Representations and Complaints Procedure


Guidance on Chapter 5 of the Regulations – Policies, Records, Complaints and Notifications

Regulation 5 - Engaging with the Wider System to Ensure Each Child’s Needs are Met

The Children’s Views, Wishes and Feelings Standard


This chapter should be read in conjunction with the following:

Child Protection Procedure

Confidential Reporting Procedure

Allegations Against Staff Procedure



Anne Longfield (OBE), Children's Commissioner for England
The Office of the Children's Commissioner
Sanctuary Buildings
20 Great Smith Street

Tel: 020 7783 8330

Piccadilly Gate
Store Street
M1 2WD

Tel: 0300 123 1231


Click here for contact details for CSSIW (Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales)


This chapter was slightly updated in May 2018 in changing Communities to Homes.


  1. Introduction and Principles
  2. What is a Complaint?
  3. Who may make a Complaint?
  4. Informing Children about the Complaints Procedure
  5. Informal Resolution
  6. Formal Complaints
  7. Stage 2/Appeals Process

1. Introduction and Principles

The treatment methodology used by all Childhood First homes and services promotes and encourages open communication about all aspects of the children's lives including everyday living together. Staff teams encourage, listen to and respond to both minor complaints and major ones and are trained and experienced in remaining alert to children's welfare at all times. Children are encouraged to raise concerns and make suggestions for changes and improvements. It is recognised that the children we work with often have undisclosed issues of historical abuse, and that it is part of the staff task to help them to tell adults things, to experience them being taken seriously and responded to for themselves, and in preparation for other disclosures. It is the responsibility of all staff to encourage complaints as it is understood that it is an essential developmental tool to know how and when to complain and ask for help.

It is the working practice within all Childhood First establishments to form effective working partnerships with parents, carers and those that have statutory responsibility for the children and young people who we look after. On occasion parents, carers and others might find themselves disagreeing with an area of our practice.

It is the policy of Childhood First that, wherever possible, whether the complaint originates from a child, parent, carer or person with statutory responsibility, the complaint shall be resolved in an informal manner. This informal framework and culture is supported by a formal procedural framework which ensures that any complaints shall be addressed appropriately where informal means have failed for whatever reason to reach a point of resolution.

1.1 Principles

  • Any child within a Childhood First home or service, or their parent, carer or person with statutory responsibility, who feels that they have been treated unfairly or inappropriately have the right to raise the issue or to make a complaint;
  • All children making complaints will receive full support from staff and will be made aware of the range of options regarding available action routes;
  • There is no restriction on what can be the basis for a complaint;
  • Any child wanting to raise an issue or make a formal complaint will be offered the opportunity to be accompanied or represented by a member of staff throughout;
  • Any child making a complaint will not be reprised in any way for doing so, and consideration will be given to the contact that the child has with any person(s) who is the subject of the complaint;
  • Any parent or carer wishing to make a formal complaint will be directed to the appropriate agency which will advise and support them;
  • No person(s) who is the subject of a formal complaint shall play any part in the consideration of response to that complaint;
  • If the Director / Registered Manager is the subject of the complaint then the Residential Services Director and the Responsible Individual of Childhood First will be informed immediately;
  • Children are made aware on arrival verbally and in the Children's Guide of internal and external options to discuss concerns or complain. All children will be introduced to the Designated Complaints Officer as soon as possible after arrival;
  • Parents and placing authorities are made aware of their own right to make a complaint. Details of how to do this are contained within the information issued to each parent when a child or young person is admitted to a Childhood First home;
  • Each home or service has provision for relevant issues to be referred without delay to other procedures (e.g. Child Protection) as necessary;
  • The complaints log records all relevant details of every formal complaint and also any informal complaints recorded at the discretion of senior staff. This log will be checked monthly by the regulation 44 visitor;
  • Staff training programmes ensure that staff understand the complaints policy and procedures and how they can best support children who wish to raise a concern or make a complaint.

2. What is a Complaint?

A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, the actions, or lack of action by the home towards an individual or a group.

A complaint should normally be made where all other reasonable methods of resolving the dissatisfaction have been tried and failed or where the complainant believes they would fail.

A complaint may be about:

  • The lack of service;
  • Being refused a service, including an assessment;
  • The quality of a service;
  • The attitudes or behaviour of staff;
  • Decisions made by staff;
  • Delays in dealing with problems or in providing a service.

The complainant should be advised that complaints can always be directed to the Regulatory Authority, Ofsted or the Placing Authority.

Complaints or allegations of mistreatment or Significant Harm by staff must be dealt with by way of the Child Protection Referral Procedures, not as Complaints.

See: Child Protection Procedure, which contains procedures on referring suspicions or allegations of Significant Harm.

3. Who May Make a Complaint?

The following persons have a right to use the complaints procedure:

  • A Child;
  • A parent of a child;
  • A person acting on behalf of a child;
  • A neighbour living in the locality;
  • A Social Worker or Placing Authority or another partnership organisation.

4. Informing Children about the Complaints Procedure

Children will be informed about the Complaints Procedures in a variety of ways; including the Children's Guide given to them before or upon admission. This must be in a format that the child can understand.

This must include the name, address and telephone number of the Regulatory Authority in the area where the home is based. Other relevant organisation and persons details should also be included.

Registered Managers must take all reasonable steps to ensure that children feel comfortable with the making of comments or complaints; they are enabled to make a complaint or representation and are free from reprisals if they choose to do so.

Complainants should be given any reasonable assistance they require or request, including being advised that they may ask someone else to make the complaint on their behalf. 

They will also be given information and contacts details of Advocates they may contact, who may make complaints or advocate of their behalf or assist them in doing so.

The complainant must be advised that if they choose to complain directly to the Placing Authority, the Placing Authority must provide information and assistance.

