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Medway - Complaints and Appeals against the Conference Decision and about the Conference Process

AMENDMENT

This chapter was extensively revised and updated in April 2016 and should be re-read in full.


Contents

  1. Complaints
  2. Appeals
  3. Eligibility
  4. Grounds for Appeal
  5. Process
  6. Stage One
  7. Stage Two
  8. Stage Three
  9. Further Challenge


1. Complaints

Complaints about individual agencies (performance or the provision or non-provision of services) should be handled in line with the particular agency’s complaints process. For example, complaints about the attitude of the Conference Chair or the handling of the Conference or the Social Worker’s report would be handled by the statutory complaints/representation procedure for Specialist Children’s Services (SCS).


2. Appeals

It is important to clarify whether an eligible service user is making a complaint as described above or an appeal against the decision of a Child Protection Conference. The following describes the appeal process.

In the first instance, the Customer Care Manager consults with the Conference Chair to identify whether the service users representation constitutes a complaint or an appeal about the Conference decision.


3.Eligibility

Parents / caregivers or a child (considered by the Conference Chair to have sufficient understanding), may appeal in respect of one or more of the following aspects of the conference:

  1. A decision for the child to become or not to become, or to remain or cease being the subject of a child protection plan;
  2. The category of concern if the child became the subject of a child protection plan.

All parties must be made aware this process cannot itself change the Conference decision and that during the course of an appeal, the decision made by the conference stands.

The end result of an appeal will be either that a recommendation for a Review Conference is to be held under a different Conference Chair, or that the status quo is confirmed.

The Local Authority has discretion, in deciding whether to consider appeals, to consider whether an appeal would prejudice any concurrent investigations such as court proceedings or criminal proceedings.


4. Grounds for Appeal

The grounds for appealing against a conference decision may be:

  • That the information on which the conference decision was based proved substantially incorrect.


5. Process

Immediate Resolution

An expressed concern which arises in the course of or as a result of the meeting must, as soon as possible, be raised with the Conference Chair.

This must be noted and an attempt made by the Conference Chair to resolve it with the service user either though a telephone conversation or face to face meeting within 3 days of the Conference.

If this initial attempt to resolve matters fails, the service user should be reminded of both the complaints process and the appeals process by the Social Worker or Conference Chair.

A complaint/representation (anything other than an appeal, see above) should be sent in writing to the Specialist Children’s Services Customer Care Manager. The Social Worker can, if necessary, assist with this.

An appeal, as detailed above, should be sent in writing to the Conference Chair within 10 working days of Conference. The Social Worker can, if necessary assist with this.

On receipt of the notice to appeal, the Conference Chair will ensure that the minutes of the Conference are sent out within 3 working days if not already available.


6. Stage One

Exploration by Conference Chair.

The Conference Chair should inform the Specialist Children’s Services Customer Care Manager, the SCS Safeguarding Child Protection Conference Chairs’ Manager and all professionals who attended or were invited to the original Conference that an appeal has been made.

Appeals outside the 10 working day time limit may, in exceptional circumstances, and at the discretion of the Conference Chair, be accepted.

The Conference Chair should meet with the appellant (who may be supported by a friend or relative) within 18 working days of the Initial Child Protection Conference so as to:

  • Ensure the appellant sufficiently understands the child protection process;
  • Clarify the grounds for, and the nature of, the appeal;
  • Establish the outcome desired by the appellant;
  • Ensure the appellant understands the scope and relevance of the appeals process with regard to her/his circumstances;
  • Gather relevant information. This should include clarifying whether or not there are aspects of the appeal that, in fact, constitute a complaint and advise accordingly.

At the meeting with the appellant the Conference Chair should be accompanied by a colleague who can take notes.

The possible outcomes at this stage are:

  1. The appellant accepts that the decision of the Conference was correct;
  2. The appellant remains dissatisfied with the decision of the conference.

Within 5 working days of the Stage 1 meeting the Conference Chair should provide a written response to the appellant including notes of the outcome of their meeting. This letter should include information on how to pursue concerns further if the appellant remains dissatisfied.

The response provided to the appellant should be copied to Specialist Children’s Services Customer Care Manager, the SCS Safeguarding Child Protection Conference Chairs’ Manager and all professionals who attended or were invited to the original Conference.

If the appellant accepts the decision of conference, or the Conference Chair is notified that a Stage 2 complaint letter has not been received, the Conference Chair will notify the Specialist Children’s Services Customer Care Manager, the SCS Safeguarding Child Protection Conference Chairs’ Manager and all professionals who attended or were invited to the original Conference that no further action in respect of the appeal is being taken.

If the appellant remains dissatisfies and wishes to pursue the matter to Stage 2, this must be notified in writing to the Specialist Children’s Services Customer Care Manager and the SCS Safeguarding Child Protection Conference Chairs’ Manager within 5 days of receiving the Stage 1 response letter.


7. Stage Two

Consideration of the appeal by the SCS Safeguarding Child Protection Conference Chairs’ Manager.

Personnel involved in this meeting will be the SCS Safeguarding Child Protection Conference Chairs’ Manager.

