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:
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.
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.
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;
Who Can Complain?
The following list is not exhaustive, but in short, the following people can make a complaint to adult social care:
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:
As a result of a complaint other issues may arise which may require the intervention of different procedures, for example:
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;
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;
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;
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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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:
Complaints under Part 4 of the Children Act, 1989
Complaints under Part 5 of the Children Act, 1989
What is exempt from the Complaints Procedure?
Who may complain?
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 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:
The IP should also provide a report on the Investigation. Their report should include the following:
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 will then write to the complainant with their response including:
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:
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
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
What will happen on Review Panel Meeting Day?
Can a Complaint be Withdrawn?
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