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Social services complaints - when can you use the complaints procedure

This advice applies to Wales

Are you unhappy about the service you have had from your local authority social services department? This page tells you when you can use the local authority's (LA) complaints procedure.

What can you complain about?

You can use the complaints procedure to complain about:

  • any social service that the Local Authority (LA) provides, or has refused to provide
  • a social service provided by another organisation for the LA.

You can also complain about a member of staff involved in social services, for example because of rudeness, or failure to keep you informed about decisions which affect you.

Examples of possible complaints are:

  • you were refused a service
  • you are unhappy about the level of service provided, how often it is provided, or how much it costs
  • there was a delay in making a decision
  • the attitude or behaviour of staff was unacceptable
  • the decision-making process was unsatisfactory.

Before you complain, you should make sure that the LA is aware of your circumstances. To do this, contact the duty social worker at the social services department.

If the LA knows that you may need help to complain, it must decide what help, if any, it will provide. If you are not happy with the decision about help, you can complain about that decision too

Top tip

If you live in Wales and you're not sure about how to complain about a social services department, you can phone the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Complaints Advice Team for advice on 0300 790 0203.

Time limits for making a complaint

From 1 August 2014

From 1 August 2014, a complaint must be made within 12 months of either:

  • the date the matter which is the subject of a complaint occurred, or
  • if it was later, the date on which the complainant became aware of the matter.

The time limit will not apply if the LA is satisfied that there are good reasons for a complaint not being made within the time limit and, despite the delay, it is still possible to investigate the complaint effectively and fairly.

Before 1 August 2014

Before 1 August 2014 there was no time limit on when a complaint could be made about social services. However, sometimes it wasn't considered possible to deal with a complaint which was made a long time after the event. For example because:

  • staff concerned had left the organisation
  • staff concerned had died
  • records of the issue complained about were not available.

The LA had to decide on a case-by-case basis, whether it was possible to use the complaints procedure to consider a complaint made a long time after the event.

Finding out about the procedure

Every LA must have a Complaints Officer to manage the complaints procedure. You can contact your LA and ask to be put in touch with the Complaints Officer.

Your LA must also produce free information which explains how the procedure works. It should be available in languages used in the local community, as well as in English and Welsh.

Social Services should give you information about the procedure at the time they make any assessment of your needs.

Help to complain

You may be able to have an advocate or a representative to help to make your complaint.

Other useful information

On the Welsh Government website at you can find information about the complaints process and a copy of the guidance issued to local authority social services about dealing with complaints.

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