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. And the Children and Families Act 2014 strengthened rights to carers assessments for parents carers and young carers.


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 your council’s Customer Feedback team and they can guide you through the process, or fill in a Complaints, Comments and Compliments form online or a paper copy from any council office.

Give feedback on Brighton & Hove City Council services

Give feedback on East Sussex County Council services for children  and for adults

Each council has their own complaints procedure, which may differ according to whether the service is provided by them or a private contractor, but it will always begin with a local manager investigating your concern. If your problem can’t be resolved at this level, your elected council member, your MP and the Local Government Ombudsman can also be approached, the latter only after you have used the local complaints process.

Appealing health and social care aspects of EHC plan decisions

Since the 3rd April 2018, the SEND First-tier Tribunal may make recommendations about the health and social care aspects of an Education, Health and Care plan. Health and social care services are not legally required to follow these recommendations but they would need to provide a strong argument to go against the recommendation of the tribunal. We explain here in more detail about the rights of appeal in EHC needs assessments & plans.


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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