Complaints Policy & Procedures

Introduction


This Policy covers a complaint you may have about one of the services offered by The Spark. The Spark is committed to providing high-quality support to 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.

Should a problem arise that cannot be resolved between the people concerned the following procedures and stages must be followed in order to raise a complaint.

Although the process is the same for both The Spark’s counselling services and other services, the person you will deal with will be different.

Counselling Services and Clinical Practice


The counselling relationship is founded on co-operation and good communication and the desire is that matters of concern are resolved co-operatively, informally and as quickly as possible.

If the problem is with the counselling service the person dealing with your complaint will be the Clinical Development Practitioner. Any conflict of interest must be declared as soon as it arises and reported to the Director of Clinical Practice.

Informal One to One Conversation (written or spoken)

This step is for a problem that cannot be resolved between the people concerned. The person dealing with your complaint will discuss the matter with you and may talk to other people involved in the service. The person you speak to will aim to resolve the complaint to your satisfaction as soon as possible. That person will keep a written record of your complaint. This record will only be accessible to anyone who becomes involved in dealing with the complaint.

Because of the nature of our work and our Confidentiality Policy, there may be some information we cannot share with you, for example where one member of a couple comes separately, information given by one party cannot be divulged to you.

If your complaint raises any issues to do with child protection or criminal matters there may be formalities which will involve external bodies such as social work or police

You will receive written notification regarding the outcome of your complaint within 10 working days of your discussion with the person dealing with the complaint. This letter will be kept on file.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome at this stage and you want to take it further you would activate the Formal Complaints Procedure.

Formal Complaints Procedure


Stage 1: Activate Formal Complaints Procedure

If you wish the complaint to be considered formally you must put your complaint in writing to the Director of Clinical Practice within 10 working days of receiving the letter regarding the outcome of your exploration of the complaint with the Clinical Development Practitioner. If it is not possible to submit a complaint in writing, assistance to submit in another format will be offered. If no letter is received by The Spark within 10 working days of your complaint the file will be closed.

At this stage, the complaint must be in a letter (not an email) dated and signed by you. This letter will be kept on file. The letter will be acknowledged within 7 working days of receipt. The person complained against will be given a copy of your complaint.

The Spark will halt the complaint at any stage should it emerge that legal action is intended or underway until that legal action is completed.

Formal Consideration of your Complaint

Your complaint will be dealt with by the Director of Clinical Practice. If the Director of Clinical Practice is not deemed to be impartial then an alternative professional of equal standing will be appointed.

The Director of Clinical Practice or the person appointed to deal with your complaint will contact you within 10 working days of receiving your written complaint to offer to discuss your complaint in a face-to-face meeting. The complainant may be accompanied by a support person if they wish. You must tell us the name of the person who will accompany you. Unless there are exceptional circumstances this meeting must take place within 28 days of the offer being made. If this offer is not taken up within this timescale the complaint will be closed.

At the meeting, the person dealing with your complaint, who will be accompanied by someone who will take notes of the proceedings, will aim to resolve it to your satisfaction. Thereafter a written response to your complaint would normally be expected within 21 days including any action taken or planned.

If the complaint is still unresolved, you may proceed to the Independent Appeal Committee.

Stage 2: Appeal Procedure

The Independent Appeal Committee is the authority of last resort. An appeal can only be lodged when the previous stages have been exhausted.

Your appeal must be sent to the Chief Executive Officer in writing, dated and signed by you and contain the grounds for your appeal. It must be received within 28 days of the letter confirming the outcome of Stage 1.

The Appeal Committee is independent of any person concerned with the complaint thus far. The Appeal Committee will sit within 28 days of receipt of your written appeal. The Appeal Committee will comprise two Board Members.

The Appeal Committee will hear separately the evidence from the complainant and the party complained against. The complainant may be accompanied by a support person if they wish. The Committee will consider the facts; decide the outcome by which the parties will abide; and announce its decision in writing, with reasons, within 7 days of the meeting. The Committee may recommend the imposing of sanctions e.g. Practitioner may be asked to retrain or Practitioner may face a disciplinary process.

All parties will be expected to abide by the outcome of the Appeal. There is no procedure for any further appeal through The Spark. However, this does not exclude the right to refer the complaint to COSCA or to take proceedings through the legal court system. Following completion of The Spark’s procedure, complaints being taken to COSCA must be made within the time limit of one month.

