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From time to time, things may go wrong on our SEND journey as parents and carers, and it may be that you feel you need to raise this formally. Whether about education, health or social care, all different sectors and services have different ways of complaining. Before making a complaint, we would strongly advise that you raise your concerns with the people/ services involved directly at first, to see if a discussion about the issues can resolve it, without the need to make a complaint. For certain issues, the DRS service (Dispute resolution service), may be of use to you, to try and help you and the service resolve the issues by way of a facilitated meeting. Find out more about Bolton's free DRS here. **Having a DRS meeting does NOT affect your right to make a complaint.
If you have done this, and still feel your concerns haven't been addressed fully, you have the right to complain about the services you have received. First, you should check with the service you wish to complain about, on what their process is for making a complaint. This can be sent to you in writing. Different services will do things differently. For complaints about the contents of EHC Plans at draft stage, straight after a final has been issued, or after a review, the process is different. Please look at our section on routes of redress.
When you have established the services' complaints procedure, and you know what time frame you have to make the complaint, it may be that the procedure requires you to put the complaint in writing. The information below is intended to help you to do that.
Structuring a letter/ email of complaint
1. You should set the complaint out like a letter- with your contact details and address, and your Childs full name and date of birth.
2. Make a reference to what the complaint is about at the start of the letter (RE- Complaint about xxxxx). This is very important, as if you don't make clear this is a complaint, it may not be dealt with as such. This can have an impact later on if you wanted to go to the Ombudsman, for example.
3. Start the letter by giving an overview as to how you've come to need to write a complaint. Give some background on your child/ their circumstances and needs, and explain clearly what you have done prior to this, to try and resolve the issue.
4. Then in the main body of the complaint, explain more about the compliant itself. Give as much detail as possible but keep it relevant and factual. Times, dates, people you have spoken to etc. It may be useful to use bullet points to get across the different aspects of the issue you want to raise if your complaint is about lots of different issues.
5. It is then useful for the service you are complaining about to understand how you feel this can be resolved. Give examples as to what you feel is an acceptable way to move this forward. Do you simply want an acknowledgement that something went wrong and an apology? Do you want the decision revisiting? Do you want a second opinion?
6. Conclude with how the issues have effected your child/ you. What do you intend to do as next steps if it cant be resolved at this stage. Check the policy and see when you may expect a response. End your complaint with that you look forward to hearing back from them within that timescale.
7. Append any relevant information or reports/ letters that support your complaint.
You then need to wait until the time has passed that the service have to respond to you before chasing this up with the service. You may get a phone call to discuss the outcome. IAS would say that whilst this is a good way to initially have those conversations with you, we would strongly suggest you request the response in writing also.
If your complaint has been dealt with, but you still remain unhappy with the outcome, you could then take the issue to the relevant Ombudsman. It would be good to check their website to see if your matter is something they are able to deal with. The Ombudsman website for Education and Social Care matters can be found here. For Health matters, the Ombudsman website can be found here.
IAS Bolton do not write complaints for or on behalf of parents. However, if despite this guidance, you still need support to access the complaints procedure in any way, you can get in touch with us for further advice, information and support.