What happens when I have complained?
What happens when I have complained?
We will always tell you who is dealing with your complaint and provide contact details. Our complaints procedure has two stages.
Stage 1: Frontline response
We aim to respond to complaints quickly (where possible when you first tell us about the issue). This could mean an on-the-spot apology and explanation if something has clearly gone wrong, or immediate action to resolve the problem.
We will give you our decision at stage 1 in 5 working days or less unless there are exceptional circumstances.
If you are not satisfied with the response, we give at stage 1, we will tell you what you can do next. If you choose to, you can take your complaint to stage 2. You must normally ask us to consider your complaint at stage 2 either:
- within six months of the event, you want to complain about or finding out that you have a reason to complain; or
- within two months of receiving your stage 1 response from us (if this is later).
In exceptional circumstances, we may be able to accept a stage 2 complaint after the time limit. If you feel that the time limit should not apply to your complaint, please tell us why.
Stage 2: Investigation
Stage 2 deals with two types of complaint: those that have not been resolved at stage 1 and those that clearly require in-depth investigation, and so are handled at this stage following discussion and agreement with you. If you do not wish your complaint to be handled at stage 1, you can ask us to handle it at stage 2 instead.
When using stage 2:
- we will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within 3 working days.
- we will confirm our understanding of the complaint we will investigate and what outcome you are looking for.
- we will try to resolve your complaint where we can (in some cases we may suggest using an alternative complaint resolution approach, such as mediation); and
- where we cannot resolve your complaint, we will give you a full response as soon as possible, normally within 20 working days.
- If our investigation will take longer than 20 working days, we will tell you. We will tell you our revised time limits and keep you updated on progress.
What if I’m still dissatisfied?
After we have given you our final decision, if you are still dissatisfied with our decision or the way we dealt with your complaint, you can ask the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO) to look at it.
NIPSO is the final stage for complaints about the majority of public services in Northern Ireland. This includes complaints about us. NIPSO is an independent organisation that investigates complaints. The service provided by NIPSO is free. It is not an advocacy or support service (but there are other organisations who can help you with advocacy or support).
If you remain dissatisfied when you have a final response from us, you can ask NIPSO to look at your complaint. NIPSO generally expect complaints to be brought to it:
- within 6 months since you received correspondence from us informing you that the complaints handling procedure is complete and of your right to refer your complaint to NIPSO.
NIPSO will generally ask you to provide details of your complaint and a copy of our final response to your complaint. You can do this online at www.NIPSO.org.uk or call them on Freephone 0800 34 34 24.
You may wish to get independent support or advocacy to help you progress your complaint. See the section on ‘Getting help to make my complaint’ below.
NIPSO’s contact details are:
The Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman, 33 Wellington Place , Belfast, BT1 6HN
Tel Freephone: 0800 34 34 24 / Email: email@example.com / Web: The office of the Northern Ireland Ombudsman (nipso.org.uk)
(If you would like to visit in person, you must make an appointment first)
The freepost address is FREEPOST NIPSO
If NIPSO cannot investigate your complaint and your complaint requires an alternative route for independent review, NIPSO will tell you and provide you with the relevant contact details.
Getting help to make my complaint.
We understand that you may be unable or reluctant to make a complaint yourself. We accept complaints from the representative of a person who is dissatisfied with our service. We can take complaints from a friend, relative, or an advocate, if you have given them your written consent to complain on your behalf.
Elected members that serve Ards and North Down Borough council when acting on behalf of a complainant must adhere to the Northern Ireland Local Government Code of Conduct for Councillors (the Code). The code sets out principles and rules that a councillor must observe.
Should you have evidence that the councillor may have breached the Code of Conduct you can complain to the local government commissioner for standards the commissioner is independent of government and council and investigations are conducted with no cost to the customer.
A copy of the code and complaint form can be found on the commissioner’s website: NI Local Government Code Of Conduct For Councillors | Department for Communities (communities-ni.gov.uk)
You can find out about advocates in your area by contacting:
Community Advice Ards & North Down (CAAND) - Bangor, Bangor Community Hub, 39A Hamilton Rd, Bangor, Co Down, BT20 4LF
0300 123 9287 (telephone advice)
You can find out about advisers in your area through Advice NI through their website: Welcome to Advice NI | Advice NI
We are committed to making our service easy to use for all members of the community. In line with our statutory equality duties, we will always ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to help you access and use our services. If you have trouble putting your complaint in writing, or want this information in another language or format, such as large font, or Braille, please tell us in person, contact us on 0300 133 3333, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org