We firstly check to see if the organisation you are complaining about is one we are allowed to investigate.  

We can investigate complaints about most public services in Northern Ireland.  These include:

  • hospitals, 
  • care homes, 
  • local councils, 
  • government departments, 
  • social housing providers, 
  • schools, universities and colleges.

Click here for a list of public bodies within our remit.

If your complaint is about a public service provider such as the police, or about a private sector organisation, we will direct you to others who may be able to help.

We deal with complaints from people who may have experienced injustice as a result of maladministration.  Some of the things we call maladministration are:

  • dishonesty
  • lack of care
  • avoidable delay
  • failure to follow the correct procedures
  • unfairness, bias or prejudice
  • misleading or inadequate advice
  • discourtesy and failure to apologise properly for errors
  • mistakes in handling complaints

We can also consider complaints about professional judgement and clinical decisions which have been made by health and social care professionals. 


If your complaint is one we can accept, we will look carefully at the information you have sent us.  We may ask the organisation you are complaining about for their comments about the issue and for any relevant documents.

You may have already been through a lengthy complaints process with the organisation, so to help us try and deal with your complaint quickly we may ask the organisation if it has any ideas for settling the case. We may also suggest our own proposals.

If we can't resolve the complaint quickly, or if we need more information to help us make a decision, we will investigate further. 

In these cases we will contact you to discuss your complaint and may ask the organisation questions to help us understand what happened.  We may also interview witnesses, or in some cases (such as in complex medical complaints), we might get the opinion of a specialist on the subject.

Telling you about our decision

There are some things the law does not allow us to investigate.  If we cannot accept your complaint we will write to you and tell you why.  As well as being restricted into only accepting complaints about certain public bodies, we would generally not investigate your complaint if:

  • it has been made more than six months since the complaint was dealt with by the public body
  • you are simply unhappy with the policy of a public body
  • you intend to take the issue to court

If we have investigated your complaint, at the end of our investigation we will write to you to explain our findings. This may be either in a letter or in a detailed report.  We will also write to the organisation to tell them about our decision.

If we have found that the organisation did something wrong we will recommend how they can put things right.  We do not award compensation or penalise individuals.

Publishing our findings

We publish some of our investigation reports on our website. We also include short summaries of our casework in our Annual Reports or case digests. This helps people understand both what we do and the work of public bodies. We do not name complainants in any of our reports or findings.

We are here to help.

Before you make a complaint to us you should normally have:

  • Complained directly to the organisation  
  • Gone through its complaints process
  • Received a final response to your complaint

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