This chapter provides information for practitioners about the process for adults or carers who wish to make a complaint about their experience of the safeguarding adults process, or appeal a decision that was made during the process.

Please note, the Safeguarding Partnership is not responsible for the delivery of services in partner agencies; therefore complaints and concerns in relation to individual services/agencies do not fall within the scope of this procedure and should be dealt with directly by the responsible agency according to their own complaints process.


Escalation and Challenge Protocol

1. Introduction

Being involved in a safeguarding process is a difficult experience for any adult who has experienced neglect or abuse, and the people who care for them.

Practitioners should make every effort to ensure that adults and their carers are fully consulted and involved in the safeguarding process, kept informed of the progress of any investigation and are at the centre of work to ensure their safety and wellbeing (see Making Safeguarding Personal chapter).

However, there will be occasions when an adult or their carer wish to make a complaint about their experience or the outcome of the safeguarding process.

Where the adult or carer wishes to make a complaint about an individual organisation, they should be directed to the organisation’s complaints procedure.

For professionals who wish to complain about an aspect of the process, please see Escalation Protocol: Resolution of Professional Disagreements between Workers Relating to the Safety of Adults.

At any stage of the complaints process, the adult or carer may bring an advocate or friend to support them. An independent advocate can make a complaint on behalf of an adult (see Independent Advocacy chapter). Some adults or carers may require interpreting or communication services (see the chapter on Interpreting, Signing and Communication Needs).

When a representative makes a complaint on behalf of the adult, written confirmation will normally be required – as far as this is possible to give – that the person is happy for this representation to take place and if appropriate for relevant information to be shared directly with the representative.

The representative in a complaint covered by this procedure will be expected to discuss  and disclose relevant details of the complaints and its progress with the adult as far as possible, and ensure that any decisions made about the complaint has their full agreement.

South Tyneside Council has the discretion to decide whether or not the person is suitable to act as a representative.  If the representation is considered to be unsuitable, or not in the adult’s best interests, the person acting as a representative will be informed in writing of the reasons why their representation has been refused.  This test of suitability will be applied when the complaint is first made, and also at relevant stages of the complaint, as appropriate.

The local authority should ensure people are given information and advice about the complaints process, that they are supported throughout and kept fully informed in writing of progress and the outcome.

2. Grounds for Complaint or Appeal

The adult who is experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect (or advocate on their behalf) or their carer has grounds for making a complaint if they are unhappy with the manner in which they feel they have been treated during the safeguarding process.

3. Complaints Procedure

The complaints procedure has three stages.

3.1 Stage 1

The focus on Stage 1 is on putting things right.

The adult or their carer who wishes to make a complaint should first speak to a practitioner involved in the safeguarding process. This may be a social worker or health professional.

If they are not satisfied with the discussion at this level, the practitioner should ask them if they would like to speak to their line manager or the organisation’s safeguarding adult lead. The manager should discuss the situation with the adult / carer, and try to resolve the situation informally. This may be by explaining processes to them and the rationale for the decisions made or actions taken or taking action to remedy an aspect of the process. The adult / carer should be reassured that their concerns are taken seriously.

If the complaint is straightforward, it may be resolved at this stage.

The practitioner / manager should record a summary of all discussion/s which take place and the outcome (see Case Recording).

If the adult / carer remains dissatisfied ,they can ask for a formal investigation of their complaint under Stage 2 of the complaints procedure.

3.2 Stage 2

Where it has not been possible to resolve the complaint via discussion, the Customer Services Department will be informed.  The complaint will be  passed to a senior manager to carry out an investigation. That person will not have had any prior involvement in investigating the complaint.

The complainant will be sent a letter from the Customer Services Department to acknowledge that their complaint has been moved to Stage 2. The target response time is 15 working days.  If more time is needed to complete the investigation, the complainant will be contacted within the 15 working days and informed of what is happening by the Investigating Officer.

The Customer Services department and South Tyneside Safeguarding Children and Adults Partnership Manager should be informed of the outcome of Stage 2.

Should the complainant remain dissatisfied with the outcome of the investigation they can write to the Chief Executive within 28 days, requesting that their complaint is investigated under Stage 3 of the Complaints procedure

3.3 Stage 3

The Chief Executive will appoint a colleague to investigate the complaint on their behalf.  The Investigating Officer will not have had any prior involvement in dealing with the complaint and will not be employed in the service area that is being complained about.  The Customer Services Department will write to the complainant to advise them that their complaint will be investigated at Stage 3 and inform them of the name of the person dealing with it.  The Investigating officer will respond to the complainant directly with their findings. A full response will then be sent to them within 20 working days.  If more time is needed to complete the investigation the complainant will be informed  by the Investigating Officer within the 20 working days.

Should the complainant remain unhappy with the response they can ask the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman to take up their complaint.

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