At THE OWL CENTRE we aim to develop practices and policies that promote and sustain the wellbeing of children and young people with autism.
We aim to offer support and training for staff, parents and other stakeholders to enable them to best meet the needs of children and young people.
We aim to establish a consistent approach across all areas of our work that enables all individuals to learn and make progress.
We aim to ensure that our communication with all stakeholders is clear and appropriate.
We aim to ensure that our physical environment is responsive to the needs of children and young people, and that we take account of individual needs.
We aim to develop and sustain a multi-disciplinary approach where professionals plan and work together to meet the needs of learners with autism.
The Owl Centre endeavours to provide the best service possible for all of its patients and families in an open and transparent environment. We welcome any feedback that we receive from patients, parents and other stakeholders, and we accept that not all of this will be positive. Where concerns or complaints are raised the Owl Centre intends for these to de dealt with:
- without prejudice
The Owl Centre differentiates between complaints and concerns.
We recognise the Department for Education’s definition of a concern as “an expression of worry or doubt over an issue considered to be important for which reassurances are sought”. (Best Practice Advice for School Complaints Procedures 2016). A written expression of worry or doubt may also be processed as a concern. A concern expresses a hopeful resolution to what you, at least, consider a problem.
The majority of concerns can be dealt with without resorting to the complaints procedure. Where you have a concern about any aspect of our service, you should raise this with your therapist or with the Owl Centre’s owners via email, telephone or in person. They may be able to address your concerns straight away or arrange a meeting with you to discuss the issue.
All concerns will be dealt with confidentially, although the staff member may need to take notes if they feel that the matter may need to be taken further or it may arise again in the future. Any such notes will be kept in accordance with the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998. However, such notes would be able to be used as evidence if further investigation was required, or if the concern became a formal complaint.
The Owl Centre uses the Department for Education’s definition of a complaint, “an expression of dissatisfaction however made, about actions taken or a lack of action”. (Best Practice Advice for School Complaints Procedures 2016). It is generally something that expresses a desire for redress of a grievance.
In order to deal with complaints fairly, openly, promptly and without prejudice, the Owl Centre’s Owners has approved the following complaints procedure which explains what you should do if you have any complaints about the Owl Centre. All members of staff will be familiar with the procedure and will be able to assist you.
Which Procedure Do I Need?
Sometimes, when concerns or complaints are more specific, there are alternative and more appropriate policies for dealing with them. The following list details specific topics of complaints and the correct policy to refer to. These policies can be accessed on our website or requested from our admin team
- Safeguarding: If there is a safeguarding allegation or concern refer to the Safeguarding Policy on our website or the local MASH (Multi-agency safeguarding hub).
- Confidentiality: GDPR policy
- Poor communication: Patient Experience Policy
- Staff grievances: Grievance Policy
Anonymous complaints will be investigated as far as possible.
Safeguarding is our highest priority at THE OWL CENTRE
Wherever a complaint indicates that a young person’s well-being or safety is at risk, the Owl Centre will act in accordance with its Safeguarding Policy which can be found on our website www.theowltherapycentre.co.uk
In order for complaints to be resolved as quickly and fairly as possible, the Owl Centre requests that complainants do not discuss complaints publicly via social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Complaints will be dealt with confidentially for those involved and we expect complainants to observe confidentiality as well.
Complaints that result in staff capability and disciplinary
If at any stage of the complaint it is determined that staff disciplinary or capability proceedings are necessary in order to resolve the issue, the details of this action will remain confidential to the Owners of The Owl Centre. The complainant is entitled to be informed that the matter is being dealt with appropriately, but they are not entitled to participate in the proceedings and will not receive any detail about them or the outcome.
In order to ensure that complaints are dealt with efficiently and effectively, the Owl Centre has a three stage process:
· Informal Stage
· Complaint is acknowledged within 24 hours
· Addressed within 15 days
· Where dissatisfied with outcomes progress to stage 2
· Formal Investigation
· Where dissatisfied with outcomes, progress to stage 3
· This process can take up to 30 working days
· Formal appeal (Complaints Panel)
· This process can take up to 30 working days
· This is the final stage of the Owl Centre’s procedure
Timeline for complaints
All timescales in this document refer to regular working days, i.e. excluding weekends, school holidays and bank holidays.
The Owl Centre will endeavour to keep to the timeframes stated under each stage, but acknowledges that in some circumstances, this is not always possible due to the complexity of the issue being investigated or the availability of a particular individual to deal with the complaint. As soon as it becomes apparent that it is not going to be possible to complete any particular stage within the given timeframe, the person responsible for handling the complaint will contact the complainant and come to an agreed timeframe that works for all parties involved, this contact will be made within the procedure’s timeframes.
The Owl Centre expects all complaints to be raised at Stage 1 promptly and within 3 months of the date the matter concerned occurred.
