Cruse Bereavement Care strives to ensure that its services, staff and volunteers offer the very highest quality experience to our clients, customers and communities. We acknowledge that occasionally we are not able to meet expectations and that sometimes things go wrong. This Procedure is a simple framework within which all complaints from clients, customers, other organisations and members of the public are quickly, fairly and effectively dealt with in a clear and transparent manner. This can include complaints about the service that has been offered and/or provided, as well as a complaint concerning Cruse’s fundraising practice. Internal issues between volunteers are dealt with through the Volunteer Concerns Policy and Procedure.
A complaint is an issue raised by a party external to Cruse, about a volunteer, staff member or about something relating to the organisation as a whole. The complainant need not define their discontent as a complaint, as expressed by the Charity Commission’s Independent Complaints Reviewer.
‘It isn’t for the organisation to decide whether the person has a complaint. If I’m the service user or the consumer and I think I’m complaining I undoubtedly am…’
Aims and Principles of Addressing a Complaint
Cruse aims to provide a consistent approach to complaints across all parts of Cruse and encourage organisational learning
This complaints process has the following underlying principles:
- Openness and accessibility
- Fairness and transparency
- A commitment to continuous improvement
- Independence from vested interests
In view of fostering positive relationships with all parties, Cruse will attempt to resolve each complaint at the earliest stage possible.
Cruse’s Complaints Procedure
Everyone making a complaint should be given access to the leaflet ‘If you have a Complaint’, which outlines the process to be followed and our obligation to respond to the complaint.
Complaints can be made in several ways. It is important that the complaint is listened to and is followed up appropriately. Where possible, the complaint will be dealt with through the client’s preferred channel (phone, email, post, face to face).
The complainant needs to be aware that any information shared with Cruse will need to be shared with any Cruse parties involved in the complaint process, including any people who face allegations indicated within the given complaint. This will need to be agreed by the complainant prior to any complaint being taken forward by Cruse. Without this agreement, a complaint cannot be pursued. If the complainant wishes to communicate information verbally, the recipient in Cruse will make a written record and send this to the complainant so that accuracy can be confirmed.
Please note that any written correspondence communicating the outcome of a complaint from Stage 2 onwards need to be sent to Area Support for sign off before being sent to the complainant.
Stage 1 – Informal Discussion
Every effort should be made by all Cruse volunteers and staff to resolve complaints locally and informally wherever possible and appropriate. This includes listening and understanding the complaint, acknowledging the importance of the complaint, and responding appropriately. This would be the preferred method of most complaint resolution, as many issues can be worked through informally and amicably – this may include concerns about waiting times for services or problems that arise when clients referred to Cruse are expecting a service that Cruse does not deliver.
The local Area Chair or service lead (for a project) is responsible for the resolution of any complaints at this stage. If the Area Chair or service lead is the subject of the complaint, then the Operations Manager overseeing the Area’s or service’s activity will nominate another individual to resolve the complaint. This can be another Area Chair or service lead, or a Regional/National Chair.
At this Stage, the Area Chair will make an initial assessment and if the complaint may be of a serious nature (e.g. safeguarding) can escalate to stage 2.
A complaint at this stage should be resolved in 10 working days.
If it is not possible to resolve a complaint at this stage, then the complainant is advised that the complaint can be dealt with formally – directing this to the Area Chair or service lead. This can be submitted in writing, or the Area Chair / service lead can take a written record of a verbal statement from the complainant, and send this to them for confirmation that the complaint is accurately represented.
Stage 2 – Formal Complaint
Once a formal complaint has been received, the Operations Manager overseeing the service (or Project Manager if applicable) will designate an investigating officer to look into this. This is generally the Area Chair if they are not directly involved in the complaint. When it would be beneficial to obtain an objective external perspective, the Operations Manager / Project Manager can appoint an investigator from outside the Area shall be appointed to investigate a complaint if it reaches this stage. This could be the Operations or Project Manager themselves. The investigating officer will speak with the complainant, clarifies the specifics of the complaint, assesses why the complainant remains dissatisfied, what resolution is being sought, investigates matters and interviews other parties as appropriate.
Area Support should be notified of the complaint and will provide advice where appropriate.
If the Area Chair or service lead is the subject of the complaint, then the Operations Manager overseeing the Area’s or service’s activity will nominate another individual to resolve the complaint. This can be another Area Chair or service lead, or a Regional/National Chair.
A written report is then completed by the investigating officer and presented to the Area Chair or service lead, with a decision as to whether the complaint is upheld or not, and what action may need to be taken following this. A letter, based on this report will be sent to the complainant including the outcome and any recommendations. The Chair will also communicate with other parties who have subject of or involved in the complaint.
