Helplink Support Services Complaints Policy
Complaints, Suggestions and Compliments
Feedback from our clients, in the form of complaints, comments, suggestions or compliments, provides us with the opportunity to improve the quality of the services we provide and to learn valuable lessons for the future. Responding effectively to this feedback is a key aspect to providing a high quality customer focused service. Helplink, in accordance with Part 9 of the Health Act 2004 and the Health Act 2004 (Complaints) Regulations 2006, is committed to providing a system for the management of complaints that facilitates effective feedback from and communication to all service users.
All Helplink Contractors have an obligation to receive and manage a complaint at the point of contact where appropriate. Where complaints cannot be managed at the point of contact, senior management will be responsible for dealing with complaints while linking and communicating with any persons relevant to the complaint.
Helplink’s Client Complaints Policy
Our organisation is committed to providing the highest level of service to our client. However, should a client be dissatisfied with the quality of service provided in relation to our service, we recognise that he or she is entitled to make a complaint? The purpose of this standard is to provide a Complaints Procedure as a means of addressing client complaints.
What is a complaint?
A complaint can be described as any action by any member of Helplink that, it is claimed, does not accord with fair or sound practice, and adversely affects the person by whom, or on whose behalf, the complaint is made.
Helplink will respond to all complaints in a confidential, sensitive, fair and effective manner without undue delay, while also ensuring that cognizance is taking of the complexity of the factors involved. No client will in any way be disadvantaged as a result of making a complaint pursuant to this policy. A client may choose to complain for any of the following reasons:
- An inquiry has not been handled appropriately
- The ethical standards of competence, integrity, confidentiality and responsibility are not adhered to.
Designated Staff Members
Helplink aims at all times to maintain good communication channels to ensure that issues or misunderstandings can be resolved at an early stage.
The staff member that is designated to handle complaints is the Director of Mental Health services Tammie Scott. If the designated staff member is directly involved in the complaint, the backup designated person will handle the complaint. The backup designated person is the Director of Conflict Resolution services Lorraine Lally. We will ensure that information about how to complain is readily available for anyone suing our services.
There are four possible stages to the Complaints Procedure, with every effort made to resolve the grievance at each stage
1) Informal complaint procedure
While in no way diminishing the issue or the effects on individuals, an informal approach can often resolve matters. Where a client has a complaint, she/he should in the first seek to resolve the issue directly with the relevant member of staff/volunteer or, if preferable with the designated person. The objective of this approach is to resolve the difficulty with the minimum of conflict and stress for the individuals involved.
2) Verbal or Written Complaint Procedure
- If an informal approach is inappropriate or the issue has not been resolved to the client’s satisfaction, we will inform the client about how to invoke the following procedures.
- In order to allow us to fully and fairly handle a complaint, we will advise the client to make us aware of the cause of the grievance within three months of the issue arising
- A complaint must be lodged within twelve months of the grievance arising, unless special circumstances apply, for example if the client is ill or bereaved.
- If a time extension is granted, we will notify the client within five working days of the decision to be made.
- A written and signed complaint should be submitted to the appropriate person(s) designated to deal with such complaints, with receipt acknowledged within five working days. Where this is not possible due to, for example, language, literacy levels or disabilities, a verbal complaint may be made. A written record will be taken by the designated person(s) and the complaint will be acknowledged immediately, or within twenty-four hours.
- Anonymous complaints are not accepted as valid and will be destroyed.
- Once the complaint is verified as valid, written/verbal (with record made) authorisation from the client will be sought in order to copy the complaint letter to the individual whom it is alleged to have acted improperly.
- Should the client request the letter not be shown to the individual involved, she/he will be notified in writing/verbally (with record made) by the designated person(s) that there will not be any further investigation until the individual is made aware of the complaint against her/him verbally (with record made) or in writing.
- If the client does not respond within two months, the designated person(s) will write by registered post/meet with the client (with record made) to ascertain if she/he wishes to pursue the complaint further. If there is no response after an additional two weeks, the client will be informed in writing/ person (with record made) that the complaint will not be considered further.
- Once authorisation has been received in writing/person (with record made) the designated person(s) will then meet with the client, ascertain the nature of the complaint and offer the person a full hearing. Meeting minutes, dated and signed by both parties and outlining the specific details of the complaint, dates and names of the people involved, will be drawn up.
- All people named in the complaint and the designated person(s) will receive a copy of these minutes. The people named will also be interviewed by the latter, and a subsequent report will be drawn up and signed by all parties.
- The client will then be informed of the response in a second meeting with the designated person(s). At this stage it may be possible to resolve the complaint informally by clarifying misunderstandings or by acknowledging the wrong and apologising verbally. If the client is satisfied, the other involved parties will be informed by the designated person(s).
- We will complete these procedures within thirty working days. Should the process take longer, we will update the client every ten working days on the reasons for the delay.
- If the client is dissatisfied with the final result and fails to respond in writing or in person (with record made) within two months, the designated person(s) will write by registered post or meet with the client (with record made) to ascertain if she/he wishes to pursue the complaint further. If after an additional two weeks, there is no response, the client will be informed in writing or in person (with record made) that the complaint will not be considered further.
3) Formal Investigation procedure
- If a client, or another person involved in the complaint is dissatisfied with the outcome, and authorisation is received in writing/person (with record made), a formal investigation of the complaint will be necessary.
- A complaint Sub-Committee (members to be designated by Senior Management, including an independent, external representative and excluding anyone connected with the allegation in any way) will be called to inspect the reports of all meetings, with both sides and the designated person(s) heard again. A staff member/volunteer may be accompanied by another person of their choosing and the client may be accompanied by an advocate of their choosing. If further information is required from the client, she/he will be requested in writing /person (with record made) to respond within ten working days. If necessary, this time limit may be extended by a further ten working days. Consent must be received from the client in relation to accessing any of her/his confidential information.
- When the complaint has been fully investigated, this Committee will write a report in which they will put forward their conclusions and recommendations to the Helplink Board of Directors/Members. The Board will then make a final decision on how to proceed. The committee may find that no breach of the organisation or relevant counselling accreditation organisation’s Code of Ethics and Practice has occurred, and no action need be taken, in addition to assurance that the staff member’s reputation or future prospects will not be adversely affected.
- In the event of the complaint being upheld, the Contractor/Volunteer/Other Staff Member will be subject to Disciplinary procedures as outlined in the Contractor or Volunteer Handbook/Contract. In relation to a complaint against a counsellor we will inform the client of the complaint procedures for the counsellor’s accrediting body.
- Where possible, a formal investigation of a complaint will be completed within thirty working days. However, if this is not possible, the client will be informed of a delay and updated every twenty days, with the process taking no longer than six months.
- We will monitor complaints with a view to evaluating this policy and its effectiveness.
4) Independent review
- If the client remains dissatisfied we will advise him/her to seek a review by the Office of the Ombudsman/Ombudsman for Children.
Note: a complaint may be withdrawn at any time, and on advice of such withdrawal a review or investigation may cease, unless reasonable grounds for believing that the public interest would best be served by its continuation exist. Accordingly the matter will be referred to the CEO and the Board for a decision.