The Owl Centre reserves the right not to investigate complaints that have been made 3 months after the subject of the complaint took place, except in exceptional circumstances. In this context, exceptional circumstances means that new evidence has come to light, where the complaint is of an especially serious matter or where there is reasonable justification for why the complainant has been unable to raise the complaint before this time. The Owner of the Owl Centre will review the situation and decide whether or not to enact the Complaints Procedure.
Complaints about the Owners of The Owl Centre
Where a complaint concerns the Owners, the complainant should in the first instance approach the Owners directly in an attempt to resolve the issue informally. If the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome, or if they have good reason to feel that it is inappropriate to approach the Owners in the first instance, they should contact the Local Authority Trading Standards.
Stages of the Complaint Procedure: Stage 1 – Informal Stage
It is the intention of the Owl Centre that most complaints can be resolved successfully in a quick and informal manner.
- The complainant will initially address the complaint to the appropriate member of staff. The complaint may be made in person, by telephone or email.
- The complainant must explain an overview of the complaint and the action they would like to be taken to reach a resolution.
- The staff member will acknowledge any complaint not made in person within 4 days and explain what action they intend to take.
- If the individual staff member cannot resolve the issue, the matter will be referred to the Team Leader. Complaints made directly to the Team Leader will be referred to the relevant staff member unless it is deemed appropriate to be addressed at the owner’s level.
- The complainant may be invited to attend an informal meeting with the therapist to discuss the complaint. Where the complaint is about a member of staff an informal mediation meeting may be offered to see if a resolution can be reached.
- Confirmation of the outcome and any actions to be taken as a result of the complaint will be provided to the complainant within one week of the complaint.
- A record of the complaint and the outcome will be made and retained in accordance with GDPR 2018.
Stage 2 – Formal investigation – Owners of the Owl Centre
Where a result of raising a complaint at the informal stage, a complainant feels that an issue has not been resolved or is not satisfied with the outcome of Stage 1, they may progress to Stage 2 of the Complaints Procedure by making a formal written complaint. In doing so, the following steps will be adhered to:
- The complainant will submit an email to the head of the Owl Centre [email protected], or write to THE OWL CENTRE, 18 St George’s Place Cheltenham GL50 3JZ. The Owl Centre recognises that the expression of a complaint in writing might be difficult for some individuals and requests that the complainant contacts the Owl Centre’s reception if they require assistance to record their formal complaint.
- The complainant must submit the form within 20 days of receipt of the outcome of Stage 1 or within 3 months of the date the matter complained of occurred (whichever is the later date), or it will not be considered, except in exceptional circumstances (defined above).
- The Owners will respond in writing within 5 days of receiving the complaint to acknowledge receipt and explain what action will be taken, giving clear timeframes.
- In most cases, the Owners will offer to have a meeting with the complainant at the outset of this stage of the process to discuss the issue, possible solutions and what will happen as a result of the complaint.
- The Owners will carry out a formal investigation of the complaint and consider all relevant evidence, which may include, but is not limited to:
- evidence and outcome from Stage 1
- a statement from the complainant
- where relevant, a meeting with/statement from an individual who is the subject of the complaint
- any previous correspondence regarding the complaint
- any supporting documents from all parties
- interview with anyone related to the complaint.
- After considering the available evidence, the Owners may:
- uphold the complaint and direct that certain action be taken to resolve it
- not uphold the complaint and provide the complainant with details of the Stage 3 appeals process
- uphold the complaint in part. In other words, the Owners may find one aspect of the complaint to be valid, but not another aspect. They may direct for certain action to be taken to resolve the aspect that they find in favour of the complainant.
- The Owners will inform the complainant of their decision in writing within 15 days of receipt of the formal complaint. They will explain clearly why they have come to the decision that they made. They will detail any agreed actions as a result of the complaint. Finally, they will provide the complainant with details of how to progress the complaint to Stage 3 if they are not satisfied with the outcome.
- In addition to making the response in writing, the Owners may also wish to meet the complainant to discuss / resolve the matter directly.
Stage 3 – Formal Appeal (Complaints Appeal Panel Hearing)
If the complainant wishes to appeal a decision by the Owners at Stage 2 of the procedure, or they is not satisfied with the outcome or action that the Owners took in relation to the complaint at Stage 2, the complainant is able to appeal this decision to the Complaints Appeal Panel. The following steps will be adhered to:
- The complainant must request an appeal panel within 15 days of receiving the Owner’s decision or it will not be considered, except in exceptional circumstances (defined above). They should write to the Independent Complaints team outlining the content of the complaint in writing, the action they are seeking to resolve the matter and request that a Complaints Appeal Panel is convened.
- The Team will write to the complainant within 5 days to confirm receipt of the appeal request and detail further action to be taken.
