Complaints procedures

Understand the processes involved in taking action against the police or statutory agencies.

Some parents may feel dissatisfied with the level of service they receive from statutory agencies and police during their child’s exploitation.

What to do if you’re not happy with the response from statutory agencies

If this is the case, then you can make a complaint using your local authority’s social services complaints procedure. Every local authority is required by law to have a complaints procedure. You can also make a complaint on behalf of another individual (such as your child) provided the local authority agrees that you are a suitable representative.

When to make a complaint

You should make a complaint as soon as you can after the event you are complaining about has happened. The usual time limit for making a complaint is within 12 months from when the event happened or 12 months from when you first became aware of the event. (The time limits will only be extended if it was unreasonable to expect you to complain in time.)

How to make a complaint

  1. If you feel comfortable doing so, speak to the member of staff who is providing the service you wish to complain about.
  2. If you are not able to resolve your complaint with a member of staff from social services, request a copy of the complaints procedure from the social services department.
  3. Complete the complaints form (online or by hand) and return it to the complaints manager within social services.
  4. Ideally the complaint will be resolved by the complaints manager. An independent conciliator or mediator may be brought in by the complaints manager to help resolve the complaint. It may well be escalated up to senior management.
  5. If you are unhappy with the Local Authority’s response to your complaint,  you cannot appeal. You can, however, refer the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman (LBO) who will investigate. For further information about the Local Government Ombudsman scheme visit must however fully use the local authority complaints procedure before going to the LGO.
  6. If you are dissatisfied with the Local Government Ombudsman’s decision then you might be able to seek a judicial review of the decision (this is where a court reviews the decision).

What to do if you’re not happy with the police response

Police forces are organised differently, with each one operating along individual lines and in agreement with the relevant Local Safeguarding Children Board. This means that some parents will experience compounded stress if the service in their area is not as effective as in other parts of the country or if circumstances involve more than one police authority.

Since 2012 there have been several high profile child sexual exploitation court cases, which have led to an improved understanding of this type of sexual abuse from the statutory sector. This means that the police are much better informed about the nature of child sexual exploitation and are more likely to deliver a good response. However if you are not satisfied with your service from the police you could consider highlighting the College of Policing Professional Guidance on CSE to the officer and discussing why you feel your child is at risk and not simply ‘choosing the wrong friends’ or displaying ‘normal teenage rebellion’.

Parents may also get a better response by seeking out a senior officer and trying to establish a working relationship with an officer in authority.

Making a formal complaint

If you are dissatisfied by your treatment by the police, there is a process for making a formal complaint. However, many parents advise that this should be avoided for as long as possible.

Complaints can sometimes make a good working relationship difficult – not that they should – but it does happen. It may be worth waiting until the case is closed before you go down that route. – Parent

If you do not receive a satisfactory response to your concern, then you could make a formal complaint. As a very last resort, you could turn to the outside body that monitors the police called the Independent Office of Police Conduct.

Be prepared for tremendous delays when making formal complaints. The IPCC took 16 months to investigate and get back to us with an outcome. We feel we only got regular updates because Pace supported us and kept the agencies on their toes. When the Ombudsman responded, we were then told to wait a further three months for a response from our local Children’s Services. – Parent

Contacting your Police & Crime Commissioner

If you are dissatisfied with the service from your local police force, or wish to promote better understanding of child sexual exploitation, then another option is to contact your Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). PCCs were elected across England and Wales in November 2012. Their role is to hold the police to account and they aim to make the police answerable to the communities they serve. You can find out who your PCC is and how to contact them via the Association of PCCs website.

(Note that there is no PCC for London, where a similar role is performed by the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime.)

Getting help to make a complaint

Making a complaint may feel like a complicated process particularly if you are feeling emotionally drained and stressed. You can ask an Ivison Trust support worker to assist you with the forms and other documentation you might need to make a complaint.

Legal action

You might prefer to take legal action about your complaint. If this is the case then consult a solicitor for further advice about the options available to you.