Complaints, Comments and Compliments
- safeguards the rights of individuals using our services, and ensures we improve services by learning from our errors and successes
- covers people who receive our services, people (other than our own staff) involved in the care or welfare of our service users, and any other organisation or individual on whom our services impact
- looks at making a complaint, the role of the Complaints Officer, the three complaint stages (local/informal complaint resolution, organisational/formal complaint resolution and panel hearing/appeals), in what circumstances we might suspend or not apply this policy, and related policies.
2. What is the policy about?
We welcome and support people to make complaints, comments and compliments about our services. A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with our services and a request for us to put things right. Comments and compliments can be as valuable as complaints in highlighting areas for improvement or extending excellence in service provision. Our policy safeguards the rights of individuals using our services, and ensures we improve services by learning from our errors and successes.
3. Who is the policy for?
Our policy covers:
- people who receive our services
- people other than our own staff* involved in the care or welfare of our service users
- *sessional workers, volunteers, agency staff and contractors (these are not employees and therefore not covered by the Grievance Policy)
- any other organisation or individual on whom our services impact.
Complaints from our own employees are dealt with in line with other relevant policies (see section 6), for example our grievance policy.
4. Policy statement
We are committed to:
- improving the lives of all the people we work with, and to working with their families and carers, communities and other organisations to achieve this
- providing the best possible services for everyone we work with
- learning from our mistakes, and continuing to improve on what we do
Our handling of complaints and comments forms an important part of this approach. As part of our philosophy, we seek to deal positively and decisively with issues of concern, and so we:
- treat anyone making a complaint, comment or compliment with respect
- support anyone wishing to make a complaint to do so, keeping them informed of the process at all stages
- deal with all complaints as swiftly as possible, and maintain confidentiality as far as possible
- train all our staff to use this policy
- encourage managers to try to resolve complaints locally and informally, in discussion with the person making the complaint
- treat fairly staff about whom a complaint is made, in line with our employment policies
- review the effectiveness of our policy, and monitor the level and nature of complaints, comments and compliments
5. Making a complaint
We make everyone we work with aware of this policy by giving them information on how to make a complaint or register a comment or compliment using a freepost form, via email or letter, and by providing an online form via our website.
Whenever possible complainants should be encouraged to put their complaint in writing however if this requirement would pose a barrier to the person making the complaint then a verbal complaint can be accepted. This should then be written up and sent back to the complainant for them to agree that it is an accurate record of the issue(s) they wish to have addressed.
A dedicated email address for the Complaints Officer is available for use firstname.lastname@example.org and is monitored every day except weekends and bank holidays.
Complaints made via a social media platform will not be responded to via an open platform. These will always be escalated to the Complaints Officer who will ensure that the Digital Marketing Officer and External Affairs teams are alerted and treated as an organisational/national complaint due to the potential public relations issues involved. Staff must not engage in a discussion or debate in a public forum but invite the complainant to contact us directly via our website, using the email@example.com email address or by post. The Complaints Officer will liaise with the relevant personnel to determine the appropriate way to respond as per any organisational/national complaint.
In recognition of the communication methods available, except for complaints raised via a social media platform, the response will take the form used by the complainant i.e.
- Email – response by email (no letter attached)
- Letter – response by letter
- Feedback form – response as directed on the form
- Webform (website) – response by email unless directed otherwise
n.b. If a copy of a letter is to be sent by email, it must be in a non-editable form e.g. PDF in order to reduce the risk of subsequent misuse of the branded Catch22 logo/paperwork.
A complaint must be made as soon as possible – and no more than three months – after an incident has occurred. We may extend this time limit if:
- the complaint could not reasonably have been made earlier, and
- we can still investigate the facts
- we will not investigate where the subject of a complaint relates to events more than one year before the date we receive it.
Where a person we work with wishes to make a complaint about another organisation’s services, we will assist them to do so in line with that organisation’s complaints procedure.
Catch22 also recognises that in some circumstances other bodies may provide alternative routes for complaints, e.g. Housing service complaints may be referred to the Housing Ombudsman if the complaint refers to the delivery of housing. In prisons, where Directors Rules apply to complaints management, suitable complaints management processes must be implemented.
