Introduction

The Spark is committed to providing high quality support to clients’ relationships, founded on co-operation and good communication.

However should a problem arise, the way in which it can be resolved is outlined in the four stages below:

  • Matters of concern
  • Problem solving procedure
  • Complaints procedure
  • Independent Appeal Committee

Stage 1:  Matters of Concern

It is usual for good working relationships to develop between The Spark and clients.   It is expected that any matter of concern can be identified and discussed openly at an early opportunity enabling matters to be resolved without difficulty. Any matter that cannot be resolved in this way should be addressed at Stage 2.

Stage 2:  Problem Solving Procedure

This step is for a problem that cannot be resolved informally. During this process all parties involved should be kept informed appropriately.

Problem between a Client and The Spark

If the problem is with the Counsellor, if possible, the client should discuss the problem with the counsellor.   If this is not possible or appropriate the client can request the telephone number of the Head of Counselling from the National Office.   If the problem is with administrative processes, the client should discuss the problem with the Head of Services.

Having discussed the problem with the Head of Counselling/ Head of Services, it is hoped that the problem could be satisfactorily resolved.   In the event of this not being so, then the complaints procedure (Stage 3) should be followed.

Problem between The Spark and a Client

If possible the Counsellor should discuss the problem with the Client. If this is not possible or appropriate, the Head of Counselling or Head of Services should be informed and involved in discussion with the client. If the problem cannot be satisfactorily resolved the complaints procedure (Stage 3) should be followed.

Stage 3:  Complaints Procedure

1) If a Client or defined representative (COSCA Standard 9) is not satisfied with an aspect of the service member of staff or volunteer (COSCA Standard 8) which The Spark is providing

(a) Contact should be made with the Director of Clinical Practice (COSCA Standard 15) in writing outlining the reason for the complaint and requesting a reply in writing COSCA Standard 4).   An acknowledgement should be sent within 7 working days (COSCA Standard 11&21&22) and a response to the complaint would normally be expected within 21 days (COSCA Standard 10) as to action taken or planned.  Assistance can be offered to clients to submit written complaints, for example getting a member of staff to write it for them and they can approve it. (COSCA Standard 5)

(b) If this does not resolve the issue a meeting with the Director of Clinical Practice should be requested to discuss the matter in detail.   The meeting and outcome should be recorded and agreed in writing,

(c) Assistant and advice will be offered to complainants to enable them to understand the complaints procedure, and where they may obtain this support internally and externally through and advocacy service.  (COSCA Standard 6)

(d) In the event of the complaint remaining unresolved at this or any later stage, the following persons should be approached in a similar way, in the order given, ensuring that the Director of Clinical Practice is kept informed of discussion and correspondence.  The Director of Clinical Practice will halt the complaint at any stage should it emerge that legal action is under way until that legal action is completed (COSCA Standard 23).

  • The Chief Executive of The Spark
  • The Chairperson of The Spark Board of Directors
  • The Director of Clinical Practice

All three can be contacted at The Spark, 72 Waterloo Street, Glasgow, G2 7DA.

Telephone: 0141 222 2166 (COSCA Standard 7)

(e) If the complaint is still unresolved, proceed to the independent Appeal Committee (COSCA Standard 25).

(f) If a complaint is anonymous it will be investigated and where evidence is found to support the complaint internal training or disciplinary action will be taken as appropriate.  (COSCA 13).

2) A member of The Spark is concerned about the behaviour of a Client

(a) Director of Clinical Practice should be contacted in writing, outlining the reason for the complaint and requesting a reply in writing.   An acknowledgement should be sent promptly and a response to the complaint would normally be expected within 21 days as to action taken or planned.

(b) If this does not resolve the issue, a meeting with the Director of Clinical Practice should be requested to discuss the matter in detail.   The meeting and outcome should be recorded and agreed in writing.

(c) In the event of the complaint remaining unresolved at this or any later stage, the following persons should be approached in a similar way, in the order given, ensuring that the Director of Clinical Practice is kept informed of discussion and correspondence.

  • the Chief Executive of The Spark
  • the Chairperson of The Spark Board of Directors

Both can be contacted at The Spark, 72 Waterloo Street, Glasgow, G2 7DA.

Telephone: 0141 222 2166

(d) If the complaint is still unresolved, proceed to the Independent Appeal Committee.

Stage 4:  Independent Appeal Committee

The final stage for resolving complaints is an independent Appeal Committee which is an authority of last resort, to be used if the normal steps of the complaints procedure have been tried and have failed.

The Appeal Committee is a group which is independent of any person concerned with the complaints (COSCA Standard 16).   The Appeal Committee will meet to consider the facts of any unresolved complaint and decide the outcome by which the parties will abide.  The Complaint will be investigated confidentially by an independent impartial investigator.  The Appeal Committee will hear separately the evidence from the complainant and the party complained against (COSCA Standard 19).

There will be four members of the Appeal Committee.   Membership, to be agreed by both parties COSCA Standard 17&18) should include:

  • Three members of The Spark Board of Directors who have not been involved in earlier stages
  • One independent member with relevant expertise from outside The Spark
  • Alternatively the appeal panel may be separate from the board to avoid any conflict of interest.

It is important that all parties involved can declare a conflict of interest to a designated person, to ensure that their conflict does on influence the outcome of the proceedings.

Timing

The independent Appeal Committee should meet within two months (COSCA Standard 12& 21&22) of this being requested and announce its decision in writing, with reasons, within seven days of meeting. Complaints can be investigated for up to three years from the date of the alleged incident. Complaints made after this time will not be investigated, as the time past makes this very difficult; notes are not kept any longer than three years.

Procedure

  • The members of the Appeal Committee should receive all documents relating to the problem 14 days before the meeting
  • An approximate time period for the process will be given to both parties. (COSCA standard 22)
  • Each party has the right to appear before the panel and be supported by someone of their choice or a representative if that is not possible. (COSCA standard 20 )
  • The Appeal Committee will decide an outcome and give its decision in writing, with reasons, within seven days.

Both parties will be expected to abide by the outcome of the Appeal Committee. A person may appeal if they have new evidence.   There is no procedure for any further appeal through the organisation.   However, this does not exclude the right refer the complaint to COSCA or to take proceedings through the legal court system (COSCA Standard 25) .

It is emphasised that Stage 4 is a course of last resort within The Spark.

At the conclusion of the complaints proceedings a report will be submitted to COSCA and will include an training / sanctions imposed and how this will be monitored  (COSCA 24&26).

Sanctions may be but not limited to include verbal or written apology, retraining.  And be monitored by the Director of Clinical Practice.

Availability of this document

This document is available to download as a PDF document and to view in the Policies & Procedures folder The Spark public office.  (COSCA Standard 1)

This document can be made available in other languages and formats on request. (COSCA Standard 2).

The Spark Counsellors are obliged to pass on to clients information on COSCA’s Complaints procedure.  (COSCA Standard 3)

COSCA contact details: COSCA, 16 Melville Terrace, Stirling. FK8 2NE. t: 01786 475140 (COSCA Standard 14)

Policy last updated: December 2017