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Complaints policies

Our corporate complaints policy outlines the approach we will take in response to feedback and complaints received from those who use our services.

Corporate feedback and complaints policy

Last updated: October 2021


1. Why do we need this policy?

We are committed to providing the best service we can in all the interactions we have with all those who use our services. However, we recognise that sometimes mistakes happen, we might not do something we said we would do (for example respond to a query within a set timescale) or we might not be able to help individuals in the way they would like.

We want those who use our services to tell us when things have gone wrong, or where we could have done better. If people have had positive experiences with us, we want to hear about those too.

We take all complaints seriously and will try to resolve these at the earliest opportunity. Most complaints will be made directly to the individual/team providing the service and resolved at this point. This policy applies where:

  • an individual makes a complaint directly to the internal quality and improvement team which is within the scope of the policy.
  • a complaint is received by an individual/team and the nature, complexity, or circumstances of the complaint indicate it would be better managed through the corporate complaints process.

This policy sets out our approach to the feedback and complaints we receive about our services. It will be supported by procedural guidance to assist employees in identifying, recording and responding to complaints.


2. Who needs to follow this policy and why?

This policy applies to all Social Work England employees and partners but will be especially useful for those whose role requires contact with people outside the organisation. We would encourage people to contact the person or team they have been dealing with to discuss any issues or complaints in the first instance.

In most cases they will be in the best position to resolve the issue promptly. However, if the matter cannot be resolved at this point, individuals may submit a corporate complaint through our corporate feedback and complaints process.

The corporate feedback and complaints process covers:

  • The actions of our employees, partners, and suppliers acting on our behalf.
  • A service we have provided which was unsatisfactory, or where we have not followed our own procedures.
  • The way we have communicated with those outside Social Work England.

The corporate feedback and complaints process does not cover:

  • Requests for information under the Data Protection Act 2018 or Freedom of Information Act 2000.
  • Complaints about social workers (these are managed through the fitness to practise processes)
  • Complaints about an approved course of study (this is managed through our education quality assurance process or may be directed to the relevant institution).
  • Our published standards, rules or guidance.
  • Any issues which have previously been fully investigated through the corporate complaints process.
  • We will not normally consider corporate complaints that are received more than 12 months after the events of concern.

Complaints about regulatory decisions

Our fitness to practise, registration and education quality assurance processes involve us, or independent decision makers, making decisions which affect social workers, members of the public and education providers (regulatory decisions). Sometimes, the individuals affected may not be happy with these decisions.

Any concerns should be raised with the team responsible who will be able to explain any alternative mechanisms in place to address your concerns. We are unable to consider complaints about our regulatory decisions through the corporate feedback and complaints process.


3. What’s our policy and how will we implement it?

Our 2-stage management of corporate complaints is based on learning from other organisations and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) Principles of Good Complaints Handling. We will apply these principles by:

Getting it right

  • Developing a positive culture regarding feedback, including complaints, across the organisation, supported by clear processes which are focused on outcomes and the experience of those who use our services.

Being customer focused

  • Making sure that our complaints process is simple, accessible, and responsive to the needs of the individual.
  • Dealing with complaints promptly and signposting people to other organisations which may be able to help if we are unable to resolve their complaint.

Being open and accountable

  • Publishing clear and complete information on how to make a complaint and how to progress it through our procedures.
  • Providing clear timescales for responding to complaints and keeping people updated if there are delays.
  • Acknowledging when we have made mistakes and trying to correct this as soon as possible.
  • Providing clear evidence-based explanations and reasons for decisions we make.
  • Maintaining electronic records of complaints retaining these for a minimum period depending on the type of record and its importance to our business functions.
  • Processing information in accordance with data protection legislation.

Being fair and proportionate

  • Respecting diversity and ensuring fair access to our services.
  • Undertaking independent, thorough and fair investigations, making objective evidence-based decisions.
  • Being consistent but not rigid in our approach, adapting to the specific circumstances of a complaint or the needs of the individual.
  • Being fair to our employees and partners by letting them know when they have been complained about.

Putting things right

  • Apologising and accepting responsibility when we have got things wrong.
  • Taking action to remedy failings such as reviewing or changing a decision, revising our publications, revising policies or procedures to help prevent the issue reoccurring.

Seeking continuous improvement

  • Recording, analysing and regularly reporting on the feedback and complaints we receive, and using this information to help us improve the services we provide.

The procedural documents which sits alongside this policy outline how colleagues will identify, record, investigate, and respond to complaints and feedback. They will also set out how learning from complaints and feedback will be monitored and reported, and how learning will be identified and used to improve our services.

If this policy isn’t followed, the most appropriate course of action will be agreed between the policy owner and the HR manager, dependent on the circumstances.


4. Roles and responsibilities

4.1 All Social Work England employees and partners

  • Read and comply with the ‘Corporate Feedback and Complaints Policy and Procedure’.
  • Send feedback and complaints to the Internal Quality and Improvement team as soon as they are received.
  • Cooperate with any investigation undertaken under the Corporate Feedback and Complaints Policy.
  • Ensuring that those who have raised complaints are not treated adversely on the basis that they have made a complaint.
  • Ensure that the confidentiality of those who have made or are the subject of a complaint is appropriately protected, and that personal data relevant to the complaint is not shared beyond those who need to know the information

4.2 All managers

  • Ensure that they and those they manage are familiar with the ‘Corporate Feedback and Complaints Policy and Procedure’.
  • Provide advice and guidance on the ‘Corporate Feedback and Complaints Policy and Procedure’ to those they manage when approached.
  • Create an organisational culture where employees and partners value feedback, including complaints, and use it to drive improvements.

4.3 Senior leadership team

  • Ensure that investigations are completed promptly and in line with the principles set out in the Corporate Feedback and Complaints Policy.
  • Ensure that responses to complaints are tailored to the needs of the individual, and that clear reasons are provided for decisions made.

4.4 Internal quality and improvement manager / officer

  • Ensure that feedback and complaints are logged, acknowledged, and responded to within timescales and in accordance with the ‘Corporate Feedback and Complaints Policy and Procedure’.
  • Ensure that complaints are escalated to the executive leadership team where appropriate.
  • Monitor and report on performance in relation to feedback and complaints to the executive leadership team.
  • Monitor the implementation of learning identified through the corporate feedback and complaints process.
  • Support the organisation in delivering an effective corporate feedback and complaints process by providing guidance and facilitating learning and development activities.

4.5 Executive leadership team

  • Support the implementation of the ‘Corporate Feedback and Complaints Policy’, ensuring resources to do this are made available.
  • Ensure that complaints escalated to the executive leadership team are reviewed, and where necessary direct further investigation.
  • Create an organisational culture where employees and partners value feedback, including complaints, and use it to drive improvements.


5. Related policies, procedures and information sources


Difficult contacts policy

Corporate feedback and complaints procedure


6. Data protection, equality and diversity

A data protection impact assessment (DPIA) and equality impact assessment (EIA) have been completed for this policy.


7. Queries?

If you have a query about this policy, please contact Ellis Christie, internal quality and improvement manager.


8. Definitions

8.1 Complaint

An expression of dissatisfaction with a service we have provided or failed to provide where a response or resolution is required. This can be made either verbally or in writing and the need for a response or resolution does not need to be made explicitly.

People do not need to say they are making a complaint for us to treat it as such.


9. Version

Last reviewed: October 2021

Policy owner: Tracy Watterson, Executive Director – People and Business Support

Policy reference: POL_CORPC01

Version: 1.1

If you require a PDF version of this policy, please contact us.

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