- Complaints should normally be put in writing and made within one month of the decision or the action complained of. If the Investigator considers a late complaint raises new information, a manager will decide whether to accept it.
- We will send an acknowledgement within five working days of receipt.
- Early resolution is important: the person receiving the request or complaint should try to resolve it. A conversation may resolve the matter, but a written response will normally be necessary.
- Consideration will be neutral: the complainant’s comments and those of the staff involved will be considered before a decision is made.
- There is only one review or consideration of a complaint. We will not normally respond to further requests or complaints about the same or related matters.
- A response will be sent within 20 working days or a holding letter will be sent.
There is no right of appeal against our decisions and our reviews are non-statutory. Decisions can only be challenged in court on a point of law by judicial review.
- We will not treat a complaint about a judgement in the course of an investigation, or a draft decision, as a review request. The aggrieved party should set out to the Investigator why they disagree, with any supporting information, and the Investigator will consider the matter.
- Reviews (including where there is also a separable and substantive service complaint) will be done by a manager who does not line manage the member of staff involved.
- General dissatisfaction is unlikely to change a decision. In deciding whether a full review is needed, we will consider whether credible new information or other matters call the original decision into doubt.
- Reviews of decisions will consider whether the decision was reasonable. The review is not a reinvestigation.
- Re-opened cases will be reinvestigated by the original Investigator, and managed by their manager, unless there are operational reasons not to.
For complaints about our service:
- We will not treat a complaint about a judgement in the course of an investigation or a decision (or draft decision or review of a decision) as a complaint about staff conduct.
- Where we receive a service complaint which in reality is commenting on a draft decision on a complaint, we should tell the complainant that their comments have been passed to the Investigator to consider as part of the draft decision response.
- Service complaints during an investigation will be addressed by the relevant line manager.
Managers are responsible for dealing with ‘complaints about us’ where a member of staff is unable to directly resolve a matter themselves.
Investigators have the Ombudsman’s delegated authority to decide complaints and must take ownership and responsibility for their actions in dealing with them. They may decide to seek advice from their manager, but otherwise the manager is likely to be unfamiliar with the case and will not be the person deciding it or any challenge to the decision.
During a telephone call there may be a request to speak to a manager. This could be because the caller is dissatisfied with an aspect of the investigation (for example, the Investigator’s assessment of the complaint) or more generally about behaviour or conduct. The Investigator or Team Coordinator involved in the call should try to find out why the caller wishes to speak to a manager. Whatever the reason, they should be patient, polite and as helpful as possible. If they cannot satisfy the caller, and the caller persists in asking to speak with a manager:
- If the manager is in the office and clearly available, considering putting the caller on hold and asking the manager whether he/she wishes to take the call. The manager will either take the call or ask the member of staff to take/give a message.
- If the manager is out of the office or not clearly available, or declines to take the call, the member of staff may explain this to the caller. They should advise the caller that they will pass on the request to the manager, whose name should be given. They should also give the manager’s telephone number and/or email address if requested. If the member of staff’s direct line manager will not be available for more than two days, they should refer the request to a different manager and explain this to the caller.
- It will be for the manager to decide how to respond, so please be careful not to say anything which commits the manager to a particular course of action. So, rather than say “I will get the manager to call you back within two hours”, we should say “I will pass on your message that you would like to be called back within two hours”.
- Investigators and Team Coordinators should make a record of the call in ECHO. They should then task the manager, using that day's date as the target date, and starting the description as 'CALL BACK REQUEST......'
- Once the task is set, it is for the manager to act promptly, and certainly within 24 hours, to decide whether to return the call. If the manager decides not to return the call he/she should either send the caller message via the Online Complaints System (OCS) to explain the response or write an email or letter if they are not an OCS user, and put a note in ‘Notes & Analysis’ to explain the response. The manager should then set a task for the Investigator with any further instruction.