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Complaints about Children's Services

Follow this guidance only if your complaint is about:

  • Child protection
  • Fostering
  • Adoption
  • Looked after children
  • Services for children with disabilities
  • Children leaving care

You should use our corporate procedure for complaints about education, childcare or youth services.

If your complaint is about a particular school, you should contact the school directly as they each have independent complaints procedures.

How it works

If you are unhappy about a service or the way you have been treated, the first step is to contact the member of staff you are dealing with (or their manager). This is stage 1 of our complaints procedure.

Don’t be afraid to make a complaint as it will not count against you in any way. If you know the name of the member of staff but not their telephone number, you can request this information from our Customer Contact Centre.

Ways to complain

We will normally only consider complaints about things which happened in the past 12 months. However, in some cases we may be able to consider complaints outside of this period.

To make a complaint you can:

What happens next

We will let you know we have received your complaint within two working days. We will tell you who is dealing with your complaint and when you can expect to get a response.

A manager will then investigate your complaint and usually reply to you within 10 working days. If we cannot reply within this time, we will let you know the reason why. Some more complex complaints can take up to 20 working days to respond to.

If you are not happy with our response, we will listen to your concerns. If needed, we can give you advice about escalating your complaint.

If you are not happy with our response

If you are not satisfied with the response we give during stage 1, you can ask for your complaint to be escalated. This is stage 2 of our complaints procedure.

To do this you should contact the person named on your stage 1 letter, within 20 working days. You can do this by telephone, letter or email.

What happens next

We will let you know we have received your stage 2 complaint request within two working days and a full investigation will begin after the request is considered by the complaints team.

Someone with no previous knowledge of your complaint (known as the 'Investigating Officer') will investigate your complaint and write a report on their findings.

An officer from a different service (known as an 'Independent Person'), who is not connected to the service you have complained about, will work alongside the Investigating Officer. This is to ensure that the investigation is carried out in a fair way. The Independent Person will also write a report.

We will tell you the names of both the 'Investigating Officer' and the 'Independent Person'.

An Assistant Director within the service will read each investigation report and respond to you in writing. This letter is called an 'Adjudication'.

We will keep you informed during this procedure, which we aim to complete within 25 to 65 working days.

You may be invited to meet the Assistant Director at the end of stage 2. This is called an 'Adjudication Meeting'.

Review panel

If you don’t agree with the outcome at stage 2, you should contact our Complaints Manager as soon as possible.

We will organise a 'Review Panel', made up of three people and chaired by somebody totally independent. The panel will review the outcomes of stage 2 and you will be invited to discuss the issues you are unhappy about with them.

This is stage 3 of our complaints procedure.

We aim to hold the panel within 30 working days of your request and we will agree a suitable date with you.

The review panel will make recommendations to the Director of Achieving for Children, within five working days. The Director will then write to you within another 15 working days to let you know their position. This letter marks the end of our complaints procedure.

Taking matters further

If you are still not satisfied after stage 3, you can contact the Local Government Ombudsman.

Other support

We can help arrange someone to speak on your behalf and also to make sure your views are heard. This person is called an advocate. To find out more contact us by telephone on 020 8891 7183, or by email at

You can also get in touch with your local Councillor or Member of Parliament (MP) who will contact Children’s Services for you.

Unreasonable behaviour

We will do our best to resolve the issue as quickly as we can. If you become angry or impatient with our staff whilst making a complaint, or are unreasonably persistent in your contact, we reserve the right to make use of policy on Unreasonable Complainant Behaviour (pdf, 136 KB)


Information on how we dealt with the complaints we received about children’s social care can be found in the latest annual report.

Updated: 05 October 2023

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