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Complaints Procedure - Clients

Statement of intent


Citizens Advice Mendip (CAM) wants to ensure that all complainants feel able to raise complaints about the way they are being treated
in the knowledge that they will be dealt with in a way which is fair, transparent, objective and respectful.
Clients will be made aware of each stage of the process, what it will entail and who will be involved.
While it is important for the process to be based on the principles of a sound grievance procedure, it is not appropriate for the two to be the same

Who can use this procedure?

Any client who is receiving or has received advice from CAM.

Principles

Complaints should be handled according to the principles underpinning the Citizens Advice approach to complaint handling.
The intention in complaint handling should be to resolve the matter at the earliest stage.
There should be acknowledgement of responsibility with an explanation or apology where appropriate.

Types of Complaints

CAM will typically receive five distinct types of complaint; however, we do not take this list as definitive and where a client expresses dissatisfaction at the manner of service or advice given,
CAM will take a precautionary approach and treat the issue as a complaint. CAM has three routes into advice which require a complaints statement

1. Face to Face

CAM prominently displays the complaints leaflet and current complaints poster in every location where we give advice.
Clients may request a copy of the leaflet and we will ensure that every client who requests a copy receives one.

2. Email

CAM includes in the footer of email advice following phrase: 'Citizens Advice Mendip has a complaints handling procedure.
Please email the CEO at Ianb@citizensadvicemendip.org.uk to request that a copy of the complaints leaflet be either posted or emailed to you.

3. Adviceline

Has an automated statement in its initial message

There is also the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)

The FOS will first give CAM an opportunity to resolve the issue only then can the client or CAM refer the case through for adjudication

Client Complaints Procedure

There are four stages to the complaints process:

1. Informal Resolution

A member of staff will contact the client and try to resolve the issue informally. This can be undertaken by a local manager to identify what the issue is.
It may be resolved by an apology, and explanation of what happened or the process CAM has to use, referral to another organisation or making a client appointment.

The manager should consider whether the complaint is able to be resolved by this method or is sufficiently serious that a more formal approach should be undertaken.

Where there is a complaint about an issue that relates to Debt or immigration advice and so can be referred to the FOS or the Office of the Immigration Service Commissioner (OISC)
respectively a more formal approach should always be taken.

Where a manager does resolve the issue informally, they must follow up with a letter to the client stating what happened and how the issue was resolved.
The letter must state that this issue was dealt with informally and if they are unhappy with the result that can make a formal complaint. The letter must contain a complaints leaflet.

2.Local Citizens Advice Stage

When CAM receives a formal complaint via any route it will acknowledge the receipt of the complaint within 5 working days.

This acknowledgement will include;

  • Confirmation that the complaint has been received.
  • Brief description of how the complaint will be handled including role / name of the person responsible and the timescale for a full response.
  • Information about the full complaints procedure, including that if it is a complaint about immigration casework, the client can take the complaint to OISC at any stage (and contact details for OISC).
  • Confirmation that if the complaint is not resolved, the complainant will be entitled to escalate it to be reviewed under the direction of the Chief Executive of Citizens Advice.
  • 3. Citizens Advice Stage

    Citizens Advice will review how CAM dealt with the case, they will require a copy of the client’s file and all correspondences relating to the issue.

    4. Independent Adjudicator Stage.

    A review of the Citizens Advice decision must be requested within four weeks of the review decision. It will be carried out by a person who is independent from Citizens Advice.

    Pension Wise

    CAM hosts a Pension Wise service delivered by Citizens Advice Taunton. Where CAM receives a complaint about this service or the person who delivers it, the client will be:

  • informed of the general Citizens Advice complaints process
  • given a complaints leaflet
  • informed about who delivers the service and how to make contact with them
  • Third Party Complaints Procedure

    CAM is responsible for managing these complaints itself, and they are not usually eligible to be reviewed by national Citizens Advice or the Financial Ombudsman Service.

    The CEO should acknowledge the complaint within five working days, and briefly explain the third party complaint procedure.
    A full response will be given within 20 working days of receiving the complaint.

    The response should explain that if the complainant is unhappy with the way their complaint was handled, they can ask for a review by the Chair,
    or another trustee if the chair is unavailable. The Chair's decision is final.

    A request for a review by the Chair or other trustee should be acknowledged within five working days of receipt, and the final response should be sent within 20 working days.

    If the third party complaint is about the CEO, the Chair should do the investigation and response, and another trustee or independent person should do the review of the complaint, if one is requested.

    Where a complaint is raised about fund raising this will be dealt with under the Third Party Complaints policy and is not eligible for review by Citizens Advice.
    However, the complainant should be informed that they can take their complaint to the Fundraising Regulator

    Exclusion Complaints Procedure

    CAM recognises that we work hard to give advice and support to all our clients. Unfortunately, however, there are circumstances where a manager may feel she/he has no alternative
    but to withdraw service from a client or exclude a client from the office.
    These circumstances include when:

  • the client has been violent, aggressive, threatening or abusive toward staff or other clients
  • the client regularly refuses to follow the advice given by the CAM
  • the client regularly changes their mind about what they want to do
  • the client fails to provide the required information, for example someone who does not disclose all of their debts, or continually changes the information they give to CAM
  • the adviser/manager suspects or knows that the client is attempting to make a fraudulent benefit or other claim
  • it is considered that CAM cannot offer the client any further assistance on a particular issue, either because they have exhausted all available sources of advice,
    the client is proving too demanding on time and resources, or the advice or support required is beyond the expertise or remit of CAM
  • CAM will avoid exclusion of a client wherever possible. It will seek to resolve the issue informally explaining the rules that govern our work,
    and the implications to the client of why their actions or inactions do not help their circumstances.

