The purpose of the safeguarding adults complaints procedure is to ensure a prompt, sensitive and professional response to the management of complaints arising from the implementation of safeguarding adults procedures. Sunderland City Council is responsible for coordinating safeguarding policy and procedure and acts as the lead agency within the safeguarding adults process.

Partner agencies still play a key role and this complaint procedure will help to ensure that all involved partnership agencies are able to use the same procedure to investigate complaints made to them about the safeguarding adults process.

On behalf of the SSAB, Sunderland City Council will appoint an officer who is responsible for managing the procedure for responding to complaints about the process of Sunderland’s Safeguarding Adults Multi-Agency Procedures. The Responsible Officer (RO) for this process is the Complaints Manager Adult Services:

Complaints and Feedback Team
Sunderland City Council
Plater Way, Sunderland, SR1 3AA


Please Note: Individual agencies will need to decide whether this is the most appropriate process to use. For example, a complaint about individual agencies; their performance or provision or non-provision of services, should be considered under the relevant agency’s own complaints procedure. The role of the Responsible Officer in this instance is to signpost the complainant to the relevant agency. Who may complain?

The procedure is open to anyone who may wish to complain about the way the Sunderland Safeguarding Adults Procedures have been carried out. A complaint may therefore be received from service users, parents, carers, representatives, and anyone else who has been involved in the process, or whom the Safeguarding Adults Team thinks has a sufficient interest in the matter.

Where a complainant wishes for someone to act on their behalf, then written consent should be provided, where possible, authorising the representative to act on his/her behalf.

A representative may also act on behalf of a complainant who is not capable of making a complaint him/herself.

A complainant may wish to be supported by someone of his/her choice throughout the complaints process. The Complaints Manager – Adult Services can advise the complainant about sources of independent advocacy. What may be complained about?

Complaints will be considered in relation to the way that the Safeguarding Adults Procedures have been carried out (i.e. in relation to the process). For example, this may include complaints about the way information was shared; who the information was shared with; delays and timescales; or the arrangements for meetings.

Complaints solely about the outcome of the Safeguarding Adults investigation are not usually considered, however all complaints will be considered on an individual basis. It should be noted that a complaint about the outcome of the case will not necessarily mean that the outcome will change.

In general complaints will only be considered on completion of the Safeguarding Adults process and this is to avoid either jeopardising or hindering the investigation. Again this will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Professionals working within all agencies may, from time to time, experience disagreements over the handling of safeguarding concerns. The views of one professional may not always concur with those of a professional colleague. This can occur when a representative from one agency expresses concerns about decisions taken, or the handling of a particular case, or there may be conflicting views on how the case should be dealt with. In such circumstances it is appropriate to seek a resolution through the Resolving Professional Differences Procedure rather than this Complaints Procedure. Time limit for making a complaint

Complaints should be made within one year after the date of the event that gives rise to the complaint. This is to allow current complaints to be dealt with and resolved, rather than becoming involved in historical issues that can relate to incidents many years previous. However, decisions need to be made on a case-by-case basis and there generally should be a presumption in favour of accepting the complaint.

Complaints received outside this time limit will be considered where:

  • The circumstances of the complainant at the time may have made a complaint impractical (e.g. a complaint from a person lacking in awareness or confidence at the time to be able to complain);
  • Where there is still sufficient access to information or personnel to make investigation possible;
  • There is still benefit to the complainant in proceeding with the complaint investigation;
  • Action should be taken in light of human-rights based legislation

Where a complaint cannot be considered, the Complaints Manager Adult Services will write and advise the complainant that their complaint cannot be considered and explain the reasons why. Procedure for making a complaint

Complaints can be made in writing, by telephone, or in person to the Complaints Manager Adult Services, who will then, upon receipt of the complaint:

  • Consult with relevant partners, on behalf of the SSAB, to determine whether the complaint should be dealt with through the relevant individual agency’s complaints procedures or through this procedure;
  • The Complaints Manager Adult Services will acknowledge receipt of the complaint in writing within 3 working days of receipt and where possible will inform he complainant as to whether:
    • The complaint is to be dealt with under this complaints procedure; or
    • The complaint should be dealt with by an individual agency, where it has not been possible to confirm how the complaint will be dealt with at the time of the acknowledgement, further contact will be made with the complainant as soon as this information is known
    • Complaints received by other service areas should be forwarded to the Complaints Manager Adult Services immediately, to allow the complaint to be acknowledged in accordance with this procedure

The Complaints Manager Adult Services will:

  • Inform the Safeguarding and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards Manager of the complaint;
  • Act as point of contact for the complainant throughout the process, unless a more appropriate officer is nominated for example, the Safeguarding and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards Manager;
  • Make a referral to the Advocacy Service, where required. Dealing with a complaint

A representative from the Safeguarding Adults Team together with the Complaints Manager Adult Services will make a decision as to the most appropriate method to use. The decision will be made on full consideration of the particular circumstances of each case. There are a number of options for investigating the complaint, which include:

  • Document review;
  • Meeting with the complainant and staff involved;
  • Obtaining additional evidence;
  • Obtaining detailed responses from relevant service managers;
  • Multi-agency review meeting;
  • The involvement of the senior manager responsible for that area of operation;
  • Formal investigation

Contact with the complainant may be necessary to establish the issues and seek information as to why the complainant is unhappy and what outcomes they are seeking. This may not be necessary where sufficient information has already been provided by the complainant.

Appropriate risk management and planning should be considered but any plan and action should be proportionate to the complaint, with the investigation establishing all relevant and material facts. Formal investigations

When a complaint requires a formal investigation the Complaints Manager Adult Services will, in consultation with a representative of the Safeguarding Adults Team arrange for the appointment of an investigating officer.

The investigating officer will:

  • Interview the complainant and clarify the nature of the complaint and what the complainant wishes to happen as a result of his/her complaint;
  • Agree with the complainant an expected timescale for the investigation, and confirm this in writing;
  • Consider whether the safeguarding adults procedures have been implemented correctly and whether decisions or outcomes follow reasonably from the proper implementation of the procedures;
  • Confirm whether the complaint is upheld or not;
  • Share the preliminary findings with the complainant and take into account any further response or information provided by the complainant in support of their complaint;
  • Prepare a report and send this to the Complaints Manager Adult Services within the agreed timescale. The complaint response

The Complaints Manager Adult Services will liaise with the Safeguarding Adults Team to ensure an adjudication response is provided to the complainant by an appropriate senior manager of the Local Authority.

The response to the complainant should include:

  • An explanation of the outcome of the investigation into the complaint;
  • A copy of the investigation report, if one has been prepared;
  • Information on any action taken or to be taken;
  • Information on how to progress their complaint if they remain dissatisfied Learning outcomes

Details of safeguarding adults complaints investigated and their recommendations will be shared with Sunderland Safeguarding Adults Board who will:

  • Consider the investigation’s findings and recommendations
  • Ensure through SSAB and/or any relevant sub-committee that any lessons to be learnt from the complaint contribute to practice development and service planning;
  • Recommend any changes to these safeguarding adults procedures


If the complainant is dissatisfied with the way the complaint has been handled or the outcome, he/she may contact the Local Government Ombudsman. The Complaints Manager Adult Services will also provide the complainant with details on how to contact the Local Government Ombudsman.