Social services complaints - using the complaints procedure

This advice applies to Wales. See advice for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland

Your local authority (LA) has a special procedure to deal with complaints about social services. How does it work? Find out on this page.

Making a complaint

You can make your complaint to anyone who works for social services. They must record the complaint and inform the local authority's (LA) Complaints Officer.

Your complaint doesn't have to be in writing. If you complain by telephone or in person, you should keep a note of what was said. If you complain in writing, you should keep a copy of the letter, email or fax.

Top tip

Your local councillor may be able to help you to make a complaint about social services. To find out how to contact your councillor, ring your council offices or look on your council's website.

The stages of the complaints procedure

The complaints procedure has two stages:

  • Stage 1 – trying to sort things out with the local service

  • Stage 2 – getting someone else to look into your complaint

For complaints made before 1 August 2014, there can also be a Stage 3 -  taking your complaint to an independent panel.

If you prefer, you can decide not to use Stage 1 and go straight to Stage 2. For example, if you aren't comfortable dealing with staff close to the people involved in the complaint.

Special arrangements may apply if the complaint involves more than one LA, or the LA and another organisation, for example an NHS hospital.

There may be a delay to the complaints procedure if other investigations are taking place, for example, a police investigation.

Adviser only content

Complaints involving more than one local authority

If your complaint about social services involves more than one local authority you only need to make one complaint to either of the authorities involved. One of the local authorities will take the lead and co-ordinate a single response.

Complaints involving a local authority and the NHS

If you wish to complain about both an NHS organisation and a local authority, you will need to complain separately to both. You should make sure you tell each organisation that you have made a complaint to the other.

Complaints about services regulated by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales

You may want to complain about a service which is arranged through the local authority but is regulated by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW), for example, a care home or day care services for young children.

This can involve several different complaints procedures, for example the care home, the CSSIW and the local authority complaint procedures. The Welsh Government guidance recommends co-operation between the different bodies and a single report covering all of the complaint.

Concurrent investigations

A concurrent investigation happens when other action is taken about the issues you raised in your complaint, for example, if:

  • you are taking legal action, such as suing the local authority

  • disciplinary proceedings are being taken by the local authority against someone involved in the complaint

  • another organisation, for example, the police, is considering a criminal prosecution

  • action is to be taken by, for example, the Care Council for Wales, against a registered social worker involved in the complaint

  • an inter-agency meeting is to discuss protection of a child or a vulnerable adult.

The local authority must contact you and the other body and agree how to proceed. It may be possible to continue with the complaint while other investigations are ongoing.

The local authority must not start the complaints procedure if it's likely to compromise another procedure, for example, a police investigation.

If your complaint has been delayed because of a concurrent investigation, when any other investigation finishes, you must resubmit your complaint within six months if you want it to be re-started under the complaints procedure.

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.