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Child abuse - taking your complaint about the local authority further

This advice applies to England

In a case involving child abuse, it can be complicated to work out how best to make a complaint about the local authority’s involvement with your family. One way can be to use the official complaints procedure but this page tells you about other options.

Reporting concerns to the Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates children’s social care as well as hospitals and adult social care.

Although they don’t deal with individual complaints, you can report your experience of your local authority to them. This could result in action being taken against the local authority. There is information about this on the CQC's website.

Complaining to the Local Government Ombudsman

If you aren’t satisfied with the way that your complaint has been dealt with under the official procedure, you could take your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.

The Local Government Ombudsman can investigate complaints about a local authority’s maladministration. Maladministration could be, for example:

  • unreasonable delay
  • unfairness
  • failure to follow proper procedures.

The procedure is easy to follow and the Ombudsman can award compensation. However, it can take a long time for them to make a decision.

Asking the court to review the decision of a local authority

You may have the right to go to court to ask for a decision to be reviewed if you believe you’ve been affected by an unlawful act or decision of a local authority. This is called a judicial review. This may be appropriate, for example, if you urgently need to challenge a decision. You’ll need specialist legal advice about judicial review.


If you’ve been treated unfairly by the local authority because of who you are, you may have been discriminated against. The law which says you mustn’t be discriminated against is called the Equality Act 2010 and discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful. Examples could include:

  • refusing to provide a proper service because of your race. For example, if you don’t understand English, and they don’t provide interpreters at a child protection conference, this could amount to unlawful race discrimination
  • giving you a worse service than they would normally offer, because of your disability. This could include things like providing only written information about child protection procedures to a blind person who can't read it.
  • behaving in a way which causes you distress or offends or intimidates you because of your sex - this is sexual harassment
  • starting investigations about your children just because you’re gay.

You can do something about unlawful discrimination – get specialist advice. You might get legal aid.

You may be able to sue a local authority, for example, for personal injury or negligence if they didn’t protect you properly when you were in care as a child.

If you want to take legal action, get specialist legal advice.Depending on the sort of case, you might get legal aid.

Human rights law

In some cases, you may have a claim for a breach of your human rights under the Human Rights Act 1998, for example, the right to respect for private and family life. You’ll need specialist legal advice about this.

Professional misconduct

Examples of professional misconduct include:

  • inappropriate relationships with a client
  • exploiting a vulnerable client
  • false claims of social work qualifications
  • breach of confidentiality
  • falsifying records.

Social Work England (SWE) is responsible for regulating social workers in England. Anyone can make a complaint to the SWE about a social worker’s conduct but it has to be in writing and can’t be made anonymously.

If you complain to the SWE about the conduct of a social worker, a case manager will investigate your complaint. In serious cases the social worker could be dismissed and prevented from working as a social worker in the future. The SWE can’t order compensation or order the social worker to apologise.

You can make a complaint to the SWE even if you’ve already made a complaint using your local council's procedures. However, if an investigation has already started, the SWE might wait for the outcome before deciding what action to take.

You can raise a concern about a social worker on the Social Work England website.

Next steps

Other useful information

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