The Specialist Children’s Services Customer Care Manager should be kept informed of the progress of this complaint.

A Complaint Meeting at Stage 2 should be arranged and held within 10 working days of receipt of the notification from the appellant.

The Complaint Meeting should have access to and will consider:

  • Minutes of the Child Protection Conference;
  • Reports to Child Protection Conference;
  • Correspondence re complaint at Stage 1.

The meeting should still aim to address areas of dissatisfaction and to resolve matters. Following the meeting the complainant should receive a letter to confirm what was agreed and to advise the complainant of their right to move to Stage 3 within 15 working days, if they are still dissatisfied.

The Specialist Children’s Services Customer Care Manager should be informed of the outcome of Stage 2 and receive a copy of this letter where there are complaints which relate to issues outside the procedure or, the complainant has separate complaints which are being addressed through the Children Act Complaint Service or NHS Complaints. The Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) Business Manager should also be informed if the complainant wishes to progress to an Appeal Panel.


8. Stage Three

Consideration by the formal Review Panel.

If the appellant notifies the Specialist Children’s Services Customer Care Manager and the SCS Safeguarding Child Protection Conference Chairs’ Manager that s/he remains dissatisfied and specifies reasons, arrangements must be made to convene the formal review panel.

The Specialist Children’s Services Customer Care Manager and the SCS Safeguarding Child Protection Conference Chairs’ Manager will make arrangements for the formal case review panel.

The panel membership will consist of the Independent Chair of the Kent Safeguarding Children Board (or their nominee), and at least two other Board members, none of whom have previous or present direct line management responsibility for the case in question. Also in attendance will be the original Conference Chair and the SCS Safeguarding Child Protection Conference Chairs’ Manager. The Panel Chair has the authority to co-opt other professionals where specialist advice is needed.

The panel must be provided with the following documentation:

  • A formal request to convene;
  • A copy of the relevant Conference minutes and the reports that were made available to the conference;
  • Stage 1 and 2 meeting notes and correspondence;
  • Names addresses and phone numbers of the Conference Chair, all other professionals involved and the family concerned.

The SCS Safeguarding Child Protection Conference Chairs’ Manager will liaise with the appellant throughout.

The panel should be convened within 15 working days of the receipt of the appellant’s letter and consider whether:

  • Relevant inter-agency protocols and procedures have been observed correctly; and
  • If any decision in dispute follows reasonably from the processes employed and information presented.

The panel will:

  • Hear (directly or in writing) from the appellant, the Chair of the Child Protection Conference and any other relevant person;
  • Consider written material;
  • Reach a decision;
  • Agree the content of their decision letter to the appellant.

The chair should ensure that the panel’s conclusions are put in writing to the appellant within 10 working days of its meeting and will:

  • Confirm membership of the panel;
  • State the decision reached;
  • Give reasons for decision.

A copy of the outcome letter should also be sent to, the Specialist Children’s Services Customer Care Manager, the SCS Safeguarding Child Protection Conference Chairs’ Manager, the relevant SCS Service Manager, Conference Chair and all attendees and invitees to the original conference.

A recommendation must be made to hold a Review Conference, under a different Conference Chair if:

  1. Procedure/protocols relating to the Conference were not correctly followed; or
  2. Procedures/protocols were correctly followed And it was felt that the decision of the Conference was unreasonable.

If the appeals panel decides to recommend holding a Review Conference, the letter from the chair of the panel should also confirm to the appellant that it is not possible to expunge the decisions of the original Conference, but that the decision of the appeals panel will be added to the child’s file, circulated to all invitees and attendees of the original Conference and any other relevant party. The outcome of the Review Conference will be noted in the usual way.

If the panel concludes procedures relating to the Conference were correctly followed and decision(s) reached were reasonable, it must confirm that the conclusions of the original Conference stands and will be routinely reviewed when the review Conference is held.

The panel should also consider any specific concerns that may be relevant to communicate to agencies involved with the case and may make recommendations relating to practice or procedure to any LSCB agency.

Recommendation to hold a Review Conference

The following considerations should apply if the appeals panel has decided to recommend holding a Review Conference.

The purpose of the Review Conference is to consider the information presented to the original Conference in order to decide whether the child should have been made subject to a child protection plan. It is not the remit of the Review Conference to examine the processes followed. As far as possible, the membership of the Review Conference should consist of the same attendees as the original conference.

There should be a discussion between the SCS Safeguarding Child Protection Conference Chairs’ Manager and the original Conference Chair as to whether it is appropriate for a different chair to attend the Review Conference.

The Chair of the Review Conference must ensure that all those present have seen or are briefed regarding the details of the appeal the outcomes of the Stage 1 and 2 meetings as well as the conclusions reached at the appeals Panel.

A distinction must be made by the Conference Chair between the need to share information about the reasons for the Review Conference and the need for Conference members to approach the meeting taking into account the information presented to the original conference.

The Review Conference should be held within 3 months of the original Conference.


9. Further Challenge

No further internal procedure exists in those cases where the Review Conference supports the original Conference decision to make the child subject to a child protection plan.

An appellant, who remains dissatisfied, may wish to pursue her or his grievances via legal challenge/local government ombudsman.

End