At the conclusion of the complaints procedures, a report will be submitted to COSCA and will include any training/sanctions imposed and how this will be monitored.

Non-Counselling Services


Informal One to One Conversation (written or spoken)

This step is for a problem that cannot be resolved between the people concerned within any other of the Spark’s services. The person dealing with the issue will be the Manager of the service who will discuss the matter with you and may talk to other people involved in the service. The person you speak to will aim to resolve the complaint to your satisfaction as soon as possible. That person will keep a written record of your complaint. This record will only be accessible to anyone who becomes involved in dealing with the complaint. Any conflict of interest must be declared as soon as it arises and reported to the Director of Clinical Practice.

If your complaint raises any issues to do with child protection or criminal matters there may be formalities which will involve external bodies such as social work or police.

You will receive written notification regarding the outcome of your complaint within 10 working days of your discussion with the person dealing with the complaint. This letter will be kept on file.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome at this stage and you want to take it further you would activate the Formal Complaints Procedure.

Formal Complaints Procedure (Non-Counselling Services)


Stage 1: Activate Formal Complaints Procedure

If you wish the complaint to be considered formally you must put your complaint in writing to the Chief Executive within 10 working days of receiving the letter regarding the outcome of your exploration of the complaint with the Clinical Development Practitioner. If it is not possible to submit a complaint in writing assistance to submit in another format will be offered. If no letter is received by The Spark within 10 working days of your complaint the file will be closed.

At this stage, the complaint must be in a letter (not an email) dated and signed by you. This letter will be kept on file. The letter will be acknowledged within 7 working days of receipt. The person complained against will be given a copy of your complaint.

The Spark will halt the complaint at any stage should it emerge that legal action is intended or underway until that legal action is completed.

Formal Consideration of your Complaint

The Chief Executive will contact you within 10 working days of receiving your written complaint to offer to discuss your complaint in a face-to-face meeting. You can be accompanied by another person but you cannot send someone else to represent you. You must tell us the name of the person who will accompany you. Unless there are exceptional circumstances this meeting must take place within 28 days of the offer being made. If this offer is not taken up within this timescale the complaint will be closed.

At the meeting, the person dealing with your complaint, who will be accompanied by someone who will take notes of the proceedings, will aim to resolve it to your satisfaction. Thereafter a written response to your complaint would normally be expected within 21 days including any action taken or planned.

If the complaint is still unresolved, you may proceed to the Independent Appeal Committee.

Stage 2: Appeal Procedure

The Independent Appeal Committee is the authority of last resort. An appeal can only be lodged when the previous stages have been exhausted.

Your appeal must be sent to the Chief Executive in writing, dated and signed by you and contain the grounds for your appeal. It must be received within 28 days of the letter confirming the outcome of Stage 1. The complaint will then be passed to the Independent Appeal Committee.

The Appeal Committee is independent of any person concerned with the complaint thus far. The Appeal Committee will sit within 28 days of receipt of your written appeal. The Appeal Committee will comprise two Board Members.

The Appeal Committee will hear separately the evidence from the complainant and the party complained against. The complainant may be accompanied by a support person if they wish. The Committee will consider the facts; decide the outcome by which the parties will abide; and announce its decision in writing, with reasons, within 7 days of the meeting. The Committee may recommend the imposing of sanctions e.g. retraining or person may face a disciplinary process.

All parties will be expected to abide by the outcome of the Appeal. There is no procedure for any further appeal through The Spark. Following completion of The Spark’s procedure, complaints being taken to COSCA must be made within the time limit of one month.

End Notes


  • Assistance and advice is available to complainants to enable them to understand the complaints procedure, and where they may obtain this support internally and externally (including signposting to an independent advocacy)
  • 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
  • This document is available to download from The Spark website and to view in the Policies & Procedures folder in The Spark public office
  • This document can be made available in other languages and formats on request
  • The Spark Counsellors are obliged to pass on information to clients on COSCA’s Complaints procedure
  • Full contact details are The Spark, 72 Waterloo Street, Glasgow, G2 7DA. Telephone: 0141 222 2166
  • This procedure covers complaints against a member of staff, individuals (paid and volunteer) and groups carrying out work related to counselling and psychotherapy
  • Complaints made by representatives or third parties are acceptable
  • 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
  • COSCA’s contact details are COSCA, 16 Melville Terrace, Stirling. FK8 2NE. Telephone: 01786 475140.

Policy last updated: October 2018