What is a complaints investigation?
A complaints investigation begins at the point of a receipt of a complaint. The process that is followed will be determined by the commissioning organisation’s complaints policy. The purpose of having a complaints policy is to provide a fair process which is clear and easy to use and which offers openness and transparency to service users and other stakeholders. The policy should attempt to ensure that complaints are investigated in a fair and timely fashion and that any complaint is resolved as near to the point of service delivery as possible.
It is recommended that charities have a three stage process for complaints resolution, the final stage being an independent appeal. It is at this final stage that we may become involved in providing an independent view as to whether the complaint is withheld or not.
How is it undertaken?
In the appeal stage the process undertaken at stages one and two of the complaint is reviewed and the independent investigator may choose to talk to and/or meet with the parties concerned to gain clarification on the issues.
The determinative complaints policy within which the our Advisors/Associates operate is the policy of the organisation commissioning the work. We are an Independent Safeguarding charity providing professional advice, support, training and resources in all areas of safeguarding children, vulnerable adults and for those affected by abuse. Our professional credibility within the field of safeguarding, is built on complete impartiality and the willingness to take an independent view without fear or favour.
The process of investigating a complaint
The detailed timescales for completing an independent investigation into a complaint will be set by the determinative complaints policy but we will endeavour to respond promptly to any request for an independent investigation, however this arises. The following six stage process will be undertaken by the our Independent investigator:
- Estimating. The initial request will be forwarded to the Head of Consultancy, Safeguarding Services, who will establish the terms of the investigation and then allocate the work to a named Advisor/Associate and a schedule of work will be agreed. Once the work has been allocated to a named representative the Head of Consultancy takes a step back, adopting a monitoring and supportive role to the designated worker.
- Research and reading papers. At the point of allocation the designated investigator will be furnished with a complete set of papers on the complaint. This will comprise, at a minimum, the original complaint and outcome reports from stages one and two of the complaint plus relevant communications between the various parties. The worker will also have access to the complaints policy of the relevant organisation, the safeguarding policy and any other policies (such as those relating to human resources) as may be relevant to the complaint.
- Planning. This will involve liaison with the key person nominated by the commissioning agency, agreeing timescales and forming an initial view as to who may need to be interviewed during the independent investigation.
- Undertaking visits and interviews. It will usually be necessary to interview the complainant and the person against who the complaint has been made in person although telephone interviews may be appropriate in certain circumstances. Other interviews may be agreed in consultation with the Head of Consultancy and the key person from the commissioning organisation.
- Writing the report. The independent investigator will write up their findings in a report for the commissioning agency. This report will follow our Framework for independent Investigations of Complaints and will conclude that the complaint is either withheld or not withheld. The final report will go through a 2-step quality assurance process prior to the final report being sent to the Commissioning organisation.
- Review, feedback and learning. Any feedback received from the commissioning organisation via the online evaluation or any other sources will inform our learning.
What are the benefits of an independent complaints investigation?
Independence is the key benefit. Having an objective individual review the correspondence, together with any actions and the process undertaken to date, enables an unbiased view to be formed to aid the decision making for the outcome of the complaints investigation. Clear recommendations and actions provide the organisation with an independent view on managing the complaint together with identifying recommendations to strengthen safeguarding practice going forwards.
How can I be sure it is an effective service?
All our consultancy reports are quality assured by both the Head of Consultancy and the Executive Director for Safeguarding. This helps ensure we are content that our work is of a consistent, comprehensive and professional standard. We ask all those who commission a risk assessment to undertake an evaluation following the completion of the service. It is important to us that our commissioners are happy that the service met their stated aims, and if not, we want to hear to ensure we can shape our services accordingly.
If you're interested in our complaints investigations or any of the services we offer you can contact us using our online form or to speak to someone call our friendly team on 0303 003 1111.