Unacceptable delay:

Complaints procedures for disabled children and their families

The Cerebra Legal Entitlements and Problem-Solving (LEaP) Research Project at Leeds University has published a report concerning serious (and systemic) failings in the way that a number of English councils investigate children’s social service complaints.

Key findings included:

  1. The current complaints’ regime rewards councils that maintain dysfunctional systems, as the penalties for poor behaviour are either minimal or non-existent.
  2. Central Government and the ombudsman’s guidance fail to give emphasis to the fact that delay, when it impacts on the life of a child, is to be treated as damaging and requiring a special response.
  3. The current complaints system discriminates against children and families with low incomes and / or poor support networks.
  4. In over 60% of the cases where the ombudsman found fault with the council’s complaint handling his office remitted the complaint back to the council without a recommendation for compensation for the delay – despite the average time (from the initial complaint to the ombudsman’s report) being 345 days. In the remainder of cases, where compensation was recommended, the average time amounted to 572 days and the average compensation was 30p per day.

Recommendations include:

  • The relevant guidance should formally recognise that delay in relation to children’s services complaints is a substantive harm, for which there is a presumption that appropriate compensation should be paid.
  • The Secretary of State should demonstrate a willingness to use his default powers to require recalcitrant authorities to exercise their functions in a way that complies with the law.

The full report (including a Summary) can be accessed by clicking here.