If you are not satisfied with some aspect of the care you have received in the community, start by writing to the manager of the local office (Social Security, Social Services etc) dealing with the matter. If this does not lead to a satisfactory conclusion, your course of action depends on which service you were using.
Department of Social Security:
If you have a complaint about the DSS write to the manager of the local DSS office. If you feel it is a case of maladministration (neglect, undue delay, discrimination etc.) you can ask your MP to complain to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The Parliamentary Ombudsman deals with complaints about central government departments, but only if these are referred to him by an MP.
If you have a complaint about social services, write first to the Director of Social Services. Local Authorities are required by law to have a complaints procedure in relation to their Social Services functions - that is the Social Services they have a power or duty to provide. Social Services departments should have a designated complaints officer and should respond promptly to complaints.
These procedures fall into three parts:
- Informal problem solving, when the people from the department you normally deal with and their managers attempt to resolve the problem to everyone's satisfaction.
- Registering a complaint, when complaints that cannot be sorted out straight away are put in writing and then investigated. You should receive an explanation of the position within 28 days.
- A formal review, when the person making the complaint is unhappy with the outcome of the investigation and asks a review panel, which has an independent person on it, to look at the matter and make a final recommendation to the local council.
Leaflets about your social services department's complaints procedure are available from social services offices and may be held by Citizens Advice Bureaux and other advice centres. The leaflet will tell you who to write to or phone if you want to register a complaint. Or you can simply write to the Director of Social Services at the County Council Offices.
The fact that Social Services departments have a complaints procedure does not stop you complaining to your local councillor or MP if you prefer. If you feel the complaint relates to maladministration you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman. There is a free booklet available called 'Complaint about the Council: how to complain to your local government ombudsman'. It even contains a complaints form. Copies should be available from Council offices and Citizens Advice Bureau, or direct from The Local Government Ombudsman, 21 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9BU Tel:0171 915 3210.
Seek advice in the first instance from your Community Health Council, Local Health Council or Health and Social Services Board (look in the phone directory for the address, or call Tel:0800 665544). See also relevant sections on Complaints in the NHS A-Z.