Complaints procedure

How your complaint will be dealt with by Girlguiding

Statement of purpose

This procedure explains how the complaints policy is applied when receiving or making a complaint.

How do I raise a complaint or feedback?

As a volunteer, member, parent, third party or member of staff, if you have a complaint or feedback you may find that we can resolve it informally. It’s often the first way to address why someone is unhappy, and the quickest and most efficient route to resolving a complaint. Most Girlguiding complaints can be resolved this way.

If your complaint is about a volunteer, we encourage you to try to resolve it informally with local guiding before you escalate it through the complaints policy.

You can do this by raising it directly with the unit leader or local commissioner. If it can’t be resolved informally, you should raise it with Girlguiding HQ. You can find how to do this below.

If you’re raising feedback about HQ activity it will not be investigated under this procedure, but we will acknowledge and respond to you in a timely manner. We welcome all feedback raised with us and evaluate it regularly to identify improvements.

If your complaint is about an employee, we encourage you to contact their line manager first to see if the complaint can be resolved informally.

The exception to this is a safeguarding concern.

As a complainant you must read what kind of complaints the policy covers before contacting the HQ Complaints team. We will aim to respond to you in a timely manner, but as complaints about local guiding are investigated by volunteers the timescales can vary.

You can find information about complaint investigation timeframes in Appendix A.

How do I make a formal complaint?

If you can’t resolve a complaint informally, you can make a formal complaint to Girlguiding HQ.

You can make a complaint by emailing [email protected], by completing our online form, by telephone or in person.

If you make your complaint verbally, we may ask you to put it in writing. If you don’t want to write this yourself, you should ask someone to do this on your behalf and show you a copy for your approval and for you to sign, before sending it to the HQ Complaints team.

If you cannot contact us in writing as above, and want reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010, you can contact us as follows:

Telephone: 020 7834 6242

Complaints to your local guiding or C/R office: For these you should follow the same procedure.

Data protection complaints: You can make a data protection complaint to the HQ Complaints team or directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Fundraising complaints: You can make a fundraising complaint to the HQ Complaints team or directly to the Fundraising Regulator, which is the independent regulator of charitable fundraising. You need to do this within three months of the original incident taking place. You can find more information on the Fundraising Regulator website.

Gambling complaints: You can make a complaint about PPL’s (People’s Postcode Lottery) lottery run on behalf of Girlguiding to the HQ Complaints team as set out in our complaints policy: gambling. All complaints relating to Gambling Commission-governed activity need to be resolved within eight weeks otherwise we will need to refer it to our alternative dispute resolution provider, IBAS.

Safeguarding concerns: If there are elements of a safeguarding concern in the complaint, we will refer to the Safeguarding team. They will decide which procedure should apply.

What do I include in my complaint?

When making a complaint or raising a comment, you need to include the following information - this will help us resolve it as quickly as possible:

  • Your contact details.
  • State that you would like to make a complaint.
  • Who or what you are making a complaint about, including names if known.
  • Where and when the events of the complaint happened.
  • The outcome you are seeking by raising your complaint.

It would also be helpful if you include the following:

  • A clear and concise summary. Give as many details as you can at each stage of the process. As long as they follow a logical order, bullet points and notes are fine.
  • If you are complaining about your daughter’s unit, please provide your daughter’s full name and date of birth in your complaint so that she can be identified on our membership system.
  • Any supporting documents and correspondence.

If you have evidence to submit you must send this to the appointed Investigator within ten working days (two weeks) of the first contact being established. You may ask for the deadline to be extended and that will be at Girlguiding’s discretion to make a decision. If we don’t receive the evidence within this timeframe, we may decide to discontinue the investigation.

Although you are not expected to prove the truth of what you are saying, you will need to provide us with enough information to understand what your complaint is and that it is something we can investigate.

On rare occasions it might be necessary to raise a complaint anonymously. We encourage you to disclose your identity, as finding a solution will often rely on open conversations.

