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3.8 Complaints in Relation to Child Protection Conferences


Caption: contents table
  Eligibility to use this Procedure
  Areas of Disagreement which Fall within this Procedure
  Dealing with a Complaint
  Initial Review
  The Complaints Panel
  Reconvened Conferences
  Further Challenges

Eligibility to use this Procedure

  1. Parents, those with Parental Responsibility and children (of sufficient age and 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 process of the conference;
    • The outcome, in terms of the fact of and/or the category of primary concern at the time the child became the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
    • A decision for the child to have, or not to have, a Child Protection Plan or a decision to continue or not to discontinue a Child Protection Plan.
  2. The information leaflets sent out prior to Child Protection Conferences will include a statement about the right to use this Complaints Procedure;
  3. All potential complainants must be made aware, however, that this complaints process cannot itself change a Child Protection Conference decision and during the course of a complaint's consideration, the decision made by the Conference stands;
  4. At all stages of this complaints process, the complainant may have a supporter/advocate to assist them;
  5. NB Complaints about individual agencies, their performance, their conduct at a conference and/or the provision (or non-provision) of services will not be dealt with under this procedure and should be responded to in accordance with the relevant agency's complaints handling process.

Areas of Disagreement which Fall within this Procedure

That the criteria for the decision that the child should have a Child Protection Plan were not met (see, Initial Child Protection Conferences Procedure); and/or

  • That the information having a substantial effect on the conference decision is now known to be inaccurate; and/or
  • That facts are now available which were not known to the conference and which invalidate the original conference decision.
  1. Where a parent, person with Parental Responsibility or child (of sufficient age and understanding) etc. indicate in whatever form that one of the above applies, this should be identified as a complaint to be dealt with in accordance with this procedure;

Dealing with a Complaint

  1. An expressed concern about the conference itself which arises in the course of the meeting must be noted and an attempt made by the Conference Chair to resolve it with the person concerned;
  2. If this initial attempt to resolve matters fails, the person expressing the concern should be reminded that there is a complaints process, and be invited (and if necessary assisted by the social worker) to write to the Conference Chair within 28 days of receipt of minutes;
  3. Complaints made outside the 28 day time limit may, in exceptional circumstances and at the discretion of the Conference Chair, be accepted;
  4. Wherever possible, disputes or complaints should be resolved informally;
  5. If any concerns cannot be resolved immediately following the conference, the Conference Chair will advise the child, parent or person with Parental Responsibility of their right under this procedure to write to the Designated Manager (Complaints) within 28 days of the conference, setting out the grounds of their complaint;
  6. Any written complaints received by the Conference Chair or the child's Lead Social Worker /allocated social worker must be referred immediately to the Designated Manager (Complaints);
  7. On receipt of the complaint, the Designated Manager (Complaints) will initially confirm that the complaint is appropriately dealt with under these procedures or pass it to the relevant agency to be dealt with under that agency's own formal complaints procedure;
  8. Where necessary the Designated Manager (Complaints) will contact the complainant to clarify the nature of their complaint, or to obtain additional information, and will acknowledge receipt of the complaint in writing within 3 working days;
  9. If the complaint suggests there is new evidence that was not considered by the conference and should have been, then this should be referred to the Conference Chair who will decide, in consultation with the Designated Manager (Children with a Child Protection Plan), whether the conference should be reconvened. Reconvening the conference in these circumstances will suspend the complaint, and the complainant should be advised accordingly.

Initial Review

  1. If the Designated Manager (Complaints) decides that the complaint falls within these procedures then a copy should be sent to the Conference Chair of the relevant Child Protection Conference, the Designated Manager (Children with a Child Protection Plan) and the child's Lead Social Worker/allocated social worker;
  2. The Conference Chair should consider, in consultation with the Designated Manager (Children with a Child Protection Plan), whether, in the light of the substance of the complaint, the Child Protection Conference should be reconvened. The response must be made within 10 working days unless delay is authorised by the Designated Manager;
  3. If it is decided to reconvene the conference, then the complaint is suspended and the complainant should be advised accordingly. Where the complainant remains dissatisfied following the reconvened conference, then he/she must reinstate their complaint;
  4. If it is decided not to reconvene the conference, the complaint will be investigated and a Complaints Panel convened to hear the Complaint.


