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2.2.1 Complaints Made by or Against Foster Carers

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

STANDARD

This chapter is compliant with the Fostering Services National Minimum Standards and Regulations 2011, Standard 1, Children’s Wishes and Feelings.

OUTCOME

Children, young people foster carers, and other relevant people know how to obtain support and make a complaint.

UNDERPINNING LEGISLATION

Fostering Regulations:

  • Reg. 11 - Independent fostering agencies - duty to secure welfare;
  • Reg. 18 - Independent fostering agencies - representations and complaints.

Children Act 1989:

  • S.22 - General duties of local authority in relation to children looked after by them;
  • SS.61 and 62 - Duties of voluntary organisations and local authorities in relation to children accommodated by or on behalf of the voluntary organisation.

This chapter does NOT cover child protection matters; for those see Safeguarding Children and Young People Procedure.

This chapter relates to foster carers and children placed with foster carers.

This chapter covers complaints made against carers and complaints made by foster carers.

For complaints about the decisions of the Fostering Panel, see Assessment and Approval of Foster Carers, Section 11, Representations and Independent Review Procedure.


Contents

  1. Who Can Make a Complaint? 
  2. What Can Be Complained About? 
  3. Can I get Help to Complain? 
  4. The Complaint Stages


1. Who Can Make a Complaint? 

A child, a parent or carer of a child, a foster carer, or anyone else for whom the agency has agreed to provide a service can make a complaint under this procedure. Individuals are also able to make complaints on behalf of others if it is considered that they have "sufficient interest" to do so.

Children will be encouraged to take up issues in the most appropriate way, and they will be supported to do this. If it is possible to identify an informal solution for a complaint which is easily resolved, this should be done.

It is the responsibility of carers and support staff sympathetically and actively to help children to deal with their complaints, whether the complaint is about the agency or the Placing Authority.

Anyone making a complaint may withdraw it at any stage.


2. What Can Be Complained About? 

  • A problem;
  • The quality of service;
  • The delivery or non-delivery of a service;
  • The way in which the agency carries out its policies and practices.

All serious complaints will be notified to the Regulatory Authority.

If a child or carer is unhappy about a change to their Care Plan or Placement Plan this should be brought to the attention of their social worker, who may be able to resolve the matter. If this is not the case, the child's Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) may be contacted. It is the role of the IRO to make sure that Looked After Children are aware of the local authority's complaints procedure (which must comply with the Children Act 1989 and associated regulations), and to assist the child to access independent support and advice in order to use this procedure if they wish to do so.


3. Can I get Help to Complain? 

Sometimes children and adults need help and support to make a complaint.

The child may have support from his or her parent, social worker, independent visitor or foster carer. As indicated above, a child who wishes to make a complaint about any aspect of his or her care should receive assistance to access independent advice, and support from their Independent Reviewing Officer.

Foster carers may enlist the help of a supporter, advocate, their Supervising Social Worker or Support Worker, to make a complaint about the agency under this procedure, or about the placing authority under the relevant local authority's complaints procedure.


4. The Complaint Stages

The agency is committed to resolving conflicts and concerns at an early stage (Stage One) wherever possible, but in the interests of transparency and a commitment to individual interests and/or rights, individuals are able to complain at Stage Two in the first instance if they so wish. The agency will ensure that complainants are kept informed of the progress of their complaint. In the event that any complainant is not satisfied at any stage, they may and should avail themselves of the right to make a complaint to the Regulatory Authority.

All complaints should be made in the first instance to the Manager, except where he/she is the subject of a complaint, in which case it must be made to the Managing Director. In the event the complaint is about the Managing Director the complaint can be addressed to the HR Manager who will ensure the complaint is managed appropriately.

Stage One

Complaints are often about the support or service that has been received. In this circumstance the Supervising Social Worker or Support Worker (unless the complaint is about them, in which case you should proceed straight to Stage 2 ) will look to mediate between the complainant and the individual whom is being complained about if this is appropriate. Where this is not appropriate the Supervising Social Worker or Support Worker will visit the complainant to seek resolution.

Part of this discussion may cover whether it would be more appropriate for the complaint to be directed to the local authority with responsibility for the child's placement, and dealt with under the local authority's complaints procedure.

A letter of resolution or outcome will be issued in response to informal complaints by the manager.

Stage Two

This stage will be activated generally if the complainant is not completely satisfied with the outcome of Stage One. The complainant will be advised that they must put their complaint in writing to the registered manager of the company. The Registered Manager will then contact the complainant within 5 working days to advise that he/she has instructed an Investigating Officer (independent of the direct support network in place to the complainant) to deal with the complaint, providing the name of the investigating officer and the expected time-frame for the investigation.

A report will be completed following the investigation, detailing how the matter was investigated, by whom and what outcome was reached.  It will also set out or provide the evidence to support the report's conclusions.

Stage Three

This is the final stage of the complaints process. If the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome of the Stage Two investigation, they must confirm this in writing, including reasons for their dissatisfaction, to the managing director of the company, who will undertake to arrange for the case to be reviewed by an independent panel within 28 days.

The panel will be made up of:

  • A member of the board of directors;
  • A manager or staff member of the service;
  • A chairperson, if none of the above can fill that role.

In any event no person implicated in a complaint, or a relative or close associate of anyone implicated, may sit on the panel or be involved in carrying out any investigation.  The panel will be constituted in such a way as to afford true independent appraisal of the complaint.

The panel will consider the documentation relating to the complaint, and any further written representations that the complainant wishes to make. The panel will reach a decision and the complainant will be advised of the outcome in report form (to include any actions in order to resolve the situation) within 7 days.

Should the complainant still not be satisfied with the outcome of Stage Three, they may take advice from the Regulatory Authority.

End