For families of children and young people with SEN and disabilities helpline 01273 772289

complaints about social care

Local social care services like short breaks and adaptations often make a very positive difference to a family's daily life. However, occasionally, you may not be happy with the level of service you receive or how services are delivered. This page explains how to complain about social care.

The law and your rights

It is useful to bear in mind that sometimes the law says that the council must do something (for example to assess a child if they may be in need) and sometimes it gives them the power to do something and they can choose how they do it. Social services’ main legal framework for the help it gives to children with special needs is the Children Act 1989 (CA) which works together with the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970  (CSDPA). The CSDPA 1970 establishes the duty to provide most of the services which disabled children will need. The Children Act 1989 establishes the duty to assess children and also requires the provision of certain specific services, particularly residential and foster care short breaks. Assessments made under CA 1989 should also determine whether a child is eligible for support under CSDPA 1970. In addition, the Children and Young Person’s Act 2008 clarified the duty for local authorities to provide short breaks for families with disabled children.


As with schools, it is usually best to start by talking to the person closest to the problem and then their manager. If you have a complaint that can’t be sorted out face to face, by letter or phone call with the person concerned, you can go through the council’s own complaints procedure. Contact the city council Standards and Complaints team and they can guide you through the process, or pick up a Complaints, Comments and Compliments form from any council office. There is a two stage process. Stage one is quick and involves a local manager investigating, but if you are not satisfied you can go to stage two where an independent person investigates. As with education, if you can’t resolve the problem at this level, your elected council member, your MP and the Local Government Ombudsman can also be approached, the latter only after you have complained to your local councillor.  There is a caseworker based at Brighton Housing Trust who can offer legal advice on community care issues.

The social worker said she can’t complain herself, and she said it was so difficult to get parents to complain for something that is their right, and it’s the only way that things will get done.

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