The Children's Guide will provide advice to children about how to use the procedures to their best advantage; and on the process of investigating complaints made by them as appropriate to their age and understanding.

The child's parents and the Placing Authority must be given a copy of the complaints procedure. This complaints procedure is available to all persons working in the home.

If they request it or it appears appropriate, they should be given information on additional advocacy or support networks which may help them use the procedures effectively; this should include providing contact details.

5. Informal Resolution

The Childhood First treatment methodology, Integrated Systemic Therapy Policy, is based on child development and fully involves children and their families. Children in all services are provided with a range of individual and group forums within which they are helped and encouraged to express their views. Adult facilitators of these forums are skilled in understanding verbal and non-verbal communications.

The culture is one of openness where all opinions are encouraged and listened to, children are valued and respected by the adults and helped to value and respect each other and themselves. At residential facilities these forums include Community Meetings, daily meetings, small group meetings, leavers groups, boys groups, girls groups, individual key/link worker time, individual time with other adults, as well as circle time and PHSE in our educational facilities and informal interactions during the everyday therapeutic living experience.

Placement and Family support services include individual time with children as well as family sessions and meetings with the professional network. These forums provide opportunities for children and young people to learn about keeping safe; to recognise and manage risks in different situations and discuss what kind of physical contact is acceptable and unacceptable. They also teach children to complain where necessary.

Throughout the course of everyday life within the centres there are inevitably frequent issues of conflict and disagreement. The task of each centre is to help and support the children to understand their own contribution to such issues and to teach productive ways to manage conflict and difficult emotions. It is the task of the staff (and other children) in the forums available, to listen to, consider, reflect upon, and offer help to any child who has an issue that they feel needs to be heard. The satisfactory resolution of most ordinary, everyday complaints is usually achieved by this informal process.

It may be helpful to keep a record of these minor or informal complaints.

6. Formal Complaints

Directors / Registered Managers must take all reasonable steps to ensure that children feel comfortable with the making of comments or complaints and free from reprisals if they choose to do so.

When children indicate they wish to make a complaint, the person receiving it should do what they reasonably can to ensure that all other resolutions available have been tried, rather than resorting to the making of a formal complaint.

Where a person insists that they wish to make a formal complaint, the matter should be passed to the Designated Complaints Officer (DCO) - unless the DCO is implicated, in which case, the matter should be passed to another senior manager.

If a serious complaint is made, the Chief Executive must be notified, and the Regulatory Authority - see Notification of Serious Events Procedure.

If they wish to do so, complainants may direct their complaints to others outside the home, such as the Independent Advisor, the Regulatory Authority or the Placing Authority.

The DCO will meet with the child as soon as possible and will listen to and record the complaint. This will include details of the child, the nature of the complaint, what action has been taken to address the complaint.

Details will be recorded in the child's file, the complaints log and a copy sent to the child's social worker.

The DCO will then agree with the child what further action, if any, will be taken to resolve the complaint, and will arrange to meet again to review the outcome. Once any agreed action is complete this will be the conclusion of the process unless the complainant decides to take the matter further.

The same process will occur if the complaint is made by a child, parent, carer or person with statutory responsibility for the child or young person.

If the matter has not reached satisfactory resolution using this process, the DCO will appoint an Investigating Officer (IO), who will be a senior member of staff, and an Independent Person (IP), who will be an appropriate person outside of the centre. The role of the IO will be to manage the complaints process internally on behalf of the DCO whilst linking with the IP who will provide an outside overview throughout. The DCO will collate all records throughout the process and will inform all relevant external parties within 24 hours that a formal complaint has been made.

The whole process from registration of a formal complaint to final conclusion will be completed within as short a time scale as possible and in all instances within 28 days. All parties, including the child's Social Worker, will be kept informed of the progress of the complaint at all stages.

The person investigating the complaint (DCO or IO) will have access to records and will arrange to interview staff or other children as necessary as part of the investigation. No other child will be interviewed without permission, accompaniment or support appropriate to the circumstances under the usual procedures.

At the discretion of the DCO, the process can be suspended at any point if it becomes apparent that criminal proceedings should be instigated.

The DCO or IO will make findings and recommendations based upon the evidence presented at the hearing. A copy of the findings and recommendations will be sent by electronic mail or otherwise given to the complainant and, where relevant, the person complained about.

Written records of all complaints, whether they are revolved at preliminary stage or whether they proceed to a formal panel hearing, will be kept. These, together with the findings and recommendations will be made available for inspection by the proprietor, Head Teacher, Director and Regulation 44 visitor. Copies will also be forwarded to the child's Social Worker.

All of this material plus any ensuing correspondence will be kept secure and confidential.

7. Stage 2/Appeals Process

If, at the end of the formal complaints process described above, a complainant is dissatisfied with the response, they then have the right to ask for the matter to be dealt with via the Placing Authority's formal (Stage 2) Complaints Procedure or appeal to the Chief Executive. They may also ask for the matter to be referred to the Regulatory Authority.

If the complainant chooses to make an appeal, they will be invited, and if necessary supported, to write to the Chief Executive of Childhood First who will then convene a Complaints Review Panel consisting of the Chief Executive, a Trustee and the (or an) Independent Person. The panel will meet within 28 days of the complainant's request and will give the complainant 10 days’ notice of the panel meeting.

Submissions may be made to the panel either in person or in writing by either the complainant and/or, where appropriate, their advocate or a Local Authority officer. The panel will conduct a full hearing and will produce written recommendations. Copies of the recommendations will be sent to the complainant, the DCO, the child's Social Worker and to any other person who has sufficient involvement in the case.

Where the complainant is not satisfied with this decision or considers the complaints policy has not been followed correctly, the complainant will be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman.