How we will deal with your complaint
What happens when we get your complaint
When we receive your complaint we will usually write to you to acknowledge it within five working days explaining what will happen next. If you do not hear from us within that time, please telephone our helpline.
If we need more information we'll ask for it. We scan all documents when we receive them and destroy the paper copies, unless you tell us that you want your documents returned.
We will check to see if you have made a complaint to the council or care provider first and whether the body has had a reasonable chance to deal with it. Complaints usually need to go through all stages of a body's complaints procedure before we can consider them. If yours has not, we will write to you to say you need to complain to the body concerned first.
In other cases your complaint will be allocated to an investigator in one of our Assessment teams. They will do an initial assessment to see whether we can accept your complaint for investigation (see below).
Investigators take most decisions on the Ombudsman’s behalf.
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If you have not been contacted already, the Assessment investigator will usually contact you as soon as possible after receiving your complaint to find out more about it, what you are hoping to achieve and to explain what will happen next. In most cases the investigator will try to get in touch with you by telephone, so if possible please give us a daytime contact number. But, in some cases, the investigator may already have enough information to make a decision on your complaint without speaking to you.
There are no simple rules, monetary limits, or blanket exclusions that determine the types of complaints we will investigate. Our investigators make this decision based on the circumstances of each case.
First we have to decide whether the law allows us to investigate your complaint. If the law does not allow us to investigate your complaint, or if we decide that the injustice to you is only slight, we will tell you as soon as we can, usually within 20 working days of receiving your complaint.
For more information on how we carry out the initial assessment, see our Assessment Code.
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Informing bodies complained about
We must tell councils and care providers about all complaints made against them, even if we decide not to investigate. We will send a copy of your complaint and our decision statement to the council or care provider.
We may send the body copies of any documents you provide in support of your complaint. We will maintain your privacy as far as possible. However, we will pass on your personal details, such as your name and address, if this is necessary in order for us to investigate your complaint. If you have a strong reason for us not to identify you, your address or other personal data, for example if you are threatened with domestic violence and want to ensure your current address is kept confidential, you should talk to the investigator about it.
We cannot stop a council or care provider taking action while we investigate your complaint.
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What happens if we can investigate your complaint
After the initial assessment, if we decide that your complaint is suitable for investigation, it will be allocated to an investigator in one of our Investigation teams. You will be told about this and given the name of the investigator.
If we have not already done so, or if we need more information, we may send your complaint to the council or care provider and ask for its comments and any other information we need. We may also need to:
- carry out research
- get further information from you, the body complained about, or other people
- examine the body’s files
- meet you, council officers, care provider staff, or other people, or
- visit the site if the complaint is about land or buildings, or about a care home.
The Ombudsman has the legal power to get evidence from the body and other people.
We will usually send you copies of the information the body supplies to us, but sometimes they will provide information, for example about other people, that we will not pass on to you. When we think we have enough information to be able to come to a fair decision, we will usually write to you and the council or care provider you're complaining about to tell you what our decision is likely to be. At this stage we will give both parties a chance to comment or provide any further information.
When we have made a final decision we will write to you and explain the reasons – we will also send a copy of our decision statement to the council or care provider.
Please note that we will not routinely acknowledge correspondence.
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How long it will take
We will make a decision on your complaint as quickly as we can. In about half of all cases we make a decision in three months. But it may take some months to collect enough information to reach a fair decision if your complaint is investigated. In a few cases, for example where the complaint is particularly complex, it can take longer, sometimes up to a year. The investigator will keep you informed of progress.
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Date Updated: 16/10/14