Please note that the Volunteer Concerns Policy and Procedure (Part B of the Procedure) will need to be used if it becomes apparent that there are concerns regarding a volunteer’s conduct.
An investigation into a complaint at this stage should be completed in 20 working days.
The outcome and associated paperwork needs to be logged on the Area complaints log and sent to Area Support who will log on the national complaints log.
Stage 3 – Appeal Stage
The complainant may wish to appeal the decision if they are dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaint. This appeal needs to be communicated within 10 working days of receipt of the outcome, to the investigating officer. At least one of the following grounds must be fulfilled:
- The decision was unduly influenced by people partial to the person complained about
- The decision was made against the weight of evidence
- All the evidence was not considered
- The correct procedure to undertake a resolution of the issue was not followed.
The appeal needs to be communicated to the Operations Manager overseeing the service. This needs to be in writing.
If one or more of the above grounds are fulfilled, then the Operations Manager will carry out the appeal. They will review all the documentation relating to the complaint. The Operations Manager will seek advice from the Chief Operating Officer and speak to the complainant and other parties concerned.
A decision at this stage should be communicated in writing to the complainant within 20 working days of receipt of the appeal. This decision is final.
If the complaint is regarding the Operations Manager concerned, the appeal needs to be communicated to the Chief Operating Officer, who will then assess the appeal and reach a final decision.
The decision should be communicated to the Area and logged on the national complaints log.
If there is concern that a volunteer or staff member may have behaved in a way that constitutes serious misconduct a senior member of staff will immediately investigate the matter. The issue should be escalated to Area Support. A suitable member of staff will be allocated to investigate by the Chief Operating Officer.
This action will be dealt with under the Volunteer Concerns Procedure or the Staff Disciplinary Procedure (as relevant), and not the Complaints Procedure although the complainant will be made aware of the progress and finding.
The Chief Operating Officer can at any point exercise discretion to:
- Move an informal complaint to a formal stage (e.g. such as if the informal interaction raises considerable concerns about the operations of a local service)
- Assign another staff member or senior volunteer as the investigating officer (e.g. if a different level of authority or different skills set is required in order to investigate the complaint)
In any such case, all rational for the exercising of this discretion will be documented within the central complaints log (held by Area Support), detailing the reason for exercising such discretion.
Complaints Regarding Other Staff and Volunteers
If a complaint is made about a Central Office staff member, their line manager will lead on this. The Helpline Coordinator or the Chief Operating Officer will deal with any complaints concerning the National Helpline. In the case of a complaint being received about the Chief Executive, the Chair of Trustees will investigate the complaint.
Complaints concerning Board and Council Members, concerning their volunteering in such capacities, should be coordinated by the Chair of each committee. The Chair may assign an officer of the committee to investigate the complaint, or they may do so themselves. In the case of a complaint being received about the Chair of Trustees, 2 other Trustees will be designated to investigate the complaint, by the Board of Trustees (excluding the Chair in this case).
Complaints about Trainers
Occasionally someone will express dissatisfaction about a contracted trainer of Cruse who is providing training to other organisations. We take such complaints seriously and we will assign a senior volunteer or member of staff to assess the complaint. Their role is as an ‘Independent Complaints Reviewer’ (ICR), and they are in place to investigate and take an objective view of the complaint, reaching an eventual conclusion. Being independent, there must be no conflict of interest between the ICR and the person being complained about or anyone else involved in the complaint.
This is in line with National Counselling Society guidelines, and a Conflict of Interest Waiver (see appendix) will need to be signed before the investigation can commence.
Complaints Concerning Fundraising
If someone wishes to complain about an aspect of fundraising that Cruse has undertaken, they can do so using this procedure. Cruse is compliant with the Fundraising Regulations, and if someone feels that Cruse has not abided by these, then a complaint can be lodged. These can be found at: www.fundraisingregulator.org.uk
Anyone can indicate that they do not wish to receive any donation requests from Cruse, in which case they can inform us or subscribe to the Mail Preference Service, which will instruct Cruse to stop making any requests for donation from that individual. Details can be found on www.mpsonline.org.uk
People involved in a complaint – including any people who face allegations as part of the complaint, and anyone involved who is providing details for the investigation – should not disclose any information about the complaint to any party inside or outside of Cruse.
For volunteers and staff in Cruse, doing so will be treated as a case of serious misconduct.
Guidance should be sought from Area Support if there are any queries in this regard.