The process for dealing with client complaints is set nationally. Leaflets for clients setting out the procedure are available here: Cymraeg & English. the procedure from an internal perspective is set out below.
Before the formal stages begin, your aim should be to return the client to the advice process or otherwise resolve their complaint as smoothly as possible. It is not always possible to consider informal resolution, depending on the nature of the complaint.
Informal resolution may include:
- an apology
- an explanation by a senior manager
- referral to another agency
- making an appointment.
If you respond in writing at this point, make sure that you state in the letter that the complaint was resolved before reaching the formal stages. It can become difficult to keep track of where a complaint has got to, particularly when it generates a high volume of correspondence. You must also provide a leaflet summarising the complaints procedure, These are available here: Cymraeg & English.
The first aim of this stage is to acknowledge the complaint and explain how it will be dealt with. All complaints must be acknowledged within 5 working days of receipt. An acknowledgement would include:
- Confirmation that the complaint has been received.
- Brief description of how the complaint will be handled including role / name of the person responsible and the timescale for a full response.
- Information about the full complaints procedure, including that if it is a complaint about immigration casework, the client can take the complaint to OISC at any stage (and contact details for OISC).
- Confirmation that if the complaint is not resolved, the complainant will be entitled to escalate it to be reviewed under the direction of the Chief Executive of Citizens Advice.
The second aim of this stage is to investigate what went wrong, and provide a full response to the complainant within 8 weeks.
The investigation will:
- Be impartial. Each complaint should be approached with an open mind, and the facts and contentions in support of a complaint should be weighed objectively.
- Be confidential. A complaint should be investigated in private and care should be taken when disclosing to others any identifying details of a complaint.
- Be transparent. A complainant should be told about the steps in the complaint process and be given an opportunity to comment on any information that may be evidence against their complaint.
The investigation into the complaint can be delegated, but not to anyone implicated or involved in the issue.
See BMIS guidance on conducting investigations.
After the investigation you must send a response to the complainant. For information on what the response must contain and how to write it see Responding to a formal complaint.
Claims against CAB Gwynedd
Where there is reason to believe negligent advice may have been given to a client or they have incurred financial loss, the case must be referred immediately to the Chief Executive who will liaise with our insurers and Citizens Advice as required. Where there is potential or actual legal action, we must not continue with the standard complaints procedure. This is because the assessment of a potential claim and the complaints procedure may come into conflict. In some cases, some aspects of the complaint should be handled following the claims handling process.
The policy set out above is for client complaints. There are separate procedures for Staff Grievances and Volunteer Complaints. These procedures need to be considered in the context of the CAB Gwynedd Equality Policy, Whistle Blowing Policy and Dignity at Work policies for staff and volunteers.
CAB Gwynedd has entered into a Recognition Agreement with Unite the Union, which includes a process for the avoidance of disputes and the process to be followed if either party declares in writing that a dispute exists between them. There are three stages:
- Stage 1 – meeting between representative and Chief Executive within five working days. If this does not resolve the matter it goes to Stage 2.
- Stage 2 – further meeting involving the Unite Regional Officer and the local elected Unite representative, and representatives of the Trustees with the CE, within 10 working days. If this does not resolve the matter it goes to Stage 3.
- Stage 3 – • Referral to ACAS for conciliation. This meeting should be arranged within seven working days unless otherwise mutually agreed.
In addition the Articles of Association provide for representatives of volunteers and staff to attend Board meetings as observers and there is guidance on paid staff and volunteer involvement with the Board. The “model role” described therein specifically recommends that the volunteer role includes
“To raise directly with trustees any particular issue of concern the volunteers might have, providing the issue has been discussed at a meeting of the volunteers and there is a majority decision that the issue should be taken to the trustee board.”
The document goes on to confirm that this process is not to be followed for complaints which should instead follow the agreed complaints procedure.
Locally we have agreed that where either the staff or the volunteer representative believes that it is appropriate to raise concerns, this should in the first instance be done via management. Where the issue is not satisfactorily resolved with management, the issue shall be raised with the Chair of the Trustee Board and a meeting will be arranged with representatives of the Trustees and the Chief Executive to discuss the issue.
The staff representative can be contacted at email@example.com
The volunteer representative can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org