Introduction and context

Safer London works with a range of different people in a range of different relationships. This includes those who commission us to deliver services, others that we sub-contract to help us deliver services, our suppliers, those we employ to do the work and those who volunteer with us, and – above all – the young people who use our services and their families.

We do everything in our power to ensure that all those we deal with are happy with how we treat them, but we know that every so often someone comes away from a service feeling unhappy. It may be a service user who is not happy with the way we provided a service, or someone who feels that they were not treated with respect or courtesy. It could be a member of the public who is offended by something we have said or someone from a partner organisation who feels that we did not deliver what we said we would.

Unfortunately, these things happen. We know we are not perfect, but we aim to be. That is why we have a complaints procedure. Sometimes we can put things right; sometimes we can only explain ourselves and apologise. Either way, we do want to learn from our mistakes, and every complaint we receive and resolve helps us to improve our service to those who need us.

Safer London takes all feedback, especially negative feedback and complaints, seriously and will always do its utmost to resolve the issue quickly, professionally and confidentially. Our Standards for Managing Feedback and Complaints set out what people can expect from us when they make a complaint and this document sets out the procedures which we expect all of our staff to work to when receiving a complaint.

Definitions and Interpretation

A complaint may be defined as being a grievance, criticism, protest, grumble, moan, objection, whinge or gripe: in other words, it is negative feedback on any aspect of Safer London’s work.

More specifically, in the context of this policy a complaint is any negative feedback that requires some sort of action or response from the organisation in order to resolve it. This may be a simple tweak of some aspect of how we operate – a change in how details of a meeting are communicated to young people, or a review of how we welcome visitors into the Safer London offices – or it may be something that requires a more in-depth investigation in order to tease out what happened and what is needed by way of a response.

Scope: who and what this Policy applies to

This policy and procedure applies to any negative feedback received from any third party about Safer London’s services, staff or volunteers, or about the general running of the organisation.

If a complaint raises an actual or potential safeguarding concern the manager receiving the complaint should consult Safer London’s Safeguarding Policy and Procedure and assess whether the complaint should be dealt with entirely or in part under that Policy or whether it should continue to be treated in line with the Complaint Policy or Procedure. If in doubt, the manager should consult with the Director for Safeguarding & Quality Practice.

This policy does not cover complaints by Safer London staff members or volunteers about other Safer London staff members or volunteers: these should be dealt with under Safer London’s Grievance Policy.

This policy also does not cover complaints or concerns about behaviour that may be criminal, involve fraud or corruption, a failure to comply with a regulatory or legal duty or obligation, activities that may be endangering the health and safety of anyone or damaging the environment, or any concerns about actual or possible abuse of service users, improper discrimination against or relationships with service users – any of these issues should be dealt with under Safer London’s Whistleblowing Policy.

Finally, this policy does not cover allegations that a Safer London staff member has behaved in a way that has caused or may cause harm to a child – these must be dealt with under Safer London’s Allegations Against Staff and Volunteers Policy and Procedures.

Roles and Responsibilities

Managers will ensure that this policy is communicated to their teams and will provide advice and guidance to staff regarding their responsibilities in implementing this policy. They will also manage complaints received by or about their teams in line with this policy, and they will do promptly, professionally and, as far as possible, confidentially. They will ensure that any learning from complaints is disseminated to their teams as appropriate.

The Human Resources team will support the implementation of this policy in a reasonable and fair manner, provide advice and guidance to individual members of staff and line managers managing complaints and oversee the provision of any letters and documents required.

Non-management staff and volunteers: are expected to deal with minor complaints and negative feedback they receive in the course of their work in line with this policy and to record any such complaints and feedback and their actions in response. They are also expected to pass more serious and substantial complaints to an appropriate manager without delay and to cooperate with any investigation being carried out in response to a complaint.

The Admin Manager – Practice will keep a record of all complaints received and provide bi-annual reports to the SLT and the Trustees on complaints received and the outcomes.

PLEASE NOTEIf at any point while handling a complaint abuse is suspected Safer London’s Safeguarding Policy and Procedures will immediately be consulted and if necessary any activity in response to the complaint will be paused until the appropriate safeguarding actions have been completed.

Time Limit for Making a Complaint

Safer London’s aim is to put things right as quickly as possible if any aspect of our work has caused concern or been the subject of negative feedback, and we encourage people to make complaints as soon as issues arise. This allows Safer London to investigate the complaint while the issues are still fresh in people’s minds and have the greatest chance of being addressed and resolved.

The time limit for making a formal complaint within the scope of this policy is normally six months from the date of the event which triggered the complaint.

This time limit may be extended at the absolute discretion of Safer London, and any decision to accept a complaint about something more than six months in the past will be made by the Operations Director or the Director for Quality & Internal Resources in consultation with the Chief Executive.

Any decision on extending the time limit will depend on factors including:

  • whether it is still possible to investigate the complaint effectively and fairly;
  • issues which may have made it difficult or impossible for the complaint to have been raised earlier;
  • the seriousness of the issue.