However, we will respect your wish if you feel the complaint must be anonymous. As an anonymous complainant, the following options are available to you:

Option 1: We pass your contact details on, but the Girlguiding officer or volunteer is asked to contact you first, before making any other enquiries or disclosing the complaint to anyone else. This first discussion will make sure that you are happy with the Investigator’s proposed way forward and how the investigator will keep in touch with you.

Option 2: We pass your complaint on, but not your name or contact details. The Girlguiding officer or volunteer won’t be able to contact you at all or tell you the outcome. If you raise an anonymous complaint through this option you will have to give us enough information to identify a specific unit, team or staff member within Girlguiding. If you choose option 2 we have a duty of care to inform the relevant Girlguiding officer or volunteer that a matter has been brought to our attention.

Girlguiding will approach complaints differently depending on their nature and severity. You can find our procedure below:

Initial assessment

If a complaint can be resolved informally, this is the preferred course of action. If you make a complaint to the HQ complaints team, a Girlguiding officer or volunteer will make an initial assessment and decide on the best way forward. If an informal resolution is not appropriate and more formal investigation is necessary, we will progress the complaint to Stage 1: complaint investigation.

Informal resolution

Some complaints may be resolved informally, and we will refer it to the relevant team or local guiding for resolution, support and learning. We will refer it on for formal investigation if it can’t be resolved in this way.

Stage 1: Formal complaint investigation

We will pass the complaint to the most appropriate person for investigation, as set out in the complaints policy under, ‘Who will handle my complaint?’.

A Girlguiding officer, volunteer or the investigator will then contact you as soon as possible to:

  • Let you know they’ve received the complaint.
  • Tell you how they propose to deal with the matter.
  • Estimate how long it will take to give you a final response.

They will give you a written confirmation of the outcome at the end of the investigation.

You can find out more information on how we carry out an investigation in our Investigation procedure.

Stage 2: Appeal

If you’re not satisfied with the proposed resolution you can contact the HQ Complaints team to request an appeal. You must submit your request in writing within 28 days of the investigation outcome letter.

You can find more information about the appeals process in our Appeal and review procedure.

We respond to appeal requests within 14 calendar days of receiving them. In complex situations we may extend this timescale – but we will let you know if this is the case.

Fundraising complaints: If Girlguiding can’t resolve a fundraising complaint you can ask the Fundraising Regulator to consider it. Please note that the Fundraising Regulator can only consider appeals made within two months of Girlguiding’s final response to a complainant.

Stage 3: Final review

If you’re not happy with how a complaint was investigated, you can request a final review. You can find more information about the final review in our Appeals and review procedure.

The decision of the final review is absolute and cannot be appealed. It marks the end of a complaint and it cannot be processed any further - after the final review we will not engage with the original complaint any further.

If you’re involved in an investigation - as a complainant, witness or accused party - you can find it stressful. We understand this and whatever your role in the investigation we recommend that you seek support if you need it.  

You can also contact the HQ Complaints team if you need support or adjustments made to be able to take part.

You may bring along a person for support at an interview or meeting and you can check the role your supporter must take in our Investigation process.

If you are an adult volunteer who is accused of a breach, you can find information on what support is available to you in the managing concerns about adult behaviour procedure.

What are the complaint investigation timeframes?

HQ aims to respond to all emails within five working days. If this changes – we will let you know in our email automated response message. Once we’ve identified your complaint (as per the complaints policy), we will pass it on locally for investigation.

This normally happens within five working days of your (the complainant’s) last contact with HQ Complaints team/country/region office. Local guiding will acknowledge receipt within five working days. 

We will tell you how long we estimate the final response to take as soon as we can - the Investigator, Appeal Investigator or Final Reviewer will do this. Each complaint is considered on a case-by-case basis.

If the complaint process is taking longer than anticipated to resolve, we will let you know. The investigator/reviewer and the relevant parties will be in touch at least once every 14 days until the complaint is closed, unless otherwise discussed.

All complaints relating to Gambling Commission-governed activity, such as the PPL lottery run on behalf of Girlguiding, need to be resolved within eight weeks, or it will be referred to an alternative dispute resolution provider.

Published: August 2019

Girlguiding policies and procedures are reviewed and updated from time to time as part of a review cycle.