The Ministry recognises that there will be occasions when actions carried out by the Departments or our Ministry staff will not meet the reasonable expectations of the public. The policy and procedures set out below are to be used to deal with general complaints about the service the Ministry or Departments provide. This procedure is designed to enable consideration to be given to each complaint in a fair and impartial manner. All formal complaints will be handled by a senior member of staff. The complaints procedure will be reviewed periodically (every 3 months) in order to improve the service provided by the Ministry and Department staff.
Statement of Purpose
The purpose of this policy is to provide an internal process to ensure that all complaints are handled fairly, consistently, in a timely manner and wherever possible resolved to the complainant’s satisfaction. The objectives of this policy are to:
- Provide a straightforward means for clients/customers or those acting on their behalf to make a complaint
- Establish a consistent procedure for investigating a complaint
- Inform the complainant about the progress of the complaint as well as information about the outcome
- Implement remedies where complaints are found to be valid and alert senior managers to issues
- Resolve complaints in a comprehensive and timely manner
- Treat all complaints with confidentiality and sensitivity
- Review Internal Complaints Process periodically and update where necessary
The Complaints Policy primarily addresses any concerns regarding the service that is provided by the Ministry, Department of Children and Family Services, Department of Counselling Services, Children and Youth Services Foundation (CAYS) and National Housing Development Trust and any of their members.
The Ministry’s responsibility
The Ministry is responsible for acknowledging relevant complaints, responding and dealing reasonably and sensitively with the complaints and taking relevant action where appropriate.
Definition of a complaint
- A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction that relates to the standard service, actions or inaction by the Ministry and its Departments or its staff. Complaints can be made by an individual client or group of clients either verbally or in writing. All complaints will be formally recorded on a complaint register and updated in the complaints log.
- The following are not considered under the complaints procedure:
- Matters pertaining to restricted access of materials under FOI regulations
- Staff issues will be addressed by internal disciplinary procedures
- Complaints of a general nature that concern services or action of External Entities/Ministries
Who can complain?
- Complaints can be made by anyone who has a complaint or grievance that is relevant to the Ministry or Department’s role or responsibilities. This will generally be clients who are seeking a service from the Ministry or Departments.
- As a matter of policy, the Ministry will not accept complaints from third parties as issues of confidentiality may arise. An exception will be made for individuals who are unable to submit a complaint personally because of disabilities or otherwise; complaints will be accepted from individuals authorized to in writing on their behalf.
How must the complaint be made?
- Formal complaints can be made in the form of a letter addressed to the Ministry. Alternatively, clients may wish to fill in a complaints form which is available from the reception of the Government Administration Building.
- Verbal complaints can be made in person or via the telephone. Should a client wish to submit a formal complaint verbally, an employee of the Ministry will provide them with the written procedures in accordance with this policy.
- Complaints must be written clearly, stating the nature of the issues including individuals involved, dates, times, etc. Complaints must also include contact details mailing address, telephone numbers, email, etc.
- If the Ministry is unclear about any part of the complaint at any point, the complainant will be contacted in order to provide further clarification before a full investigation can be conducted.
Who will receive the complaint?
- Front line staff will deal with initial expressions of dissatisfaction and attempt to resolve them.
- Where the issues cannot be resolved or the client is still dissatisfied, the client will be allowed the opportunity to submit a formal complaint.
- The formal complaint will be investigated by an employee who has not been previously involved in the matter.
- The employee will be a member of the policy and planning team who has been given authority to act on behalf of the Ministry. The employee may also consult with employees who have in-depth and detailed knowledge of the Ministry and Departments, its role and responsibilities.
- The Deputy Chief Officer/Chief Officer should be notified of all complaints whether verbal or written and updated on the progress and outcome of any investigation.
How is the complaint considered?
- An acknowledgment of the complaint will be sent out within 1 working day of receiving a written complaint.
- All complaints will be investigated and referred to the appropriate entity within 1 day of receiving the complaint.
- The client will be notified of the progress of the complaint within 5 working days.
- All parties involved will be given an opportunity to provide the Ministry or Departments with the necessary information to resolve the issue. All information will be gathered as appropriate to the case.
- All attempts will be made to handle complaints with confidentiality and sensitivity. In exceptional circumstances it may not be possible to maintain confidentiality in order to resolve the issue. Should this be the case, the client will be consulted to discuss available options.
- Records of the complaint process will be subject to strict access controls to ensure privacy of all individuals involved.
- Complaints that fall outside the Ministry’s ambit of responsibility will be referred to the appropriate entity/person.
How is a complaint resolved?
- Submitting a complaint may not result in a previous decision being reversed. Investigations will consider all issues pertaining to the complaint. Clients should be informed that some complaints may take longer than others to investigate.
- The Ministry or appropriate entity will send a response to clients in writing, to advise of the outcome of the complaint process. Correspondence will be clearly written providing details of the investigation and the decision made.
- Complaints may be resolved in various ways including:
- Issuing a formal apology
- Provision of a particular service to client
- Changing or implementing procedures to prevent similar issues arising in the future.