1. Introduction 

1.1 IPSEA strives to provide a consistently high quality service to everyone who contacts us for advice and support.  

1.2 We understand that things don’t always go to plan and there will be occasions when the service we provide fails to meet someone’s expectations. When this happens, we want to be told and we will do our best to put things right if we are at fault, as quickly as possible and to the satisfaction of the person(s) affected.  

1.3 The following principles will apply when complaints arise: 

  • We will deal with concerns promptly, fairly and sensitively.  
  • We will respond to a complaint, provide an explanation and, where we have got something wrong, apologise and provide details of any changes we are going to make as a result of the complaint.  
  • We will learn from complaints, use them to improve our services, and regularly review our complaints policy and procedures.  

1.4 This policy is available on IPSEA’s website. 


  1. Policy scope 

2.1 This policy applies to all users of our services.    


  1. Responsibilities  

3.1 IPSEA’s Chief Executive and Management Team are responsible for ensuring the day-to-day implementation of this policy.  

3.2 All staff and volunteers should be familiar with this policy, provide information as appropriate on making a complaint and respond to complaints under the first stage of the complaints procedure.  

3.3 All parents/carers/young people in receipt of casework support or representation will be provided with written information on how to complain at the outset of their case.  

3.4 The Board of Trustees are responsible for ensuring that the management of complaints is effective. 


  1. Definitions 

 4.1 IPSEA defines a complaint as:  

“any expression of dissatisfaction, however it is expressed, about the standard of service provided, behaviour of staff or volunteers, policies of the organisation, and the actions, or lack of action, by staff or volunteers affecting a person or persons”.  

4.2 This means that a complaint need not include the word “complaint” in it, and may be presented in writing (electronic or hard copy), over the telephone, or in person.  

4.3 “Complainant” means the person making the complaint.   

4.4 “Investigating manager” is the member of IPSEA’s Management Team responsible for dealing with a complaint.  


  1. IPSEA’s complaints process

5.1 IPSEA operates a three stage complaints process.  

Stage 1 – informal resolution   

5.2 Most expressions of dissatisfaction can be resolved informally by staff and volunteers having a conversation with the complainant to identify what the issue is, how it has arisen and what can be done to resolve it. If the complaint can be resolved at this stage, a record of the complaint and response will be made and forwarded to IPSEA’s Chief Executive.  

5.3 If a complaint cannot be satisfactorily resolved informally (or if the complainant specifically requests that their complaint is dealt with as a formal complaint in the first instance) then the process at Stage 2 should be followed.  

Stage 2 – formal complaints    

5.4 Formal complaints are dealt with by a member of IPSEA’s Management Team unless the complaint is about a member of IPSEA’s Management Team. In these circumstances, it will be investigated by IPSEA’s Chief Executive. If the complaint is about IPSEA’s Chief Executive it will be investigated by a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees.  

5.5 A formal complaint should be made in writing and sent to [email protected].  

5.6 If the complainant is unable to make their complaint in writing (for whatever reason) it can be made verbally to any member of IPSEA staff who will take a note of the conversation and send it to [email protected].  

5.7 The complaint will be allocated to the relevant manager to investigate. The investigating manager will acknowledge the formal complaint in writing within five working days of receipt confirming what they understand the complaint to be about. The investigating manager will then carry out a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the complaint. This might include talking to other members of IPSEA staff or volunteers, and examining advice and casework records to check that proper procedures were followed and correct advice was given.   

5.8 IPSEA’s target time for responding in full to a complaint is 20 working days from the date of receipt of a complaint, but it may take longer if the issue is complicated. If it is going to take longer than 20 working days to provide a full response to a complaint, the complainant will be notified of this and the reason for the delay.  

5.9 Once the investigation is complete, the investigating manager will write to the complainant setting out their findings and confirming whether the complaint is upheld.   

5.10 If the complaint is upheld or partially upheld, the complainant will receive a full apology and, where appropriate, be given details of any action that IPSEA has taken or will take to resolve the situation or at least put things right for the future. The aim is always to achieve resolution at the earliest stage possible.  

5.11 Where a complaint is not upheld, the complainant will be given reasons for this decision. The letter from the investigating manager will inform the complainant of their right to ask for a review of the investigation by IPSEA’s Chief Executive (or a subcommittee of the Board of Trustees if the Stage 2 complaint was investigated by the Chief Executive) if the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome at Stage 2. Details of how to do this will be provided.   

5.12 The letter will also notify a complainant if they have a right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman. This will only be relevant if:

  • the complainant received support under IPSEA’s Tribunal Support Service and the person who provided this support or supervised their case is a solicitor, or 
  • if a parent/carer received advice from a volunteer or legal team member on a helpline who is a solicitor.  

Stage 3 – review   

5.13 The same timescales will apply to a review of a complaint at Stage 3 – requests for review will be acknowledged within five working days and responded to in full within 20 working days.  

5.14 IPSEA’s Chief Executive (or subcommittee of the Board of Trustees) will: 

  • check that the investigation undertaken at Stage 2 was carried out fully and properly 
  • check that the fundamental point of the complaint has been addressed, and  
  • consider any outstanding issues.  

5.15 Once the review is complete, the Chief Executive (or subcommittee of the Board of Trustees) will write to the complainant setting out their findings and confirming whether they agree or disagree with the response provided at Stage 2.   

5.16 If, on review, the complaint is upheld or partially upheld, the complainant will receive a full apology and, where appropriate, be given details of any action that IPSEA has taken or will take to resolve the situation or at least put things right for the future.   

5.17 Decisions made under Stage 3 of IPSEA’s complaints process are final.  


  1. Record keeping and review  

6.1 All complaints received about IPSEA are recorded in a confidential central record. The Board of Trustees will be provided with a summary of complaints received and the outcomes of investigations.  

6.2 Complaints will be reviewed annually and the findings used to inform business planning and service delivery.