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Service Users’ Complaints Policy

1. Introduction 

Perthshire Women’s Aid (PWA) aims to provide a high quality standard of service.   If we fail to do this it is important that we know about it. This will enable us not only to deal with the specific problem, but also help us to improve our quality of service in a no blame culture. 

This policy is for use by PWA service users only.  Any PWA member of staff, volunteer or student should use the grievance or complaints policy applicable to them (see the Grievance, Volunteers and Student Placement Policies). 

2. Policy Aims 

We will treat as a complaint any expression of dissatisfaction about the standard or quality of service, action or lack of action, by PWA or its staff which affects a service user or a group of service users. 

Our procedure is based on four key principles: 

We will be responsive – taking complaints seriously and offering those who complain a clear response to their complaint within defined time limits. 

We will seek to improve services – by providing an opportunity to amend, reflect on and improve the services provided by PWA.  

Our procedure will be easily understood – straightforward to use, accepting either spoken or written complaints. 

Our procedure will be well managed – fair and objective, aimed at resolving problems as quickly as possible in a manner which respects confidentiality.  

3. Complaints by Children or Young People 

PWA recognises that children and young people may need additional assistance to fully access their right to make a complaint.   Any child or young person who wishes to make representations or complaints about aspects of services they are receiving will be supported to do so.  At every stage in the complaints process PWA will endeavor to provide access to age-appropriate support and advocacy for children and young people in order for them to fully access our complaints procedure.  This may involve assisting children and young people to identify support from others such as parents, friends, teachers or youth workers.  The child or young person will remain at the centre of all procedures and they will be listened to and consulted with at every stage.  Procedures and outcomes will be explained in appropriate language or written formats. 


4. The Procedure  

Complaints must be made within six months of the service provided or the event complained about.  

PWA will treat all complaints or notes of dissatisfaction both for the organization as a whole and for any individual member of staff as a learning opportunity.  Where a complaint is against a member of staff this might result in disciplinary action being taken including: A written warning; or in the extreme possible dismissal.  However the aim is to learn from our mistakes to improve the service and develop the improvement of staff performance, this might include additional training.

PWA will treat all notes of dissatisfaction as informal complaints and will seek to resolve them speedily by speaking with the service user and identifying how they feel the situation can be resolved, where appropriate the worker involved will have this conversation. Where this would not be appropriate a senior member of staff will initially speak with the service user and follow this up with a conversation with the member of staff, the focus of which will be any learning which can be taken from this.  The outcome of informal complaints will be communicated to both the complainer and any staff members concerned within 10 working days.

Anyone wishing to make a complaint will be supported to understand the complaints procedure and supported with the process.

Formal complaints should be made in writing (letter or email) to the Manager of PWA, the Manager will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 3 working days.  In order to be investigated within the procedure the complaint must be about specific actions/behaviour of a member of the PWA team or directly linked to the services provided by PWA.  Where the complaint meets this criteria the manager will delegate the investigation of this to a team senior; where the complaint is not directly linked to PWA the manager will inform the complainer of the reasons it does not meet the criteria.

An appropriate member of staff will be appointed to carry out an investigation which will involve meeting with the individual who has raised the complaint, speaking with any other relevant parties and speaking with the worker concerned.  The person making the complaint can be accompanied by a person of their choice for support.  The investigating officer will assure the person making the complaint that they will not be required to meet face to face with the person/people about whom the complaint is being made during the process.

Where a conflict of interest is identified the manager and/or board member will arrange for an external investigator to be appointed; for example, someone from Scottish Women’s Aid or similar.  Anyone appointed to investigate a complaint who has a conflict of interest has a responsibility to withdraw from the process informing the Manager or Trustee.

PWA reserves the right to seek legal and/or other specialist advice regarding the complaint.

The complaint manager can halt the complaint at any stage should it emerge that legal action is under way, pending or intended, until any legal process is complete.

If a complaint involves an employee, volunteer or student of PWA she will be informed of the existence of the complaint and given details of the nature of it, where this could result in disciplinary action being taken the staff member will be advised of this and the disciplinary procedure will be followed and appropriate support put in place for the staff member.

If the complaint is directly regarding a member of staff who no longer works for the organization the manager will discuss the issue with the complainant and support them where appropriate, or direct them, to the Care Inspectorate and/or COSCA Complaints Procedure.  Alternatively the complainer will be supported to access independent advice through the Independent Advocacy Service or CAB.  The manager has the authority to decide to investigate the complaint about the former employee within the organization where it might be useful to PWA.

The complainer will be informed of the outcome within 15 working days of the complaint being received, staff will be advised of the outcome within the same timescales.  PWA might adjourn the process due to unavoidable circumstances, for example, pre-arranged leave or sickness absence.  Where this causes a delay beyond the 15 working days all parties will be informed with a new realistic timetable being set.  The outcome will be given in writing and will include a summary of the reasons for the decision.

In the event the complainer withdraws the complaint or refuses to engage in the process following submitting the complaint, PWA will decide via the manager and the board whether it is in the interest of PWA to continue with the investigation of the complaint.

