Tips for writing letters of complaint to the local authority
Get advice first
You should get advice before writing a letter of complaint in a child abuse case, even if you want to make an informal complaint. Each situation is different and getting advice will help you understand exactly what the duties of the local authority are and whether the steps they have taken are reasonable. If you write a letter which shows a lack of understanding of the issues, that could make the situation worse and your letter could be used against you in the future. Look at the complaints policy of your local authority before you write the letter.
What to include in a letter of complaint
Make sure you have a valid reason to complain
Keep your letter short and to the point .
Try to work together with social workers in cases where they are concerned about harm to a child.
State that you also want the best for your child, and explain why you feel that the actions of the social worker are not in the best interests of your child.
List clearly the issues you are complaining about, in date order, with as many factual details that you can. For example, if you are complaining about the behaviour of a social worker in a meeting, write down:
- the date and place of the meeting
- the name of the social worker
- the names of anyone else at the meeting.
Provide evidence of the problem - keep letters you get from the social workers, and make notes of anything that happens in a meeting with them. You can attach copies of relevant documents to your letter.
Write the complaint in an unemotional way. Don’t make personal attacks on the staff you are complaining about – stick to complaining about the aspects of their behaviour that are unacceptable.
State the outcome you’re hoping for. This could be simply an apology and an undertaking to behave differently in the future.
If the complaint is about careless paperwork, ask for confirmation that the mistakes will be corrected.
If you’re complaining about unreasonable delays in getting copies of reports about your child, ask for a firm date to get the report.
Get legal advice if you want a more formal outcome, such as a different decision about your child being taken into care.
Date your letter and ask for a reply within the time scales set out by your local authority.
You could also send a copy of the letter to other people involved in your case. For example, if you were unhappy about the behaviour of social workers at a child protection conference, you could send a copy of your letter to:
- their manager
- the chair of the conference
- your local councillor
- your local MP.
If you’re complaining about professional misconduct, you could also send a copy of the letter to the regulatory body of social workers.
Keep a copy of your letter and any attachments you send.