Procedures

Principles

The main principles underlying Safer London’s Complaints Procedures are:

  • Anyone making a complaint or providing negative feedback to Safer London will be treated with dignity and respect and their concerns will be taken seriously.
  • Complaints are resolved as close to the point of service delivery and as quickly and confidentially as possible.
  • Any child protection or safeguarding concerns arising from a complaint are addressed in line with the Safeguarding Policy; if necessary any investigation of the complaint will be paused until the safeguarding concerns have been addressed.
  • All complaints will be recorded in writing and the information will be stored and processed in line with Safer London’s Case Management and Data Protection policies and procedures.

Receipt and Recording of Complaints

If you wish to make a complaint about any aspect of Safer London’s work you are encouraged to do so:

  • by writing to the organisation’s office at Skyline House, 200 Union Street, London SE1 0LX;
  • by completing the online from here
  • via feedback forms used in service delivery;
  • verbally – by phoning their project worker or a manager, or in a meeting/ conversation;
  • via email, ideally addressed to the relevant Project Manager or to the central e-mail address: complaints@saferlondon.org.uk

You may, however, make a complaint at any time to any Safer London staff member or volunteer:

  • by speaking to them by phone, during or after a meeting (including web-based meetings), at an event or in an informal conversation;
  • by writing to them in an e-mail, letter, text, webchat, Facebook, Twitter, card, or by including it on a completed feedback form;
  • by responding to surveys, including telephone interviews and questionnaires;
  • as part of a formal or information meeting with stakeholders including focus groups, councils, consultations, commissioners, tender interviews, networking, partnership working;
  • by including it in any evaluations of Safer London events, the website or publications.

When a staff member or volunteer receives a complaint they will consider whether it is a minor matter that can be resolved immediately or a more serious issue that needs to be escalated to a more senior manager.

Whatever they decide, the person to who you make your complaint will acknowledge it and record the following information:

  • Your name and your relationship to Safer London (e.g. service user, funder, partner organisation, family member of service user, member of the public) – you can ask for your name to be kept private in which case we will give you a reference number so that we can keep track of your complaint;
  • The context within which you made the complaint (e.g. during an informal conversation, during a one-to-one or group intervention, as part of feedback following a meeting);
  • A brief summary of your complaint;
  • Information about the initial response (e.g. the feedback was acknowledged, or the person did not wish to take it any further, or the complaint was escalated to a team leader/service manager/director).

This information will be sent to the complaints inbox for logging by one of the three people who have access to this inbox.

What happens next

Depending on what the person who first received the complaint decides, and what you want to happen, one of two things will happen next:

1. The complaint will be dealt with as a Stage One complaint, which means that we will deal with it on an informal basis;

Or

2. The complaint will be dealt with as a Stage Two complaint, which means that there will be a more detailed and formal investigation to see what has happened and what Safer London needs to do to make it right.

If your complaint was dealt with as a Stage One complaint and you are not happy with our response you can ask to have it looked at again as a Stage Two complaint.

If your complaint was dealt with as a Stage Two complaint and you are not happy with our response it will go to Stage Three: Appeal and Review – this means that a group of three senior managers will look at what was done in Stages One and Two, why you are unhappy with our response and what else we can do to make things right.

The next three sections tell you how long we think each stage will take and what will happen.

Stage One – informal resolution

Timelines Stage One – Informal Resolution

>Staff member receives complaint and

  1. responds immediately, logs and closes the complaint; or
  2. escalates the complaint to a manager within 1 working day

>In the case of 2:

>Manager receives escalated complaint and:

  1. Immediately assesses whether this is a Stage One or Stage Two complaint
  2. If a Stage One complaint:
  • Contacts the complainant within 2 working days
  • Provides a final response within 10 working days

3. If a Stage Two complaint:

  • Escalates it to the Operations Director or the Director for Quality & Internal Resources within 1 working day

Complaints dealt with as Stage One complaints will not need a long investigation but the person who is dealing with it may contact you to ask you some more questions about the complaint or to make sure that they have understood it correctly.

They may also talk to other people who might know about what happened or who might be able to help make things right.

They will in any case let you know that they are dealing with the complaint and when they have finished looking into it they will tell you what they have decided to do about it.

Once they have sent you their response, you can either accept it or, if you are not happy with it, ask for the complaint to be looked at again as a Stage Two complaint.

You have to ask for this to be done, in writing, within 14 days of hearing from us. You can write to the manager who looked into your complaint or to the complaints e-mail address – complaints@saferlondon.org.uk.

Stage Two – Formal Investigation

Timelines Stage Two – Formal Investigation

>Staff member receives complaint, or manager receives an escalated complaint, decides that it is serious enough to require a formal investigation and escalates the complaint to the relevant Director within 1 working day.

>The relevant Director assigns an Investigating Manager within 1 working day of receiving the Stage Two complaint.

>The Investigating Manager:

  • Will begin the investigation within 2 working days
  • Will complete the investigation within 20 working days
  • Will regularly update the complainant on progress throughout the investigation period
  • Will send their report to the complainant within 3 working days after the completion of the investigation

>Either the Investigating Manager or the relevant Director will respond to the complainant with the key findings and recommendations from the investigation within 5 working days after the completion of the investigation.

