Complaints procedure for clients of the Citizens Advice service
Stage one: review by Citizens Advice Bureau
The complaints procedure starts locally with the CAB manager. They will acknowledge your complaint within five working days and carry out a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding it. The records of your visit will be examined to check that proper procedures were followed and the best advice given. The target time for responding in full to a complaint is 20 working days, though, if the issue is complicated, any delay will be explained.
If the complaint is upheld, you will receive a full apology and, where appropriate, be given details of any action that the bureau was able to take to retrieve the situation or at least put things right for the future. The aim is always to achieve resolution at the earliest stage possible.
But what if it is the CAB manager that you are unhappy with? You jump straight to stage two.
Stage two: review by the CAB Trustee Board
The response you receive from the CAB manager will also inform you of your right to ask for a review of the investigation should you not be satisfied with the outcome of stage one. Details of how to do this will be provided.
While all bureaux are members of Citizens Advice each is a separate charity run by and accountable to its own manager and board of trustees. This is why complaints are first handled locally and why the next stage is the responsibility of the person with the ultimate authority at a bureau, the Chair of the Trustee Board. (Trustees are the people who run a charity; they all give their time voluntarily.)
The process followed by the CAB Chair in reviewing the complaint is very similar to stage one in that the same target times for responses apply and there is the same obligation for an apology, where owed, and for putting things right, if possible.
The Chair will check that the investigation so far has been carried out fully and properly. She or he will check that the fundamental point of the complaint has been addressed and look at any outstanding issues raised by the complainant.
Stage three: review under the direction of the Chief Executive of Citizens Advice
If you still feel that all the issues have not been properly tackled, you can request a further review to be conducted under the direction of Citizens Advice Chief Executive.
You can send your complaint to Citizens Advice in a number of ways:
(Please note that Myddelton House is not a public facing office)
Now that the complaint is being examined by Citizens Advice central office rather than the local bureau, the Chief Executive will not concentrate so much on the detail of the case but ensure that the process has been carried out properly and will check that the fundamental issues have been investigated fully.
Within five working days we will acknowledge your complaint, and the review will be sent to you within 20 working days of the receipt of your file from the bureau.
Once again, the review will produce a full response, which will contain sufficient information to show that the complaint has been fully investigated, and an apology where appropriate. Details will be given of your right for a further review.
Stage four: review by an independent adjudicator
The complaint, first dealt with locally and then by central office, can then go to a person who is entirely independent of the Citizens Advice service. This person is called the Independent Adjudicator. She or he conducts a review of the investigation to check:
- that the investigation has been conducted in line with the stated procedure
- that the investigation has been handled fairly. The Adjudicator will not comment on the substance of your complaint.
A request for a stage four review should be made within one month of receiving the stage three review. The longer the gap between the original complaint and the review, the more difficult it is to constructively resolve the matter. Requests made outside of this period wil be considered if there are extenuating circumstances.
Should the Adjudicator find that the stated procedure was not followed or that the matter has not been handled fairly, the Adjudicator will specify why and may give directions for a re-investigation.
The decision of the Independent Adjudicator is final.