Complaints policy

If you have a complaint about Girlguiding, we want to help put it right

Approved: 9 June 2022
Version: 3
Content owner: Safe Practice

At Girlguiding we believe in doing our best. But we know we don’t always get everything right.  

Our Complaints policy sets out how we manage, address and learn from complaints. It helps us do our best to make guiding even more enjoyable and accessible to everyone.  

Definitions used in this policy 

  • Complaint – a concern brought to us about a specific situation, event, volunteer or staff member. It doesn’t include any concerns raised about Girlguiding as a whole, or services we provide. Local Girlguiding volunteers and our Complaints team at Girlguiding HQ can investigate complaints. When they relate to staff, we investigate through our HR grievance procedure. Investigating gives us the chance to try to address the complaint and learn from what happened.  
  • Feedback – comments made about Girlguiding that don’t relate to a specific scenario or volunteer. These can be positive, negative, neutral or mixed. We don’t investigate comments like these.  
  • Acting in good faith – when you make a complaint, you must believe it’s substantially true. You mustn’t act maliciously, make allegations you know are false, or seek any personal gain. 
  • Serious incident – a situation that may cause serious damage to Girlguiding’s reputation, is a significant breach of our policies, or is unlawful. We report serious incidents to our serious incident committee, who consider whether to report them to the Charity Commission.  
  • Third party – someone affected by Girlguiding activities, for example a partner organisation, the owner of a venue we use, or the public. 

Policy statement 

We use our Complaints policy and procedure to deal with all complaints we receive at any level of Girlguiding. 

It covers complaints about: 

  • the standard of experience you may have received from Girlguiding
  • the behaviour of anyone who played a part in delivering that service
  • Girlguiding policies, communications and resources. 

This policy is for all volunteers, adult members, young members and staff. It’s also for parents and carers of young members, prospective members, supporters and third parties Girlguiding’s activities affect. 

We’re committed to resolving all complaints fairly, reasonably and in good time. We welcome all feedback and always respond to issues people raise. 

We encourage you to let us know about your complaint or issue as soon as you can so we can address it quickly. 

Some concerns are best dealt with informally. But if you do want to make a formal complaint, you can find out how in our Complaints procedure. 

We don’t deal with complaints we judge to be 'unreasonable'. We don’t engage in repetitive discussions about closed complaints either. Following the outcome of a complaint you can ask for an appeal using our Appeals and Reviews procedure.  

Who handles complaints at Girlguiding? 

  • Girlguiding HQ – our Complaints team assess any complaints people make to Girlguiding HQ. They also support members to resolve complaints locally in line with our Investigation procedure. The team work alongside commissioners to support and guide volunteers investigating a formal complaint. Our Human Resources team handle any complaints about Girlguiding UK staff. Our Volunteer Support team work with our Complaints team to pass on any feedback we get to members.  
  • Local guiding, including commissioners a local volunteer, usually a commissioner not involved in the complaint, will deal with complaints about local guiding. This includes complaints about staff employed by other levels of Girlguiding, like counties, countries and regions. They’ll manage the complaint using Girlguiding’s Investigation procedure. Commissioners are on hand to support volunteers in their area who are handling informal complaints.  
  • Relevant Girlguiding staff members or volunteers all staff and volunteers may at some point be involved in handling complaints. 


We expect anyone making a complaint to: 

  • follow our Complaints procedure 
  • do so in good faith. Girlguiding will refuse a complaint which is ‘unreasonable’, in that it is abuse, frivolous, or malicious 
  • do so within a reasonable time frame. Making a complaint when significant time has passed since the incident means we’re less able to address your complaint. 

We won’t deal with any complaints that don’t meet these criteria. 

We expect that anyone handling a complaint will: 

  • manage the complaint promptly, as described in our Investigation procedure 
  • treat it seriously and learn from it 
  • handle all information sensitively, as set out in our Managing Information policy 
  • respect the anonymity of the person making the complaint, if they’ve asked to stay anonymous 
  • make a report to our Complaints team where there’s evidence to suggest a volunteer has breached a Girlguiding policy or our code of conduct 
  • let our HQ Complaints team immediately know about any significant incidents reported to country or region offices. 

When shouldn’t I use the Complaints policy and procedure? 

For safeguarding concerns – you must instead follow our Safeguarding policy and procedure to report any safeguarding concerns. 

For matters already investigated through our Complaints procedure – including matters HQ or local guiding have handled. We won’t investigate the same complaint twice. But if someone else raises the same complaint, we’ll respond. If there’s new evidence or information to consider, you can make an appeal using our Appeals and Reviews procedure. 

For complaints about people or third parties outside of Girlguiding – this is outside our remit. 

For complaints on behalf of another adult – unless you have written consent from the person complaining. If you’re concerned about the capacity of an adult at risk to make a complaint, contact our HQ Safeguarding team.  

For concerns best addressed through other policies and procedures we’ll deal with some complaints through our other policies and procedures. We'll let the person who complained know how we’re addressing their complaint.  

For grievances (members of staff only) staff should follow our Grievance procedure if they’re unhappy about any treatment they’ve received, or any aspect of their work. This is on the Girlguiding intranet. 

For complaints about parents or carers – we take care of our volunteers. If any volunteer experiences inappropriate behaviour from the parent or carer of a young member, this could lead to them having their membership withdrawn. This is explained in our Young members policy.  


We treat information we receive as part of complaints sensitively, using our Managing Information policy and our privacy notice. We only share information about a complaint with people who need to know. 

You can make a complaint anonymously, though it might make it harder for us to investigate. We’ll always ask your permission before we pass details of a complaint from Girlguiding HQ to your local Girlguiding team.  

Read our Complaints procedure to find out more about making an anonymous complaint. 

Monitoring and learning 

We’re committed to learning from any complaints and feedback where we can. Girlguiding HQ, countries and regions and commissioners all share the lessons we’ve learned so we can make Girlguiding the best it can be for our young members. 

We regularly report all complaints that lead to formal investigation under our Complaints procedure at local guiding level to the local county commissioner and the country/region office.  

Related documents and information

Related procedures and guidance

Related policies