Each service must maintain a local log of complaints received and outcomes, and review these at team meetings. The log is available for inspection by the relevant director, the Complaints Officer and (where contractually agreed) commissioners and other third parties.
6. Categorisation of complaints
Under this policy complaints will be classed under two categories,
- local/informal complaints and
- organisational/formal complaints.
The following criteria apply when determining which category a complaint falls into: –
Local/informal complaints will: –
- Be in writing or verbal and
- Not allege a serious breach of policy or standards and
- Not have been aired on social media and
- Be resolvable within the control of the local service.
Examples of locally managed informal complaints could include noise management issues in a housing service, failure of a worker to alert a service user to a change of appointment time, breakdown of working relationship between service user and worker that can be resolved by either local intervention, mediation or change of worker.
These complaints must be dealt with by the local responsible manager and logged in a complaints log held in the service to provide a record of the issue being raised and dealt with.
The local responsible manager must:
- explain when the complainant can expect a response (usually within seven days)
- where the matter can be resolved locally, provide a thoughtful response based on an understanding of the full circumstances and the other options available to the complainant under this policy if they remain dissatisfied
If the complainant is unhappy with the response and wishes to appeal against it then the complaint should be escalated to the Complaints Officer with all relevant documentation attached so that it can be reviewed and, if necessary investigated further, as an organisational/formal complaint.
Organisation/formal complaints will:-
- Be in writing (this may include verbally given complaints that have been written up and agreed as an accurate record with the complainant) and/or
- Allege a serious breach of policy or standards including, but not limited to:
o Recruitment and selection
o Health and safety
o Operational practice
- Have been made on a social media platform (complaints aired via social media have the potential to cause organisational reputational damage and so must be addressed as an organisational/formal complaint) and/or
- Have escalated from a local/informal complaint because the complainant is unhappy with the response or the issue is ongoing
If you are unsure how to categorise or deal with a complaint, contact the Complaints Officer.
7. Roles and responsibilities
The Complaints Officer is responsible for ensuring that we review a complaint impartially, and deal with it in line with this policy. The Complaints Officer:
- advises on our complaints policy
- oversees all investigations as part of the formal process (section 5) to ensure they comply with this policy
- reviews responses to complaints as a member of an appeals panel (section 5) when necessary
- monitors all complaints made under this policy and reports on any trends or issues for action on an organisation-wide basis (for example, for service planning or risk management) to our Chief Officers Group, and Audit Committee.
The Complaints Officer will usually acknowledge an organisational/ formal complaint within one working day of receiving it (maximum three working days). This acknowledgement sets out the next steps and when the complainant can expect to hear more (normally within 28 days). If the investigation is going to take longer, the Complaints Officer will write to give the expected completion time and explain the reason for the delay.
Unless the relevant director for the area the complaint is made in is implicated in the complaint, they and the Complaints Officer will agree how they will investigate it. The director will be the commissioning manager for any investigation. The director may delegate this authority to another senior manager in their directorate. Please note: not all complaints require a formal investigation process to be applied. If the complaint can be resolved with evidence/information that is readily available then it is in all interests to close the complaint as quickly as possible. If however there has been a serious breach of policy or standards and/or the nature of the complaint indicates that there may be disciplinary action that could arise if the allegation is found to be upheld, then a formal investigation must be carried out.
In complex cases or those involving several people, the commissioning manager will assign an investigating officer, who may be a manager from the same directorate but not the same service and will advise the Complaints Officer of their appointment. The commissioning manager will agree a set of terms of reference for the investigation which detail the allegations raised by the complainant and any broader objectives that the investigator is to be asked to consider. These terms of reference must be written to allow the investigator to establish whether the allegations are
- partly upheld
- not upheld
The objectives will establish whether there is evidence to show a breach of policy or standard, or negligence, misconduct or deliberate wrong-doing on the part of an individual or individuals relating to the complaint.
The investigator will: –
- If necessary, arrange to meet the complainant and any other relevant people (including witnesses) to collate statements and establish the facts.
- then write a report and discuss their findings with the relevant director or delegated authority, who must confirm to the Complaints Officer that the investigation has been carried out as agreed. If it has not, the Complaints Officer may require the matter to be reinvestigated. At the same time, the director, or delegated authority, will give the Complaints Officer an analysis of the cause of the complaint, and report any action taken or recommended.
