Complaints Policy and Procedure

Updated: November 2023

This policy relates to clients of DHI services. A client is someone who has been referred and accepted into a service and/or allocated a caseworker. Where someone has a complaint, but is not a service user i.e. referred but doesn’t meet service criteria, a note will nevertheless be placed on the log for analysis purposes, and the person will be informed.

1. Definition

A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction about the actions or in actions of a worker or about the service provided, that requires a response. A complaint can be made by someone receiving a DHI service, their representative or a partner agency working with DHI. Volunteers and Peers should also use the complaints policy to raise any concerns about a paid DHI employee.

2. Our policy statement

DHI is committed to providing a quality service for its clients and working in an open and accountable way to build the trust and respect of all our stakeholders. One of the ways in which we can continue to improve our service is by listening and responding to the views of our clients and stakeholders, by responding positively and proportionately to complaints, by putting mistakes right and learning from them.

3. The aims of our policy

We aim to ensure that:

  • A culture exists so that expressing dissatisfaction constructively is something service users feel confident about, and are positively encouraged to do, such that formal complaints are rarely felt necessary.
  • Making a complaint is as easy as possible, and policies and procedures are well publicised throughout the organisation.
  • Complainants are reassured that making a complaint will not harm their future relations with us.
  • All complaints are treated seriously, as a clear expression of dissatisfaction with our service.
  • Any complaint that indicates there may be conduct or performance issues should be escalated to Stage 1
  • We deal with complaints politely and within agreed timescales laid down in the procedure.
  • Where complaints are escalated to the formal stages, we will investigate and respond with a written explanation of the outcome.
  • We learn from complaints and use them to improve our service,
  • We review our complaints policy bi-annually.

4. Responsibility

It is the responsibility of all staff to support clients in making a complaint, and to attempt to resolve complaints at the earliest possible stage, preferably before recourse to formal complaints procedures becomes necessary. Dependant on the stage of the complaint it is the responsibility of the relevant worker, Director or the Chief Executive to respond either verbally or in writing.

5. Monitoring

Complaints escalated to the formal stage will be monitored to ensure our publicised timescales for response are adhered to. We will identify repeated areas of concern and common themes that require actions to be taken, producing an annual report that will be presented to the Board.

1. Introduction

DHI staff should refer to this procedure where any service user or agency contacts them with a complaint about DHI or its services.

2. Escalation

There are 4 stages to DHI’s complaints procedure:

Informal stage

The member of staff who provided the service should seek to explore the reasons for the complaint and find an informal resolution. They must keep notes which clearly outline the reasons for the dissatisfaction and the steps taken to resolve this on the case file. They should seek management support and advice as appropriate.

If the complainant is not satisfied with the proposed resolution the Complaints Policy must be shared with the client to outline the available formal stages.

Stage 1:

If the complainant is not satisfied with the resolution suggested at the informal stage, the person taking the complaint must make a clear record and email this to the PA to the Chief Executive. The PA will contact the complainant to acknowledge receipt of the complaint and include a copy of the Complaints Policy

The PA will log the complaint on DHI’s central log and allocate it to a suitable manager to investigate. In most cases this will NOT be the line manager of the person or Service about whom or which the complaint centres, but a manager from a different directorate.

Where the complaint is about the service, it will be sent to the service manager.

Where the complaint is about the CEO, it will be sent to the board of trustees.

The person to whom the complaint is allocated must investigate the complaint as appropriate and respond to the complainant in the timescales outlined below. They must send a copy of the outcome letter to the PA.

Stage 2:

If the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome of the stage 1 complaint they may escalate it to stage 2 of the process by contacting the PA within 10 working days of receiving the response.

After receiving a stage 2 complaint the PA will log this on the central log. They will allocate the complaint and send all relevant paperwork to a more senior manager in the organisation.

The person to whom the complaint is allocated must investigate the complaint as appropriate and respond in the timescales outlined below. They must send a copy of the outcome letter to the PA.