The complainer will have the right to appeal and should do so in writing, clearly stating the reason for the appeal, to the Manager within 10 working days following decision.  The manager, or person delegated by her, will acknowledge receipt of the appeal within 3 working days.  The Manager or one or more of the Trustees not involved in the original investigation will conduct the appeal.  Where a conflict of interest is identified PWA will arrange for an external person to conduct the appeal, for example, from Scottish Women’s Aid or similar organization.

All aspects of the complaint will be processed and completed within six months from receipt of the complaint.

5. Recording and Monitoring Complaints  

All complaints will be recorded and monitored.  This will assist PWA to understand service users’ views and the improvements they would like to see.  For each complaint a record will be kept of: 

  • The note taken by the member of staff complained to at the informal resolution stage
  • The written record of the formal complaints procedure
  • The written record of any appeal
  • All correspondence with the complainer.

Records will also include: 

  • The number and type of complaints
  • How quickly they were dealt with
  • The action taken as a result of a complaint
  • Any changes to services made as a result of a complaint

Where a complaint is upheld the complainer will be informed by the investigating manager any steps taken/being taken to improve the service and address the issues raised.

Where sanctions are imposed in line with PWA disciplinary policy these will be imposed and monitored by the manager. 

Where service improvement is identified this will be addressed through staff training, support and development; these will be monitored and documented within an Improvement Plan.

6. Confidentiality 

All complaints are treated confidentially. The senior management team will be aware of complaints and, if the complaint is about a specific member(s) of staff, then the staff member(s) involved, will be aware that a complaint has been received and is being dealt with.  

The person complaining must give their explicit permission for the details of the complaint to be shared in order that it can be thoroughly investigated.

7. Anonymous Complaints 

Anonymous complaints may be reported, investigated or acted upon as the person receiving the complaint sees fit having regard to the seriousness of the issue raised, the credibility of the complaint, the prospects of being able to investigate the matter, and fairness to any individual mentioned in the complaint.  We do, however, encourage those who complain to say who they are so that we can respond fully to the complaint and let them know the outcome.   

8. Complaints from a Third Party

A complaint from a third party, (i.e. not a service user), will be accepted where the complainant alleges the counselling service has breached the COSCA Statement of Ethics and Code of Practice; or where the third party alleges the nature of the complaint had a direct adverse effect on the third party.

9. Aggressive or Obsessive Complaints 

We want to deal fairly and honestly with complainers and to ensure that other service users, staff and PWA as a whole do not suffer detriment from persons making vexatious complaints. The Manager will refer complaints which she considers vexatious to the Board of Trustees of PWA, who will decide whether such complaints are to be treated as being vexatious.  If so, the Chair of PWA will write to the complainer advising that the complaint is to be treated as vexatious.  If necessary, the Trustees may request that PWA’s solicitor write to the vexatious complainer to inform her that her behaviour is considered to be unacceptable. 


10. Publicising the Procedure  

PWA will provide information on the Complaints Procedure to all users of its services.  Information on the Complaints Procedure will be provided in the Refuge Accommodation Welcome Pack and will also be displayed on notice boards in the office or other premises. Full copies of the Policy will be available on request from PWA.  It can be made available in other languages and formats on request. 

11. COSCA, (Counselling and Psychotherapy Scotland)

PWA is an organizational member of COSCA

Where the complaint relates to the PWA counselling service and the PWA Complaints policy has been exhausted, complainants can submit a complaint to COSCA (Counselling & Psychotherapy in Scotland), COSCA will verify the PWA procedure.  This must be submitted to COSCA within one month of the PWA procedure outcome.

A complaint from a third party (i.e. not a service user) about the PWA counselling service may be accepted where the third party alleges that the counselling service provided (i) breached the COSCA Statement of Ethics and Code of Practice and (ii) had a direct and adverse effect on the third party submitting the complaint. 

At the conclusion of any complaint concerning the PWA counselling service a copy of the Outcome Report will be submitted immediately or within one month to COSCA.  COSCA will publish upheld complaints and their sanctions regarding COSCA Individual Members or Member Organisations.


16 Melville Terrace 


FK8 2NE 


Telephone:        01786 475140 

12. Contact Details for PWA 

The Manager 

Perthshire Women’s Aid

Royal British House, Leonard Street



Email:           contact  

Telephone: 01738635404

13. Care Inspectorate 

If the service complained about is registered with the Care Inspectorate a complaint may be made directly to them.   

Care Inspectorate  

Compass House 

11Riverside Drive 


DD1 4NY 




  01382 207100 


0845 600 9527 

The Care Inspectorate leaflet ‘How to Complain’ is available from the PWA office. 


14. Independent Advice or Information 

If a service user needs independent advice to make a complaint, an independent advocacy service may be able to help. 

Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance 

69a George Street  

Edinburgh EH2 2BD 


Telephone: 0131 260 5380 


15. Policy Review 

PWA will review this policy every three years and when there are relevant changes in legislation or circumstances. 







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