Our Internal Complaints Procedure
First stage – initial response to and resolution of the complaint
We will respond/acknowledge any complaint within 5 working days of receiving it, enclosing a copy of this procedure if you do not already have one, and explaining when you will next be contacted. Both the initial complaint and our response may be made by telephone as well as by email; a written note will be made respecting any communication by telephone and kept on the case file. At this stage the mediator or mediators concerned in the complaint will be involved directly in responding and seeking to resolve the issue.
Second stage – internal informal attempt to resolve the complaint
If you wish to take the complaint further we will ask you to put your complaint in writing, if you have not already done so, and will acknowledge the written version of the complaint separately. All correspondence relating to the complaint will be dealt with by our administrator from this point on. They will send you an initial written response to your complaint within 14 days of receiving your complaint in writing.
Every qualified family mediator recognised by the Family Mediation Council is required to have a professional practice consultant (PPC), who provides the mediator with professional support and guidance. We must inform our PPCs about the complaint and within 7 days of receiving the complaint in writing, or as soon as reasonably practicable, written copies of all correspondence relating to the complaint will be sent to at least one of our PPCs, and you will be copied in so that you can see that this has happened. We will usually offer a meeting with you, and will always consider doing so. Any meeting concerning your complaint may include the mediator or mediators concerned, one of our PPCs or an independent mediator. Written records of any meeting and discussions must be kept on both the case file, and our own professional files. If the PPC is able to help us to resolve the complaint at this stage, the PPC will decide whether the other party to the mediation should be informed about the complaint.
If we are able to resolve the complaint with you on an informal basis at this stage, then written records of the nature of the complaint and its resolution, together with associated correspondence, will be kept on file and reviewed by the PPC so that lessons can be learned.
Third stage: independent consideration and attempted formal resolution of the complaint
If we are unable to resolve the complaint with you with the help of our PPC, within 14 days of our initial written response to you, or as soon as reasonably practicable, a completely independent person qualified to act as a PPC will be appointed to review the complaint – this will not be one of our own PPCs, but someone who has no ongoing professional relationship with us, specially appointed to deal with your complaint. We must ensure that you are told in writing, as soon as reasonably practicable, the name of the person who will be reviewing the complaint. Once an independent PPC is appointed, any ongoing mediation with us must stop; we must also inform the other person that there has been a complaint, although the other person is not entitled to know the details.
The independent PPC will be asked to review both the complaint and any unsuccessful attempts to resolve the complaint; they will have copies of all communications, including telephone attendance notes and a full copy of the mediation or assessment file. We must ensure that we have either the written consent of both of you to the release of the mediation file to the independent PPC (if the complaint is about a mediation) or your written consent to the release of assessment file to the independent PPC (if the complaint is about an assessment) – this consent is included in our Agreement to Mediate, so we will usually already have it.
The independent PPC will have 21 days from appointment to attempt to resolve the complaint. The independent PPC will write to you directly to let you know that they have been appointed to consider your complaint, and what the timetable is for the review. The independent PPC will discuss the complaint as fully as possible with us and, if possible, seek to agree the next step that should be taken, in the event that no resolution of the complaint can be agreed. The independent PPC should take appropriate action to assess the complaint including, if they consider this appropriate, a written invitation to you to comment. If the independent PPC wishes to see any additional information, they will require this to be sent within 14 days of his/her appointment.
If it is not possible to resolve the complaint at this stage, the independent PPC will provide an assessment of the complaint in writing to us and to you at the end of the investigation.
Possible Referral to the FMC
If the complaint is not resolved by our internal process, set out above, and the complaint involves a breach of the Family Mediation Council Code of Practice which occurred within 3 months of the last mediation session, then from 1 March 2022 you are entitled to complain to the Family Mediation Council, as the regulatory body for family mediators. (see https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/complaints-about-mediators/).
FMC’s Minimum Requirements for Mediators’ Own Complaints Processes
Mediators are required to have in place and follow a complaints procedure which:
a. Allows a client, a former client or a qualifying third party to make a complaint that relates to breaches of the FMC’s Codes of Practice or Standards Framework that occurred within the last three months. For avoidance of doubt, complaints that relate to the way a mediation was conducted as a whole, the date the three months runs from is the last mediation session. Complaints that appear to be vexatious or of a purely personal nature do not have to be investigated.
b. States a timeframe within which all complaints will be acknowledged. This must be no more than 10 working days of receipt.
c. States that all complaints will be investigated and responded to within a timeframe. This must be no more than 30 working days of receipt. The procedure may specify that on occasions further time may be required, in which case the complainant should be notified in writing.
d. Allows for mediation of the complaint where both the complainant and mediator wish this to proceed.
e. Explains any further procedures if these are available, including time frames for using these and getting a response.
f. Explains that if the response is not accepted, the complainant can ask the FMSB to consider the complaint if certain criteria are met, and provide details of how to do this.
3. Mediators are required to include a copy of or a link to their complaints policy, which meets the minimum standards set out above, in the Agreement to Mediate.
4. Mediators are required to make their privacy notices and complaints policies available on their websites so that they are readily accessible by members of the public.
We are committed to providing a high-quality mediation service. When something goes wrong we want you to let us know – please feel free to contact either of us by telephone or by email if you want to discuss any aspect of our service. If you are dissatisfied, clients have a right to complain directly to us for up to 6 months after the relevant event. The other people who may make a complaint are prospective clients who have been directly affected by our professional behaviour and those who have been invited to participate in a mediation session. You can find more information about what this means at https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/complaints-about-mediators/. You may contact either of us directly, or our admin email address (email@example.com). If you do not hear back from us within the timeframes set out below, please do try to contact us by telephone and use the email details on our website, which will certainly have the current contact details for us, to ensure that we have received the complaint. We hope that, in most cases, a conversation between us will be sufficient to set minds at rest.
Using our complaints process does not prejudice your right to apply to the courts for civil redress. What we hope to achieve is an outcome to the complaint that we all feel is constructive and proportionate, and to avoid any unnecessary escalation of problems.
If we receive a complaint from one of you, please bear in mind that we will usually inform the other person that a complaint has been made. (We must do this if a professional adviser we have consulted about the complaint (normally a PPC – see below) considers that the other person needs to be informed.)
Our procedures are designed to go beyond the minimum standards required by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) set out on the final page. In the event that our complaints process has not been successful and you consider that there has been a breach of the relevant Code of Practice for intake meetings or for mediations, within 3 months of the last mediation session or intake meeting, you may complain to the FMC). The FMC’s own complaints process can be found at https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/complaints-about-mediators/.