This chapter provides information for multi-agency practitioners about the process for adults or carers who wish to make a complaint about their experience of the safeguarding process, or appeal a decision that was made during the process.


Resolving Professional Disagreements

1. Introduction

Being involved in a safeguarding process is a difficult experience for any adult who has experienced neglect or abuse, and the people who care for them.

Practitioners should make every effort to ensure that adults and their carers are fully consulted and involved in the safeguarding process, kept informed of the progress of any investigation and are at the centre of work to ensure their safety and wellbeing (see Making Safeguarding Personal).

However there will be occasions when an adult or their carer wish to make a complaint about their experience or the outcome of the safeguarding process.

Where the adult or carer wishes to make a complaint about an individual organisation, they should be directed to the organisation’s complaints procedure.

For professionals who wish to complain about an aspect of the process, please see Resolving Professional Disagreements.

At any stage of the complaints process, the adult or carer may bring an advocate or friend to support them. An independent advocate can make a complaint on behalf of an adult (see Independent Advocacy). Some adults or carers may require interpreting or communication services (see Interpreting, Signing and Communication Needs).

The local authority should ensure people are given information and advice about the complaints process, that they are supported throughout and kept fully informed in writing of progress and the outcome.

2. Grounds for Complaint or Appeal

The adult who is experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect (or advocate on their behalf) or their carer has grounds for making a complaint if they are unhappy with the manner in which they feel they have been treated during the safeguarding process.

They also have grounds for an appeal if they are not satisfied with decisions made during the safeguarding assessment, the case conference, or in relation to the safeguarding plan.

3. Step 1: Early Resolution

The adult or their carer who wishes to make a complaint should first speak to a practitioner involved in the safeguarding process. This may be a social worker or health professional.

If they are not satisfied with the discussion at this level, the practitioner should ask them if they would like to speak to their line manager or the organisation’s safeguarding adult lead. The manager should discuss the situation with the adult / carer, and try to resolve the situation informally. This may be by explaining processes to them and the rationale for the decisions made or actions taken or taking action to remedy an aspect of the process. The adult / carer should be reassured that their concerns are taken seriously.

If the complaint is straightforward, it may be resolved at this stage.

The practitioner / manager should record a summary of all discussion/s which take place and the outcome (see Case Recording chapter).

4. Step 2: Informal Resolution

Where it has not been possible to resolve the complaint via discussion, the complainant (the adult, carer, or advocate) should make a complaint in writing to the chair of the case conference, or other nominated practitioner / manager, within 10 working days of the conference / incident. Where necessary they may be given support to make their complaint in writing.

The local authority’s complaints department should be informed of the complaint.

The complaint should be acknowledged in writing by the recipient, or nominated other, within three working days and the adult / carer (or advocate) offered an appointment to discuss their complaint within 10 working days.

Following the meeting, the practitioner / manager should confirm in writing to the complainant the main points of their complaint and any actions that were agreed to resolve it.  The letter should also advise them of their right to move to Step 3 of the process within 28 days, if they are still not satisfied.

A copy should be sent to the local authority complaints department and the Safeguarding Adults Board manager, as well as informing them of the outcome of Step 2.

5. Step 3: Complaints Meeting

Step 3 is part of the formal resolution process.

The complaint meeting should involve the Safeguarding Adults Board manager and a relevant adult social care service manager. It should be arranged and held within 28 days of Step 2 to attempt to resolve the areas of concern.

The local authority complaints department should be kept informed of the progress of the complaint.

The complaint meeting should have access to:

  • minutes of the case conference or other relevant meetings;
  • reports to the conference;
  • correspondence at Step 2 of the complaint.

Its purpose is to address the adult / carer’s dissatisfaction and to attempt to resolve the situation. Following the meeting the complainant should receive a letter to confirm what was agreed and to advise them of their right to move to Step 4 within 28 days, if they are still dissatisfied.

6. Step 4: Panel Meeting

Where there has not been resolution, a Complaints / Appeal Panel will be convened within 15 working days of receipt of written notification from Step 3.

The local Safeguarding Adults Board chair will either chair the Panel, or nominate a chair.  Panel members will be at least two senior managers from SAB partner agencies, who have not had previous or present line management responsibility for the case in question.

A minute taker will be provided.

Based on a majority decision, the Panel may determine:

  • safeguarding procedures were followed correctly;
  • safeguarding procedures were not followed correctly and make recommendations to rectify;
  • the case conference decision was correct;
  • recommend the case conference is reconvened with the same or different chair, to reconsider a recommendation;
  • they have insufficient information required to make a decision and set out a timescale for a further panel meeting, before which the additional material will be provided (and by whom);
  • whether there are any learning points for a specific agency or the Safeguarding Adults Board procedures or other processes.

The Panel does not have the authority to reverse a decision taken by a case conference.

The Panel chair should ensure the Panel meeting minutes are sent to the complainant (adult, carer and / or advocate) and to all those who were sent any relevant minutes from meetings or case conferences.  Any case conference which is reconvened as a result of the Panel meeting should have full details of any recommendations made.

7. Further Challenge

An adult or carer (or advocate) who remains dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaints / appeals process should either seek legal advice or contact the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman as to what further action/s are available to them.

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