Stage 3:

If the complainant remains dissatisfied by the outcome of the complaint, they may contact the relevant commissioning body for the service in question.

3. Vexatious complainants

DHI reserves the right not to investigate vexatious complaints.

Vexatious complaints include persistent, abusive complaints or where the complainant is acting in a manner that is deemed unacceptable or unreasonable.

These behaviours by the complainant may occur at any time before, during and after a complaint has been investigated.

Vexatious complaints will nevertheless be logged on the complaints log, with brief details reported to the Board for Governance purposes.

It is noted that making a complaint itself does not constitute unreasonable behaviour.

Examples of vexatious behaviours during a complaints process include (not exhaustive):

  • Not specifying the grounds of the complaint
  • Refusing to accept that certain issues are not within the scope of the organisation or the complaints procedure.
  • Changing the basis of the complaint during the investigation process.
  • Making unjustified complaints about the complaints investigation or introducing trivial information through new complaints at a later stage.
  • Submitting falsified information.
  • Adopting a scatter-gun approach to change an agreed and investigated outcome.
  • Making excessive demands on time and resources.
  • Refusing to accept the decision, repeatedly arguing points with no new information.

4. Investigating the complaint:

The investigation should be thorough but proportionate to the complaint. This may include meeting with the complainant, clarifying what resolution might look like to the complainant, reviewing case files, relevant policies and procedures and interviewing witnesses as appropriate. The purpose of these investigations is to gain all of the relevant facts so that a fair and informed decision can be made about the best resolution and next steps. An investigating manager will be appointed in all cases and they will be responsible for completing the investigation and writing to the complainant with their findings.

5. Outcomes:

There can be 3 outcomes to a complaint:

  1. Upheld: The investigating manager feels that there were legitimate grounds for all aspects of the complaint.
  2. Partially Upheld: The investigating manager feels that there were legitimate grounds for some aspects of the complaint.
  3. Not Upheld: The investigating manager feels that there were no legitimate grounds for the complaint.

Wherever a complaint is Upheld or Partially Upheld the investigating manager must consider what can be done to prevent a similar complaint from reoccurring. In certain situations they will also need to consider whether further action is required in respect of DHI’s disciplinary or capability policy.

6. Outcomes:

  • Acknowledgement: The complaint must be acknowledged in writing by the investigating manager within 2 days of the complaint being allocated by the PA and a date agreed for an interview with the complainant where appropriate.
  • Decision: The investigation must be completed, and a decision made in line with the below timescales. The investigating manager should forward the outcome letter and all other paperwork to the PA at this time.

There may be occasions where the relationship between DHI and unreasonably persistent or vexatious complainants breaks down completely. This may even be the case while complaints are under investigation and there is little prospect of achieving a satisfactory outcome. In such circumstances, there may be little purpose in following all the stages of the complaints procedure. Where this occurs DHI will advise the complainant in writing.

7. Timeframe for complaints:

Complainants have up to 3 months from an "incident" occurring to make a complaint to DHI.

This policy is not exhaustive and does not cover all forms of vexatious behaviour that may be considered unreasonable. In certain circumstances, it may be more appropriate to refer to a senior manager to consider appropriate and proportionate measures

Appendix 1: Summary of Timelines





Client’s worker

As quickly as practical

Stage 1: Acknowledge receipt of complaint


2 working days.

Stage 1: Interview with complainant to discuss the complaint

PA to CEO to allocate to appropriate investigator

2 working days. At this point the investigating manager will agree a reasonable timescale in which a thorough and proportionate investigation can be completed.

Stage 1: Written response to the complaint

Investigating Manager

As soon as practicable and within agreed timescales.

Stage 1: Escalate to Stage 2 for review


Within 10 working days of receiving the stage 1 complaint.

Stage 2: Acknowledgment of the Stage 2 escalation


2 working days.

Stage 2: Written response to complaint

Investigating Manager

As soon as practicable and within agreed timescales.

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