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St. Helens Council
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Complaints in Relation to Child Protection Conference


Contents

  1. Eligibility to Use This Procedure
  2. Grounds for Complaint against a Conference Outcome
  3. Stage One - Discussion with Conference Chair
  4. Stage Two - The Complaints Panel
  5. Reconvened Conference
  6. Further Challenge

    Appendix One: Criteria for making or continuing a Child Protection Plan

    Appendix Two: Criteria for the decision that the Child Protection Plan should be discontinued


1. Eligibility to Use This Procedure

Parents/carers and children (with sufficient understanding) may have concerns about which they wish to complain, in respect of one or more of the following aspects of the functioning of Child Protection Conferences:

  • The conference itself, and the way in which the decision and recommendations were reached
  • A decision to make the child, or not make the child, the subject of a Child Protection Plan
  • A decision to continue making them the subject of a Child Protection Plan
  • The category of abuse or neglect that the chairperson has determined

All parties must be made aware that this complaints process cannot itself change a Child Protection Conference decision and that during the course of a complaint’s consideration, the decision made by the Conference stands.

NB Complaints about individual agencies, their performance and provision (or non-provision) of services should be discussed with those professionals directly and will not be dealt with under this procedure.


2. Grounds for Complaint Against a Conference Outcome

The grounds for making a complaint about a conference outcome may be:


3. Stage One - Discussion with Conference Chair

If any concerns cannot be resolved immediately following the conference, the parent/carer or child will be advised to discuss their concerns with the social worker, who will assist them to make a complaint in person or in writing as soon as possible after the date of the conference. The social worker may refer the parent/carer or child onto an Advocacy Service, where appropriate, to support them in making a complaint.

The Conference Chair will then arrange to discuss the complaint with the parent/carer or child in a meeting within 5 working days of receipt of the complaint.

Notes will be made of the Stage One meeting, including reasons for the Conferences’ decision-making. The Conference Chair will then ensure that the notes are sent to the complainant. A copy of the notes will also be sent to the Manager of the Safeguarding Unit.

If the issues cannot be resolved after discussion with the Conference Chair under Stage One, then the complainant will be advised by the Conference Chair to write to the St. Helens Safeguarding Partnership Manager within 3 working days of receipt of the notes of the Stage One meeting. Assistance will be provided by a professional, where appropriate.

Complaints made outside the 3 working day time limit may, in exceptional circumstances and at the discretion of the St. Helens Safeguarding Partnership Manager, be accepted.


4. Stage Two - The Complaints Panel

Within 20 working days of receipt of the written notification from the complainant, a Complaints Panel will be arranged to hear the complaint. The complainant will be notified of the details of the venue, date and time.

The Complaints Panel will base its decision on the complainant’s written submissions, the Conference minutes and the notes of the Stage One meeting, together with any relevant protocols and procedures.

The Panel will consist of a minimum of three members:

  • The Chair of the St. Helens Safeguarding Partnership, or his/her nominee, to act as the Complaints Panel Chair;
  • At least two other members of the St. Helens Safeguarding Partnership from different agencies who have had no previous or present direct line management responsibility for the case in question.

The Panel Chair will decide on the precise composition of the Panel based on the expertise needed to resolve the issues presented by the case. The Panel Chair has the authority to co-opt other professionals where specialist advice is needed.

The Panel Chair will invite the following to attend the Panel:

  • The complainant in order to explain his or her reasons verbally for making the complaint and to make further representations if he or she so wishes;
  • The Conference Chair in order to clarify points with regard to the Conferences’ decision-making and other comments that may be useful.

A minute taker will also be present.

The Panel meeting will begin with:

  • Reviewing the information available;
  • Deciding what further evidence or information is needed;
  • Deciding the process to be followed in considering the complaint - the Panel will see the complainant in the presence of the Conference Chair unless there are exceptional reasons for their being seen separately.

The Panel may make one or more of the following decisions based on a majority decision:

  • To state that the Child Protection Conference procedures were followed correctly
  • To state that the Child Protection Conference procedures were not followed correctly, in what respects, and make a recommendation as to how this should be remedied;
  • To support the original Child Protection Conference decision;
  • To recommend that the Child Protection Conference be reconvened with the same or a different Conference Chair to reconsider any recommendation regarding the decision that the child should be or continue to be subject to a Child Protection Plan and the category of significant harm on which any such decision is based;
  • To decide that they have insufficient information to make a decision and set out a timescale for completing the task and set a date for a further hearing;
  • To decide whether there are any learning points for a specific agency.

NB the Complaints Panel does not have the authority to reverse a Conference decision.

The Panel Chair will then ensure that the minutes of the Panel meeting are sent to the complainant and to all those who were sent minutes of the Child Protection Conference.

The Complaints Panel should communicate any specific concerns and recommendations relating to practice or procedure on the part of any St. Helens Safeguarding Partnership agency to the relevant Board member.


5. Reconvened Conference

The Chair of a reconvened Child Protection Conference must ensure that all those present have seen or are briefed at the start of the Conference about the decisions and any recommendations made by the Complaints Panel.

The Conference should again consider, taking fully into account any recommendation made, whether the criteria for a Child Protection Plan are met (namely the risk of continuing Significant Harm), and if so, the relevant Category of Significant Harm.


6. Further Challenge

A complainant who continues to be dissatisfied with the outcome of the process may wish to pursue their grievance via the Local Government Ombudsman or seek legal advice about other legal remedies such as Judicial Review.


Appendix One: Criteria for making or continuing a Child Protection Plan

Has the child suffered Significant Harm? And is the child likely to suffer Significant Harm?

The test for the likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm in the future should be either that:

  • The child is shown to have suffered ill-treatment or impairment of health or development as a result of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect, and professional judgement is that further ill-treatment or impairment are likely; or
  • Professional judgement, substantiated by finding of enquiries in this individual case or by research evidence, is that the child is likely to suffer ill treatment or the impairment of health or development as a result of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect.

If the child is at continuing risk of Significant Harm, it will therefore be the case that safeguarding the child requires inter-agency help and intervention delivered through a Child Protection Plan.


Appendix Two: Criteria for the decision that the Child Protection Plan should be discontinued

A child should no longer be the subject of a Child Protection Plan if:

  • It is judged that the child is no longer at continuing risk of Significant Harm requiring safeguarding by means of a Child Protection Plan (e.g. the likelihood of harm has been reduced by action taken through the Child Protection Plan; the child and family’s circumstances have changed; all reassessment of the child and family indicates that a Child Protection Plan is not necessary). Under these circumstances, a Child Protection Review Conference will usually decide that the Child Protection Plan is no longer necessary;
  • In some circumstances the Child Protection Plan will be discontinued if the child has been made subject of an Interim Care Order. A Child Protection Review Conference may not be held in this circumstance;
  • The child and family have moved permanently to another local authority area. In such cases, the receiving local authority should convene a Child Protection Conference within 15 working days of being notified of the move. Only after this event may discontinuing the Child Protection Plan take place in respect of the original local authority’s Child Protection Plan;
  • The child has reached 18 years of age, has died or has permanently left the UK.

End.