When the investigation is complete, the director will decide, or approve, how to respond to the complainant. The complainant will be written to with the outcome of the complaint including whether their complaint has been upheld, partly upheld or not upheld. This response should come from the director or delegated authority. This response may be restricted for reasons of confidentiality or data protection (for example, if the staff member involved is subject to disciplinary action). The response will be copied to the:
- complainant’s advocate (if they had one)
- service/project manager and/or assistant director or head of service
- Complaints Officer.
If the complainant is dissatisfied with the result of the organisational/formal complaint process, they can appeal in writing. They must do this within 28 days of receiving the response, explaining why they are dissatisfied with the result.
An appeals panel will be formed, comprising of:
- the Complaints Officer
- a director not previously involved in the complaint (this may be the commissioning director if they have delegated the initial complaint management)
- an independent person from an unrelated part of the business. (In very exceptional circumstances an external person may be invited to be part of the panel – this decision will be made by the Complaints Officer and the relevant director. An example of this would include inviting a local authority commissioner or other relevant person to be part of the panel if the complaint is part of the delivery of a statutory service e.g. leaving care).
The panel will review all the information available and undertake any extra investigation they deem necessary, which may include talking to the complainant. The panel may recommend mediation, if members believe this will resolve the dispute. The Complaints Officer must write to the complainant within seven days of the panel meeting, outlining its findings.
In some services e.g. social care services, if the complainant is still unhappy with the outcome of their complaint they may refer the complaint to the local authority or to an external ombudsman for further review.
9. Suspension/non-application of procedure
A complaint will not be considered, or further considered, through this procedure where in relation to the substance of the complaint:
- It has been withdrawn by the complainant, unless the Charity decides that there is merit in pursuing the complaint, e.g., to identify any lessons learnt
- It repeats a complaint that has previously been considered through the complaints procedure
- It is being or has been investigated by an independent body and/or in accordance with the arrangements set down by the commissioner of the relevant service;
- Following a request for clarification from Catch22 it remains unclear;
- There is reason to believe that the use of the complaints procedure may be damaging to the interests/well being of a child or vulnerable person;
- The charity does not have the powers to grant the outcome the complainant is seeking (in these cases the complainant will be directed to the organisations/agencies who are able to make the relevant determination);
- The complainant is vexatious and/or frivolous in that they have persistently made or continued to pursue a complaint which after investigation is found to have no substantive basis and/or there is reason to believe such complaint has not been made in good faith/is a part of campaign of harassment against individual workers. In determining whether a complaint is vexatious, the complaint(s) and responses should be reviewed by the Chief Operating Officer (or equivalent grade) to ensure that all issues have been addressed.
- Where the subject of complaint relates to events more than one year before the date the charity receives the complaint;
- the complainant has stated in writing that he is taking or intends to take proceedings to court or tribunal.
- The charity has been notified that any person is conducting an investigation in contemplation of criminal proceedings; or
- The charity has been notified that criminal proceedings are pending
The Complaints Officer and Chief Operating Officer will jointly determine any complaint which should be subject to suspension/disapplication of process for one of these reasons and the complainant (and relevant commissioner, where appropriate) will be informed.
10. Local complaints monitoring and management accountability
Operational directors, assistant directors and heads of are responsible for carrying out an annual review of service complaints logs to ensure that these are being maintained and used to track complaints resolution and share organisational learning. Service managers are likewise responsible for ensuring that complaints, comments and compliments are discussed in team meetings so that all staff have the opportunity to participate in discussions about service improvements and share learning.
11. Compliments and other feedback
Catch22 welcomes compliments and other feedback on the services we provide and the people who work for us. These can be recorded locally or sent through to the firstname.lastname@example.org for central recording. All positive feedback must be acknowledged within 3 working days and, where it relates to an individual, the content should be shared with that person at the earliest opportunity.
Suggestions for improvement not relating to a complaint must also be acknowledged and manager should reflect in their response the consideration they have given or will give to the suggestion. If appropriate, the response should include a brief outline of changes made, to be made or why the change can not be actioned as appropriate.