Complaints policy

If you're unhappy with any aspect of Girlguiding, we want to help put this right

Approved: 20 May 2020
Version: 2.1
Content owner: Safe Practice

As Girlguiding members, volunteers, staff, parents or third parties, if you have a complaint you are supported by our complaints policy and procedure.

Under this, we aim to make sure we take all complaints seriously and that we learn from them where we can to make guiding even more enjoyable and accessible to everyone.

We will make sure our process is as clear and supportive as possible for everyone, whether members, volunteers, parents, staff or third parties, and we are committed to resolving all complaints fairly, speedily and in a way which seeks a reasonable resolution.

We encourage you to raise your complaint or issue as soon as you can so that we can begin to address it in good time.

This policy is for:

  • All staff, volunteers, adult members and young members
  • Parents and carers of young members
  • Prospective members and enquirers
  • Supporters
  • Third parties who are affected by Girlguiding activities. For example, the owner of a venue.
  • General public

We handle all complaints in line with this policy and its related procedures.

  • Complaint - concerns brought to us that relate to a specific situation, event, volunteer or staff member. These have the scope to be investigated by local guiding or through the HR grievance policy in order for resolutions to be met and for learning to take place. This category does not include any concerns raised about Girlguiding as a whole or the service we provide.
  • Commissioner – means a volunteer manager at country, region, county, division or district level.
  • C/R office – means the country or regional office in a local region of Girlguiding.
  • Fair and impartial – means just and unbiased, for instance someone who does not have a close relationship with individuals involved in the complaint.
  • Feedback – comments made about Girlguiding and can be positive, negative, neutral or mixed. They do not relate to a specific scenario or volunteer so cannot be investigated locally. They include service complaints that are handled by teams at HQ.
  • Girlguiding - means the Guide Association (registered charity no. 306016) and all local units, countries, regions, counties, divisions and districts.
  • High-risk complaint – means any complaint that may have a reputational risk or is a potential breach of our policies or legislation.
  • HQ - means the headquarters of Girlguiding.
  • Local guiding – means the local unit, district, division, county and the country and region.
  • Relevant Girlguiding officer or volunteer - means a member of staff of Girlguiding or a volunteer.
  • Staff – means anyone employed by Girlguiding, either at HQ or by a C/R or county office.
  • Third party – means someone affected by Girlguiding activities, for example a partner organisation or the owner of a venue being used or the general public.

When does this policy apply?

It applies to all complaints received at any level of Girlguiding.

Our policy covers complaints about:

  • The standard of experience you may have received from Girlguiding.
  • The behaviour of anyone who may have played a part in delivering that service.
  • Girlguiding policy, communication and resources, or decisions related to these.

Our complaints policy does not cover the following:

  • Matters that have already been investigated through the complaints procedure, including those handled by HQ or local guiding.
  • Any concern that falls into the remit of  our safeguarding, managing concerns about adult volunteers or whistleblowing policies.
  • Disputes between third parties that are outside of our remit.
  • A complaint made on behalf of another adult, unless written consent is provided by that person.
  • Disputes between staff or in relation to employment.
  • Concerns about an investigation that should be raised under our appeals or review procedure.

We welcome all feedback and always respond to issues raised with the Complaints team.

Some concerns are best dealt with informally and will not always require a formal response under this policy. See how to raise a complaint or give feedback in our complaints procedure.

What are our standards for handling complaints?

When a complaint is made, Girlguiding will:

  • Deal with all complaints fairly, constructively and consistently.
  • Effectively address complaints to support volunteers to deliver great guiding.
  • Listen to complaints and feedback, treat them seriously and learn from them.
  • Share information between local guiding and HQ, making sure each complaint is effectively handled and data is collated at HQ as appropriate.
  • Follow the policy and procedure for every complaint, wherever it comes from.
  • If a complaint needs investigation, doing it in line with our investigation procedure.
  • Handle all information sensitively and in accordance with data protection legislation.
  • Respect your wishes to remain anonymous.

What complaints will not be considered?

Girlguiding will refuse a complaint which is 'unreasonable' – in that it is abusive, frivolous, vexatious or malicious or where significant time has passed since the incident happened, in the reasonable opinion of a senior Girlguiding member of staff like the director of membership services. We do not engage in repetitive discussions about closed complaints.

What is our complaints structure?

  • HQ complaints team - Our complaints team is here to help members, volunteers, staff or third parties with everything related to complaints.
  • Country and region office – Girlguiding is broken down into ten countries and regions, each with its own office supporting guiding in their area. Each country/region office is required to report quarterly on regional complaint data to the HQ complaints team.
  • Commissioners – Commissioners give support and guidance to volunteers in their area who are dealing with a complaint. Commissioners report quarterly on local complaint data to their country/region office, and alert high risk complaints to the HQ complaints team.
  • Local guiding - Each country and region is divided into smaller areas, to support our volunteers, make communication easier and meet the needs of guiding locally. All complaints in an area are led by the local commissioner.
  • Relevant Girlguiding officer or volunteer – All staff and volunteers will at some point deal with situations that could lead to complaints.

Who will handle my complaint?

Complaints about local guiding

Local guiding, supported by the county/regional office and Girlguiding Headquarters appoint an investigator. This will be the most appropriate person locally - normally a commissioner who is not involved in your complaint. This commissioner will then handle the complaint investigation herself or appoint a fair and impartial person to do so on her behalf. Another senior volunteer or consultant may carry out the investigation if it's a complex case.

Feedback about Girlguiding

All feedback about Girlguiding activities will be handled by the relevant team at HQ.

Complaints about volunteers outside of our local structures, such as trainers or lead volunteers

We will appoint a volunteer manager or staff member through the relevant structure to carry out the investigation.

Complaints about a staff member employed by Girlguiding UK

Our HR department will find the most appropriate manager at HQ to investigate, which will be done in line with the Girlguiding disciplinary procedure.

Complaints about a staff member not employed by Girlguiding UK

Complaints about regional or county staff will be referred to the relevant office for resolution.

Complaints about fundraising

The HQ complaints team will handle complaints about fundraising activity delivered by the Girlguiding UK team.

When can I expect a response?

Girlguiding Headquarters aims to acknowledge your complaint or comments within five working days. You can find more information in the timeframes sections of the complaints procedure.


By submitting a complaint you are agreeing to us using your personal information related to your complaint for the purposes of investigation.

We treat information relating to investigations under this policy in line with our managing information policy.

A person has the right to be told the nature of the evidence upon which a complaint has been made about them. This does not mean that the full original complaint or any witness statement will be shared, but we will provide a fair summary. We make every effort to make sure someone's identity is not revealed without their consent, but it may be that the nature of the allegations or evidence will show their source.

If you want to know more about how and why we process your personal data, please refer to our privacy notice.

Monitoring and learning

We're committed to take learning from any complaints and feedback where appropriate. Girlguiding Headquarters, countries and regions and commissioners are responsible for this, and for sharing and putting into place that learning. This includes recording all complaints and feedback, their outcomes and identifying emerging issues and trends.

We report all complaints that lead to formal investigation under the complaints procedure at local guiding level to the local county commissioner and the country/region office on a quarterly basis. The country/region office will report their local complaint data to HQ on a quarterly basis, to help Girlguiding identify and address emerging issues. Any high-risk complaints must be reported to the HQ complaints team immediately.

Volunteers and Girlguiding UK staff must understand and follow all policies and procedures that apply to them.