Every year the Citizens Advice service helps millions of people with their problems. However, every so often someone comes away from a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) feeling more than a bit disgruntled. Perhaps you had to wait for ages, only to find out that there is very little we can do for you. Perhaps you felt that you were not treated with respect or courtesy. Perhaps the advice we gave you did not work out for you or was even negligent.
Unfortunately, these things happen. We know we are not perfect. But we aim to be as good as we can be. That is why we have a complaints procedure. Sometimes we can put things right. Sometimes we can only explain ourselves and apologise. But we do want to learn from our mistakes. What you tell us helps us to look at how we do things and helps us to improve our service.
Please note that this policy is solely for complaints about the service a client has received at a Citizens Advice Bureau or national helpline - and not for any other type of complaint.
I am not a client with a complaint about the service, what do I do?
If you have a complaint about a Citizens Advice Bureau but you are not a client, in the first instance, raise your complaint with the manager of the CAB concerned. Wherever possible, put all the information in a letter and send it to the CAB manager. If you have already raised a complaint with a CAB manager which is not related to the service provided by that CAB you may be able to raise a separate complaint with CAS about the CAB in question.
I am dissatisfied, what do I do?
Misunderstandings can often be sorted out on an informal basis. Don't be afraid to contact the manager of the Citizens Advice Bureau that advised you - she or he might be able to iron out the problem straight away.
If you feel the problem needs to be looked at and put on an official footing, you can follow the bureau complaints process or put all the information in a letter and send it to the CAB manager.
If the issue relates to Scotland's Citizens Advice Helpline or one of the other national helplines please send information to firstname.lastname@example.org or complete a complaint form and return it to Citizens Advice Scotland at the postal address given on the form or by email to email@example.com
The Complaints Procedure
It is important to let the bureau know that you are unhappy and to give them the chance to put things right. Don’t be afraid to speak to the manager – she or he might be able to sort out the problem straight away. Otherwise, move to the more formal process.
To make sure that all complaints are handled efficiently and fairly, we have a procedure. This runs through various stages when complainants continue to feel unhappy with the response they have received.
Your complaint will be treated in confidence, seriously and quickly.
Making a formal complaint
There are several ways to make a complaint. You can put the information in a letter and post it to the bureau or drop it into the bureau. Complaints can be addressed to the bureau manager or chair. You can tell the bureau on the phone or face-to-face that you want them to investigate your complaint.
Your complaint will be investigated by the bureau manager under the direction of the chair of the bureau, or by the chair if you are complaining about the manager. If it is upheld, you will get a full apology and, where appropriate, be given details of any action that the bureau is taking to put things right. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you can ask for a further review. The bureau will tell you how to do this.
The bureau will aim to respond in full to your complaint in 20 working days. However, if the issue is complicated, it may take longer although you will be kept informed of progress.
Review of your complaint
If you are still not happy after the bureau’s response, you can request a further review.
The review will be conducted under the direction of the Citizens Advice Scotland Chief Executive Officer. If your complaint is not upheld by Citizens Advice Scotland and you are still not happy, you can ask for your complaint to be looked at by an Independent Arbiter.
Review by an independent arbiter
If your complaint is not upheld and you indicate that you are not satisfied and want to progress further you must write to the CEO within two calendar months from the date of receipt of CAS’ response to the complaint. The CEO will write to an appropriate independent arbiter who is entirely separate from the CAB service. You will be notified accordingly.
The arbiter will be asked to review the Association’s handling of the complaint and whether the final decision had been fair
The full report of the independent arbiter will be sent to CAS and the arbiter will notify you of his/her decision. The arbiter’s decision is final
Financial Ombudsman Service
The Financial Ombudsman Service provides a free, independent service for clients to solve disputes with not for profit debt advice providers.
The Financial Ombudsman Service will only step in once the bureau has had the opportunity to investigate matters, so please contact the bureau first.
If your complaint is about debt advice or if you were seeking advice about your credit record and you are not satisfied with the bureau’s final response or if eight weeks have passed since you first let the bureau know about your concerns, you can ask the Financial Ombudsman to review your complaint.
Contact the Financial Ombudsman Service
The Financial Ombudsman Service
London E14 9SR
0800 0 234 567 – free for people phoning from a ‘fixed’ line (e.g. a landline at home)
0300 123 9 123 – free for mobile phone users who pay a monthly charge for calls to numbers starting 01 and 02.
Who to contact to make an initial complaint
Please contact the Manager or Chair of the Citizens Advice Bureau in question. You can find the contact details for the bureau by searching here.
Citizens Advice Scotland
If the issue relates to Scotland's Citizens Advice Helpline or one of the other national helplines please contact Citizens Advice Scotland at the postal address given on the complaint form or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org