  1. The Designated Manager (Children with a Child Protection Plan) will conduct a direct investigation of the complaint and will have access to all written records relating to the complaint including copies of all Child Protection Conference minutes (and supporting reports);
  2. As well as meeting the complainant and the Conference Chair, he/she may interview any members of the relevant Child Protection Conference, and to seek legal advice from the local authority's Legal Services. Any failure to co-operate with the complaints process will be reported to the Children’s Safeguarding Assurance Partnership;
  3. If the Designated Manager (Children with a Child Protection Plan) has been involved with the management of the case in question e.g. by chairing a Child Protection Conference or for other reasons, considers it is not appropriate to conduct the investigation, then a different investigating officer will be appointed by the Designated Manager (Complaints);
  4. The investigation of the complaint will follow the same format as that for the investigation of a formal complaint within Children's Social Care, including the involvement of an Independent Person;
  5. A copy of the investigation report will be sent to:
    • The complainant;
    • The Conference Chair; and
    • The relevant Children's Social Care Manager/Social Worker.
  6. The complainant will be given the opportunity to submit documents or other written material to the Panel and a copy of any such submission must be sent to the investigating officer.

The Complaints Panel

  1. Where a Complaints Panel (the Panel) is convened to hear the Complaint, the complainant will be notified in writing of the details of the venue, date and time;
  2. The Panel will consist of three professionals who have had no previous or present direct line management responsibility for the case in question. The Panel Chair will be a senior manager from Children's Social Care. The other two members will be nominated by Children’s Safeguarding Assurance Partnership member agencies, in consultation with the identified Panel Chair and according to the needs of the case. Panel membership should include at least two from amongst Police, Social Care, Education and Health agencies. However, in appropriate cases, Panel members may be appointed who are independent of the Children’s Safeguarding Assurance Partnership member agencies;
  3. The Panel Chair has the authority to co-opt other professionals where specialist advice is needed;
  4. A copy of the investigation report and any written submissions made by the complainant will be sent to Panel members 5 days before the date of the Panel meeting;
  5. The Panel Chair will invite the following to attend the Panel:
    • The complainant, together with a supporter/advocate, 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 investigating officer.
  6. The complainant and investigating officer will be invited to present their views to Panel and will then leave for the Panel to make their decision;
  7. The Panel will base its decision on the complainant's written submissions, the investigating officer's report, together with any relevant protocols and procedures and any other documentation considered relevant by the Panel;
  8. The Panel may make one or more of the following decisions based on a majority decision:
    • To conclude that the Child Protection Conference procedures were followed correctly and 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 the previous decision regarding the Child Protection Plan and/or reconsider the Categories of Abuse or Neglect;
    • 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.
  9. The Panel Chair will ensure that a clear record is made of the proceedings, decision and the reasons for the decision. Where the decision is that the conference should be reconvened, a written statement of the reasons will be available to all conference members (see Reconvened Conference);
  10. The record of the Panel meeting will be sent within 5 working days of the Panel, to the complainant, the investigating officer, the child's social worker or Lead Social Worker and the Conference Chair who chaired the conference, who will ensure that a copy is circulated to all those who were sent minutes of the Child Protection Conference;
  11. The Panel should communicate any specific concerns and recommendations relating to practice or procedure on the part of any partner agency to the Children’s Safeguarding Assurance Partnership.

Reconvened Conferences

  1. The Conference Chair of the reconvened Child Protection Conference must ensure that all those present have seen or are briefed at the start of the Conference about the Panel decision, the Panel's written statement of reasons for the decision and any recommendations made by the Panel;
  2. 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 Categories of Abuse or Neglect;
  3. The Conference Chair should notify the outcome of the reconvened Conference to the Complaints Panel Chair.

Further Challenges

  1. 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.