How to make a complaint
Making a complaint is not as daunting as you might think.
This section tells you how to complain to a public body, and how to contact us if you are still unhappy at the end of the complaints process.
You have the right to complain if you are unhappy with the service provided by a public body.
Complaints are a useful source of feedback for organisations and can result in better public services.
If you are unhappy with a public body your first step is to let them know. Every organisation should have a complaints procedure which will tell you who to send your complaint to. If you follow this procedure it will give the organisation a chance to resolve your complaint.
Contact your local Advice Centre or elected representative (eg. a local councillor, MLA or MP) if you are unsure what to do or if you are nervous about making a complaint.
If you put your complaint in writing you should keep copies of your emails or letters and their replies.
When you make a complaint you should:
You should also ask for confirmation that the organisation has received your complaint, and when you should expect a reply.
If you are still unhappy at the end of the process you can make a complaint to us.
We are here to help. If you need help making your complaint, or if you are unsure about anything please get in touch.
The quickest way for your complaint to be registered with us is by completing our online form. However, you can also contact us by phone, email or in writing.
Our office is also open to the public between the hours of 12 noon and 2.00pm every weekday.
If you would like to speak to a member of staff in person please visit during these hours or call us to arrange an appointment.
We can help if you think a public body has treated you unfairly or caused you hardship or injustice.
Our investigations look at the organisations actions, and any relevant policies, procedures and legislation. We aim to help public bodies learn lessons from our investigations and to make sure they do not repeat mistakes.
We investigate most public bodies in Northern Ireland, but the sectors we receive the most complaints about are health, housing, education, and central and local government.
See below for more information about the types of complaints we investigate in these sectors.
We investigate complaints about hospitals, care homes and other health care providers such as social workers, doctors, dentists and opticians. We can deal with complaints about the care and treatment these bodies provide, as well as their administrative actions. We might be able to look into complaints about private healthcare treatment, but only if organised and paid for by a Health Trust.
Examples of the things we deal with include:
The quality of care given to patients
Fees and charges
We deal with complaints about government departments and agencies set up by the Northern Ireland Assembly. Examples of the type of subjects we can look at include:
We deal with complaints about all grant-aided nursery, primary and secondary schools in Northern Ireland, as well as further education colleges, Queen's University and the University of Ulster. We can also investigate the actions of the Education Authority.
We can look at things like:
How schools dealt with allegations of bullying
Difficulties or delays in getting a Special Educational Needs assessment
Applications procedures for admissions
Accommodation, welfare and support issues
Failure to give information on the awarding of grades
Poor communication with students or parents
Poor complaints handling
We are unable to look at:
the quality of teaching
the awarding of grades
We can look into complaints about social housing organisations, such as the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. We check whether they acted properly in the way they handled your request or dealt with your complaint.
This could be over things like:
We cannot force a housing association to give you a house, or to put you higher up the housing list.
We cannot look at complaints about private rented accommodation.
The 11 local councils in Northern Ireland are responsible for a large range of services. The types of things we can look at include the way councils have dealt with concerns about:
Before you make a complaint to us you should normally have: