Making a complaint

If your child is being looked after in care by a local trust and you, or your child, are unhappy with the services provided, either of you can formally complain. Your complaint will be taken seriously and will be treated in confidence.

Minor problems

Not all everyday problems should automatically be grounds for making a complaint. The first thing to do is to tell your child's social worker or their manager.

Many small problems can be sorted out quickly and do not need to go through the complaints procedure. You can ask them why they did what they did or if they can do something else instead.

Major problems

It is the responsibility of Children's Services to provide suitable care for children which includes:

  • where children are living away from home, the local trust is expected to make sure that good care is being provided
  • making sure only suitable people look after your child
  • providing proper training and support to staff and foster carers
  • listening to your child's views and your views, taking religion, race, culture and background into account
  • making sure your child has someone independent to talk to and knows who to complain to

If you feel Children's Services are not doing these things properly, talk to your child's carer or social worker and their manager if you need to. You can also raise the issue at the next review meeting.

All social services must have a way of letting children make a complaint. This is called a representations or complaints procedure. All children have the right to use it. If a child needs help to do this, social services should be able to advise who can help.

Making a complaint

If you, or your child, wish to make a complaint, there are organisations who can advise you. You can also contact the Patient and Client Council who can provide free and confidential advice, information and help to make a complaint.

Specialist advocacy services may also be available. Complaints managers or the Patient and Client Council can tell you about these.

The Voice of Young People in Care offers children and young people a confidential service outside of social services. The phone number is 08450 742942.

The Children's Law Centre also helps young people, their parents and professionals they work with to understand the laws which affect children. Their free phone advice line is 0808 808 5678.

The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People offers support, advice or help to parents, carers, children and young people about children's rights and complaints. If the Commissioner cannot help, someone who can help will be recommended.

The Commissioner takes on complaints and enquiries where there are breaches of children's rights. In particular the Commissioner deals with complaints against relevant authorities (public bodies) and also takes on or gets involved in legal cases on children's rights.

If you still feel unhappy about treatment from social services, you may be able to go to court or you can make a complaint to the NI Ombudsman on free phone 0800 343 424.

Useful link

Children in care

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