Complaints About Social Services

It is generally not possible to sue a local authority for negligence because of its decision whether or not to take a child into care, because the courts have granted wide immunities to local authorities for public policy reasons. However, where the local authority knows or should know that a child is at real risk of death or of suffering inhuman or degrading treatment, it may have a positive obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights to take steps to prevent possible breaches of Article 2 (right to life) or Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment). The law in this area remains unclear and subject to change.

Children do have a right to make formal complaints against the local authority. Complaints are investigated by the local authority itself and in certain circumstances the local authority can appoint an independent representative. Matters can also be referred to a panel for consideration of the complaint. There are concerns that the complaints process is not particularly easy for children and young people to negotiate without assistance and moreover, that it is not a transparent process.

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