    CAM may do this by contacting the client by telephone or meeting them face to face.

    Where this cannot be achieved a letter to the client will be issued.

    Exclusion is the last possible action so, before it is imposed, CAM will:

  • Warn the client that the organisation is considering withdrawing the service and why (with specific examples of the behaviour) so that they have a chance to put things right.
  • The decision to withdraw service will be made by the CEO or equivalent, and the Chair informed of this decision.
  • The CEO will write to the client to explain that service will no longer be provided to them and give clear reasons why.
  • The letter will explain any conditions to the client. For example, if a client has physically assaulted a member of staff it may be that the manager chooses to impose a complete ban on the client.
    But if you have withdrawn service from a client because a certain issue has been exhausted it may be that you are unwilling to discuss this particular matter,
    but will happily continue to advise the client on any new matters.
  • The client will be made aware that they will not be able to seek advice from another office within the same organisation.
  • If a manager withdraws service on the basis that the organisation is unable to help the client, they must be satisfied that all relevant local agencies have been approached
    as part of the advice process, or that the client has been correctly signposted.
  • The client will be told that they can appeal to the chair of the CAM if they disagree with the decision.
  • Where a manager, in the interests of CAM, asks a client to leave an office or withdraws advice but does not have time to contact the CEO for advice this exclusion will be temporary.
    The manager will write to the client stating that this exclusion is temporary however, warn the client that CAM is considering excluding the client from the service.
  • Recording Complaints

    CAM keeps a central record of complaints. The full information relating to the complaint will be held at Highfield House, Shape Medndip Campus, Cannards Grave Road, Shepton Mallet BA4 5BT

    The CEO is responsible for reporting to the board the complaints review.

    Trustee Review of Complaints

    The CEO will report to the Trustees at each Board meeting, a review of the complaints in the previous quarter.

    Reasonable adjustments

    CAM will make reasonable adjustments to facilitate clients to make a complaint. See the policy below in Annex 1.

    ANNEX 1

    Citizens Advice complaints procedure – reasonable adjustments policy

    We take reasonable steps in the way that we provide the complaints procedure to disabled people, so they are not disadvantaged in comparison to people who are not disabled.
    We are committed to improving accessibility for everybody that we deal with.

    What is a reasonable adjustment?

    A reasonable adjustment involves making a change to the way that we usually do things to ensure that we are fair to disabled people.

    This may involve:

    ➢ departing from our usual practice in the way we do things, if we find that the current position places disabled people at a substantial disadvantage,
    for instance by accepting a complaint by phone or at a face to face meeting instead of in writing
    ➢ providing additional support, such as a sign language interpreter.

    We will not make assumptions about whether a disabled person requires any adjustments or about what those adjustments should be.
    We will discuss the requirements with the person concerned and reach agreement on what may be reasonable in the circumstances.

    Requesting reasonable adjustments
    We will let people know that we can provide reasonable adjustments in the following ways:
    ➢ by asking people directly if they have a disability and might need any adjustments
    ➢ by including a note in complaint responses indicating that we can provide the document in an alternative format on request
    ➢ by publishing this policy on the bureau website.

    Types of reasonable adjustment we may offer

    Whilst we will consider each request for reasonable adjustments individually, there are some common adjustments which we will offer as a matter of course and
    some other adjustments that we can make particular arrangements to provide.

    The adjustments will always be agreed with the person concerned to avoid making incorrect assumptions about a person's needs.

    Some examples of the simple reasonable adjustments that staff can make may include:
    ➢ providing documents or correspondence in a larger font size
    ➢ providing documents on coloured paper or with a specific colour contrast which can help people with conditions such as dyslexia
    ➢ allowing a person who has a learning disability or mental health problems more time than would usually be allowed to escalate their complaint
    ➢ using email or the telephone in preference to hard copy letters where appropriate, which may assist those with a vision impairment
    ➢ speaking clearly to the people who we deal with and offering additional time to cover the issues they need to discuss- this will help everyone understand our processes and procedures
    ➢ using plain English appropriate to the person we are dealing with and avoiding jargon. Some other arrangements that we can provide will include:
    ➢ providing information on audio format - either informally or through a specialist transcription agency
    ➢ providing a sign language interpreter
    ➢ communicating with people through their representative (whether or not this is a legal representative) or advocate, if requested and approved by them
    ➢ helping someone who has mental health problems to understand and manage the action we are taking by arranging a single point of contact with us.

    We will aim to agree and deliver the required reasonable adjustments with a minimum of delay.
    In some cases, we may need to consider in more detail how best to overcome the difficulty a disabled person may be experiencing.


    For example, where the adjustment requested may be difficult to provide.

    How do we decide what is “reasonable”?

    The Equality Act does not define what is "reasonable" but guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that the most relevant factors are:


    Will the adjustment help in overcoming the difficulty that the disabled person may have?
    The adjustment should be designed to fully address the disadvantage it is meant to overcome.
    How practical is it to provide the adjustment?
    What are the resource implications of making the adjustment?
    Would the adjustment cause disruption to others?
    For example, it would not usually be reasonable for a member of staff to drop all other cases and devote all their time to one person, as others would inevitably suffer.
    The amount of extra time provided must therefore be "reasonable" in all the circumstances.

    Monitoring

    We will record and monitor the reasonable adjustments that have been requested and made.
    This will allow us to review the services we provide and help us identify whether there are any steps that we can take to improve our services overall.