- The Team will fulfil the role of organising the time and date of the appeal hearing, inviting all the attendees, collating all the relevant documentation and distributing this 5 days in advance of the hearing, recording the proceedings in the form of minutes and circulating these and the outcome of the hearing. The minutes are a summary of the discussion at the hearing and the decision of the panel following the hearing, but will not include the deliberations of the panel.
- The Team Secretary will convene the Complaints Appeal Panel, a panel of at least 3 people not directly involved with the matters detailed in the complaint, one of whom will be independent of the management and running of the Owl Centre
- In addition to the panel, the following parties will be invited, where applicable:
- - the complainant
- - the Owner who dealt with the complaint at Stage 2
- - relevant witnesses.
- The complainant may bring a companion with them to the hearing for support if they wishes. They should advise the Team Secretary of the name of this supportive companion prior to the hearing. The supportive companion is not there as a witness, so does not address the panel except with the prior agreement of the chair.
- The appeal hearing will take place within 30 days of receipt of the request for the Stage 3 appeal.
- The panel can make the following decisions:
- - dismiss the complaint in whole or in part
- - uphold the complaint in whole or in part
- - decide on the appropriate action to be taken to resolve the complaint
- - recommend changes to the Owl Centre’s systems or procedures to ensure that problems of a similar nature do not recur.
9. The complainant will be informed in writing of the outcome of the appeal and be provided with a copy of the findings and recommendations, within 10 days of the hearing.
- A copy of the findings and recommendations will also be provided to any person complained about, where relevant, and will be available for inspection by the Owl Centre Owners.
This is the final stage at which the Owl Centre will consider the complaint. The Complaints Appeal Panel’s decision is final.
Recording and Retention of Complaints
The Owl Centre will keep a written record of complaints made under the formal stages of the Complaints Procedure and the following information:
- whether the complaint was resolved following the formal procedure or proceed to a panel hearing
- actions taken by the Owl Centre as a result of the complaint (regardless of whether the complaint was upheld).
All correspondence, statements and records relating to individual complaints will be kept confidential except where the Secretary of State or a body conducting an inspection under s109 of the Education and Skills Act 2008, requests access to them.
The complaint investigator/Chair of the Complaint Appeal Panel should ensure that a copy of all relevant information relating to the complaint is kept by the Owl Centre in a secure, confidential folder, separate from staff records. This information will be retained for a reasonably justifiable period of time.
Unreasonable complaints and serial / persistent complaints
THE OWL CENTRE will deal with all complaints fairly and impartially and will not normally limit the contact that complainants have with the Owl Centre. However, we will not tolerate unacceptable behaviour and will protect staff from behaviour which we deem to be abusive, offensive or threatening.
The Owl Centre regards unreasonable complaints as follows:
- When the complainant refuses to detail the grounds of a complaint or the outcomes that they desire from raising the complaint, despite the Owl Centre’s best offers of assistance
- When the complainant seeks for their complaint to be resolved but refuses to engage with the complaints investigation process as set out in this policy
- When the complainant does not accept that some issues cannot be dealt with within the remit of this policy
- When the complainant specifies that they want the complaint dealt with in a specific way which is incompatible with the process outlined in this policy or with best practice
- When the complainant introduces information which they expect to be considered and commented on, or raises a significant number of detailed but unimportant questions, insisting on a full response, often immediately and to timescales defined by the complainant
- When the complainant seeks to have staff replaced who are dealing with the issues raised by making unjustified complaints about them
- When the complainant changes the nature of the complaint as the investigation proceeds
- When the complainant continues to raise the same complaint despite the matter being deemed to be concluded
- When the complainant will not accept the outcome of the investigation into the complaint despite the procedure in this policy being followed
- When the outcome sought by the complainant is unrealistic
· When the complainant submits frequent, complicated, lengthy and stressful contact with staff regarding the complaint by telephone, in writing or in person whilst the complaints procedure in this policy is being followed.
Complaints may also be considered unreasonable if the complainant’s communications (by phone, in writing or in person) are or the complainant publishes online, in social media and/or in newspapers:
- Contain threats, are intimidating or are violent
- Use language that is abusive, offensive or discriminatory
- Knowingly false or defamatory
Complainants should restrict the number of communications with the Owl Centre whilst the complaints procedure is being followed as repeated correspondence, whether by phone, email or in person, is unhelpful and may hinder the outcome of the investigation.
The Owners will hold an initial informal discussion with the complainant before they apply an ‘unreasonable’ judgement. Should the behaviour continue, the Owners will inform the complainant in writing to explain that the behaviour is unreasonable and asking that they change it.
The Owl Centre may impose a limit on the number and type of contacts that a complainant can have with the Owl Centre where it is deemed that communications are excessive. Where this occurs, it will usually be reviewed after 6 months.
If there should be a serious incident of aggression or violence, this will be documented and the police will be immediately informed.
Complaints to CQC
CQC will consider complaints about the Owl Centre as a whole, but this course of action is only available if the Owl Centre’s complaints procedure has already been followed.