COMPLAINTS POLICY AND PROCEDURE
We aim to provide services that are of a standard that is acceptable to everyone. If we fail to do this we want to know about it. This will help us not only to deal with the specific problem, but also avoid it from happening again.
Our complaints procedure sets out how to take up anything that you think is unsatisfactory about the service you have received from us. Copies of this policy and the procedure for complaints are available at reception.
This statement will be displayed in the main waiting area.
Definition of a complaint
A complaint is any expression of client dissatisfaction however it is initially expressed, where that dissatisfaction is directly related to the service provided by or the behaviour of VLC staff, volunteers, student placement workers or a member of the Board of Trustees.
A complaint may involve:
• Dissatisfaction with the handling of a case
• Disappointment with an alleged lack of communication
• Frustration with an alleged lack of case progress
• An allegation of discrimination
• Dissatisfaction with the outcome of the case.
However, issues of a very minor nature, for example, not returning a non-urgent telephone call until the following day are not recorded as a complaint.
Responsibility for dealing with your complaint lies with the Senior Solicitor. If they are the subject of the complaint or if the Senior Solicitor is absent we refer you to item (iii) below.
i. This procedure sets out the steps we will follow when we receive a complaint from users of our service, an organisation or member of the public. It does not address complaints made by staff or volunteers, student placement nor job applicants.
This procedure is meant to provide a means to resolve a dispute between VLC and any complainant.
In the absence of the Senior Solicitor, a supervisor or a member of the Board of Trustees can be assigned the responsibility of initiating the complaints procedure.
We inform the clients in writing at the outset of their matter of their right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman, the timeframe for doing so and full details of how to contact the Legal Ombudsman.
All complaints will be recorded on the Complaints Monitoring Form and kept on the complaints file, including those which were resolved without being put in writing. All complaints shall be treated with regard to the VLC’s confidentiality policy.
Where a complaint lapses because of a failure to respond to VLC contact or a meeting is missed without an explanation being given, VLC is entitled to consider the complaint to be at an end. The complaint will be recorded as ‘unresolved’ in the complaint file.
All members of the Board of Trustees receive a copy of this complaint’s procedure. All existing and new members of the VLC will be introduced to the complaint’s procedure via induction and training. The procedure will be reviewed annually and amendments should be proposed and agreed by the Board of Trustees.
The Senior Solicitor will report at least once a year to the Board of Trustees summarising the nature of any complaints received and how they have been resolved.
It is a priority for the VLC to learn from complaints about its service and where and how to improve. Where your complaint highlights casework deficiencies or shows us how we can improve our service we will take the necessary action with the individual concerned and or within the organisation as a whole. Each caseworker receives regular supervision which is where concerns about service delivery can be properly raised.
All complaints are treated confidentially - only staff who need to know will be party to information about a complaint
VLC may be required to collect personal data during its complaints process. Any personal information obtained for these purposes will not be passed to any third party, except where strictly necessary, and will only be used for the purposes for which it was obtained.
HOW A COMPLAINT WILL BE HANDLED
You can register a complaint by letter, telephone call, email, fax or in the course of a face to face conversation.
We aim to deal with any complaints promptly, fairly, openly and effectively.
Within 2 working days of receiving your complaint, you will be sent a letter to confirm that your complaint has been received and is being dealt with. You will be invited to speak to the Senior Solicitor to discuss the complaint or a letter will be sent to you confirming the steps taken to investigate the matter. The emphasis being on showing how the matter has been dealt with to date to highlight the transparency of our work. If the complaint involves a member of staff the Senior Solicitor may have cause to speak to them about the issues raised. A record of any communication with you shall be kept in the complaints file. The Senior Solicitor will endeavour to respond to the issues raised to try to resolve your complaint.
Our aim is to resolve the complaint to your satisfaction.
If you remain dissatisfied then you will be asked to meet the Senior Solicitor in person. A letter will be sent to you within 14 days making those arrangements. The meeting will be arranged at the earliest opportunity and at whenever possible within 14 days of the letter being sent. The purpose of the meeting will be to review the details of the complaint and seek a resolution. Any resolution agreed will be recorded and signed by you. You may wish to work with a third party at this stage and throughout the process. The Senior Solicitor will continue to seek to resolve the complaint.
If your complaint involves a member of staff that member of staff will be offered an opportunity to put forward their written or verbal account either before, at or after the meeting. The Senior Solicitor is responsible for recording any account given.
Within 14 days of the meeting you will either:
receive a written response from the Senior Solicitor telling you what investigations have been carried out and what action, if any, is proposed to resolve your complaint. A copy of this letter will be attached to your complaint record within our complaints file.
if a written response is not felt suitable you will be offered a further meeting or telephone conversation with the Senior Solicitor so that a verbal response can be given. A record of this will be kept.
The resolution of the complaint at this stage is a major goal.
If your complaint still remains unresolved the Senior Solicitor will refer your complaint to the Chair of the VLC's Board of Trustees sending copies of all communications regarding your complaint. The Chair will then within 28 days convene Complaints Panel which will comprise the Chair, the Senior Solicitor and one other member of the Board of Trustees. In the event of the complaint being against the Senior Solicitor then the Panel will comprise the Chair (or if not available another Supervising member of the Board of Trustees), another senior member of staff and one other member of the Board of Trustees. If the complaint is against the Chair one of the Officers will be substituted.
You will be informed that this is being done and the member of staff (if any) against whom your complaint has been made will be given formal notification of the complaint.
Within 5 working days of the Complaints Panel reviewing your complaint you will be notified of the decision of the Complaints Panel. The Complaints Panel's decision will be final in respect of VLC’s complaints procedure and a record of the decision will be kept with your complaint on our complaint file.
The Chair of the Board of Trustees will be responsible for reporting the Complaints Panel’s findings to the Board of Trustees.
If for any reason we are unable to resolve the problem between us you can ask the Legal Ombudsman (PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ, telephone 0300 555 0333, website www.legalombudsman.org.uk) to consider the complaint. The Legal Ombudsman will expect you to have given your lawyer a chance to resolve your complaint before it will get involved. Normally, you will need to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman no later than 6 years from the date of the act or omission you are complaining about or (if outside that time) 3 years from the date you should reasonably have known there were grounds for a complaint.
The Board of Trustees is responsible for the operation of this procedure. They will review it annually to verify it is in effective operation within the Law Centre.