairly
  • Whether the IO's report provides an accurate and complete picture of the Investigation
  • The IP's opinion on the recommendations plus any of their own recommendations if necessary


Stage 2 Adjudication
The purpose of adjudication is for a Senior Manager or the Head of Service to consider the reports and to then respond to them. The Adjudicating Officer may wish to meet the child or young person as part of the process or afterwards to explain the details.


The response will identify the following:

  • The Local Authority's decision on each point of complaint
  • Any action that will be taken


The Local Authority will then write to the complainant with their response including:

  • Their response letter with the adjudication
  • Notification that if the complainant is still dissatisfied they can request Stage 3, but this must be in writing and received by the complaints manager within 20 working days from the date of the response letter
  • A copy of the Investigation report
  • A copy of the Independent Person' s report 


Stage 3 Review Panel

Review Panels are designed to consider whether the Local Authority dealt with the complaint adequately at the Stage 2 investigation. Since it is not possible to review a complaint that has not yet been fully considered at Stage 2, it is essential that the Council does not unnecessarily delay the conclusion of Stage 2.

Review panels are designed to:


  • Listen to all parties
  • Consider the adequacy of the Stage 2 investigation
  • Obtain any further information and advice that may help resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of all parties
  • Focus on achieving resolution for the complainant
  • Reach findings on each complaint being reviewed
  • Make recommendations that provide practical remedies and creative solutions to complex situations
  • Support local solutions where the opportunity exists
  • To identify any consequent injustice to the complainant and to recommend any appropriate redress
  • Recommend any service improvements for action by the Council


The Review Panel should not reinvestigate the complaints or consider any substantively new complaints. 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, to 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 complainant does have the right to bring a representative to speak on their behalf.


The standard of proof applied by panels should be the civil standard of "balance of probabilities" and not the criminal standard of "beyond all reasonable doubt" This standard should be based on evidence and fact.


Stage 3 General Principles


  • Panels should be conducted in the presence of all relevant parties with equity of access and representation for the complainant and the Local Authority
  • Panels should uphold a commitment to objectivity, impartiality, and fairness and ensure the rights of all parties are respected at all times
  • The Panel should be alert to the importance of providing a demonstrably fair and accessible process for all participants
  • Many complainants, particularly children and young people may find this Stage to be a stressful experience. It is important that the Panel is customer focused in its approach. This may mean limiting the total number of Local Authority staff attending to a workable minimum to avoid the possibility of overwhelming the complainant
  • The Chair has the discretion to suspend or defer proceedings in exceptional circumstances


Stage 3 Redress

The Review Panel must set out its recommendations to the Local Authority on any strategies that can assist in resolving the complaint. These may include financial compensation or other actions within a specified framework.


Who should sit on the Review Panel?

· The Review Panel must consist of three independent people 


  • Independent means, in this instance, not being an employee of Portsmouth City Council, or spouse or partner of an employee, for at least three years prior to the panel meeting
  • The Chair should be appointed first so that they can contribute to the organisation of the panel if they wish to do so. This should happen within 10 days of the request for Stage 3


What will happen on Review Panel Meeting Day?


  • Pre-meeting. This is an opportunity for the panellists and their administrative support to meet in closed session to discuss the order of business and any other relevant issues, excluding deliberations on the complaint.
  • Presentations. The Chair should advise the complainant of the respective roles and responsibilities of those present and address any questions or concerns. The Chair should ensure that the Panel's focus is on the agreed complaint and the complainant's desired outcomes. The purpose of the presentations is to understand each party's opinion of the complaint rather than to provide an opportunity to cross-examine attendees. The Chair should indicate how long the presentations should last. Subsequently, the panellists should have the opportunity to ask questions of all present.
  • Deliberations. The Panel should then go into closed session to deliberate on their findings and conclusions. They should produce a report containing a summary of the representations and their recommendations for resolution, within five working days of the Panel meeting.
  • After the Panel. Portsmouth City Council will send a response to the complainant on the Panel's recommendations within 15 working days of receiving the Panel's report. The complainant should also be made aware of their right to refer the complaint (if still dissatisfied) to the Local Government Ombudsman.


Can a Complaint be Withdrawn?


  • Yes, the complainant may withdraw the complaint at any time
  • The Council must then write to confirm the withdrawal
  • The Local Authority can then decide if they wish to still investigate the issues that gave rise to the complaint by an internal investigation


To Note…………
The complaint procedure is not an appeals procedure for court orders. People wishing to appeal against court orders should approach the court. However, complaints about the conduct of a social worker in court proceedings may be appropriately considered under this procedure. The child should be informed that the complaints procedure cannot overturn a court decisio

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