Complaints advisers - frequently asked questions

This guide assumes you have some knowledge of the types of things we can investigate - see what we can and cannot look at and complaint fact sheets for more information on this.

Can I complain on somebody’s behalf?

We normally expect the person directly affected by the problem to complain to us. 

However, you can complain on behalf of someone else if that person cannot complain for themselves. This is often when they are too young, have a disability, do not have mental capacity or have died.

We call the person complaining on behalf of someone, the ‘representative’. We call the person the representative is complaining on behalf of, the ‘complainant’.

Who can be a representative?

Anyone can be a representative but we decide if they are suitable. Common examples we see include relatives, friends, legal representatives and welfare professionals/ advocates.

As a representative you may feel you also suffered an injustice from what happened. Representatives can complain about issues that affect them as well as the complainant.

How do I become a representative?

If someone wants you to complain for them as their representative, they need to give you their permission in writing.

To make this easier, we will send you a consent form to return to us. It should be signed by the complainant and an independent third party. The third party should not be you or a family member (either of yours or the complainant).

When we receive a consent form, we will consider if you are suitable to act as representative. If the complainant cannot give you their permission, we may need to speak to you to decide if you are a suitable representative. We may ask for other evidence, such as power of attorney documents.

If we have concerns, we might need to speak to the complainant on their own so they can speak freely and privately. We may also decide someone else would be a more suitable representative.

Where you or the person complaining doesn’t speak English, we can arrange translation.

Why do we check you are a suitable representative?

We can only investigate complaints from people who have been affected by the problem, by someone authorised by them to complain, or by someone we decide is suitable.

We also have a duty of care to the complainant to ensure you are acting in their best interests, that they have not been put under pressure to complain and they are not being exploited.

Sharing information with representatives

We are very careful about the information we share in our investigations. Many complaints cover personal, confidential and sensitive information about the person complaining. They might be happy for you to help them complain but not happy for us to share this sort of information with you.

Our consent form allows the complainant to confirm we can share their personal information with you as part of our investigation. If they do not fill this out, we cannot discuss details of the case with you. This is likely to severely restrict how we work.

There might be times when someone else involved in the complaint wants to talk to us about it. If that happens, we might be able to take the information from them, but we could not discuss the details of the complaint. An example might be another family member wanting to give us evidence about the complaint.

Complaints by and on behalf of a child or young person

Often parents and guardians will complain on behalf of a child or young person. We do not assume they are suitable to represent them. We will consider whether the representative is appropriate and acting in the young person’s best interests.

If we decide a young person is mature and able to understand what is involved, then they can complain to us directly. This might be because they do not want their parents or guardians involved or to see their personal information. It might be because they are best placed to make the complaint. We will respect this decision if we decide they have the capacity to make it.

Complaints on behalf of groups

If you, as representative, want to complain on behalf of a group of people, all experiencing the same issue we will ask for evidence that authorises you to do so. This might be minutes of a meeting. If you are complaining on behalf of an informal group (e.g. a group of friends or neighbours) we will ask you to get their consent.

Complaints by a couple

We frequently get complaints from one half of a couple. While in most cases the partner will know about the complaint and want to contribute, we cannot assume this is the case. We will not disclose information to the other party without first confirming matters with the original complainant.

We can send joint consent forms if you ask for them.

Tips for effective representation

If you are helping someone by being their representative, it can be helpful to consider the following:

  • Talk with them about what they think went wrong, what impact that had on them, and what they would like to see happen to put things right.
  • If we decide to investigate, we will set out the scope of our investigation. At this point, ask them whether they have any comments.
  • Keep them updated on what is happening. Our investigations can take several months. Once we decide to investigate, we will aim to keep in contact with you monthly, even if it is just to say we are still working on the complaint.
  • When we write a draft decision, try to get their feedback on what we have said so we can consider it in our final decision.

Helping people with different needs

Our service is for everyone. We are committed to making sure the way we work does not disadvantage disabled people and meets our legal obligations.

If you need any help or support in using our service, please let us know and we will consider what changes we can make to assist you.

January 2023

LGO logogram

Review your privacy settings

Required cookies

These cookies enable the website to function properly. You can only disable these by changing your browser preferences, but this will affect how the website performs.

View required cookies

Analytical cookies

Google Analytics cookies help us improve the performance of the website by understanding how visitors use the site.
We recommend you set these 'ON'.

View analytical cookies

In using Google Analytics, we do not collect or store personal information that could identify you (for example your name or address). We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data. Google has developed a tool to help you opt out of Google Analytics cookies.

Privacy settings