A Stage Two complaint will be investigated by a senior Safer London manager who is not directly connected to the service or staff member involved in the complaint. This person is known as the Investigating Manager.

As far as possible the Investigating Manager will make sure that your identity is kept confidential – unless you are happy for it to be shared – and will only share it if they absolutely have to and then only with those people who absolutely need to know in order to help with the investigation.

The investigation will include at least one face to face meeting with you, the complainant, and will also involve gathering relevant information and, if necessary, interviews with other people who may know details about the complaint or the issue about which you are complaining.

When the Investigating Manager has completed their investigation and they will let you know in writing what the outcome of the investigation was and what will happen next.

If you are not happy with the outcome of this stage, you may ask to have the complaint looked at again as a Stage Three complaint. You will need to ask for this, in writing, within 14 days of receiving the letter from the Investigating Manager.

Stage Three – appeal and review

Timelines Stage Two – Formal Investigation

>Complainant informs the Chief Executive of their dissatisfaction with the Stage Two outcome within 14 working days of being informed of the outcome and requests that the complaint be referred to a Review Panel

>The Chief Executive acknowledges the request within 2 working days and assigns the members of the Panel.

>The Review Panel arranges to meet within 30 working days of being set up.

>The Chair of the Panel informs the complainant of the date, time and location of the Panel meeting at least 10 working days before the meeting.

The Panel produces its final report within 3 working days after meeting.

>The Chief Executive communicates the findings of the Panel to the complainant within 5 working days of the Panel meeting.

If you decide that you want Safer London to look at your complaint again as a Stage Three complaint, this will be passed to the Chief Executive, who will set up the Review Panel.

This Panel will be made up of three people:

  • two members of Safer London’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT) – this will not include any Director who has been involved in any previous stage;
  • an independent person who will be responsible for chairing the panel hearing – this may be another senior manager or an external person.

Once the panel has been identified the following actions will be undertaken:

  • The Chair of the Panel will let you know the names of the people on it and the time, date and location of the panel meeting at least 10 working days before the meeting.
  • You will be invited to attend the panel and you may bring anyone providing additional support, such as a parent/guardian and/or advocate. You have the right not to attend the panel if you don’t wish to – whether you attend or not will not affect how the panel deals with your complaint.
  • The Chair will invite all those involved in the Stage Two Formal Investigation to participate in the panel hearing as relevant to their roles.
  • The Chair will explain the purpose of the panel meeting and the need for confidentiality. The panel members will read all of the written information about the complaint and listen to the points of view of everyone involved in the complaint so that they understand each party’s opinion of the complaint and clear up any gaps in the available information – they will not cross-examine any of the people attending the meeting: it is not a court hearing.
  • Once all the information has been heard the panel will discuss what they have heard and read and come to a decision, and their decision and suggestions for actions Safer London should take next will be shared with you in a letter.

If you are still unhappy at the end of Stage Three you cannot come back to Safer London to appeal any further but you can direct your complaint to the Charity Commission – https://www.gov.uk/complain-about-charity.

NB: while Safer London will at all times make every effort to work within the timelines set out above it cannot absolutely guarantee that this will always be possible due to staff absences, time taken for people to respond to messages, time needed to seek out additional information or for other reasons. If this happens we will let you know and agree new timelines with you for each stage.

Learning from Complaints – Recommendations and review

Safer London is committed to learning from complaints and improving its services as the result of any feedback it receives. The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) is responsible for deciding on the appropriate way to report on outcomes and recommendations to staff and stakeholders, taking into account the need to maintain confidentiality where necessary.

We will learn not only from the recommendations resulting from dealing with a complaint but also from the way we respond to complaints itself: for example, if certain ways of responding to those who raise complaints are more effective and help to resolve them more quickly and without them going to Stage Two or Stage Three, we will share that information with our staff and include it in our formal complaints handling processes.

Confidentiality and Data Protection

All information relating to a complaint, including reports and panel notes, will be managed in line with Safer London’s Case Management and Data Protection procedures.

We will as far as possible make sure that the identity of anyone making a complaint is kept confidential but it must be clear from the outset that sometimes there may be reasons to share their identity with specific people involved in resolving the complaint. Although the name of anyone making a complaint will be recorded on the Complaints Register this will not be shared with anyone who does not genuinely need to know.

If a complaint is about a specific person the identity of the person being complained about will also be kept confidential as far as possible and only those who genuinely need to know their identity will be informed of this.

Advocacy and support

Safer London understands that it is not always easy to make a complaint, and we want to support you to do so and make sure that you feel safe and are able to make yourself understood. You can ask to be supported at any time during the process by a parent or guardian or by an independent advocate.

If you need other support, e.g. an interpreter or help in attending meetings, please let us know and we will do what we can to provide this.

Reporting on complaints

Safer London will produce an annual report on the number and kinds of complaints it has received and what it has done to make things better. This report will be shared on the Safer London website, with its Trustees and funders and with partner organisations.

If you have made a complaint to Safer London you may ask to be sent a copy of this report once it is available.

We hope that by doing this people will see that we are willing to learn from things going wrong, and to show how complaints help to make us a better organisation.