The guiding principles underlying the COMPASS Complaints Procedure are respect and parity for all concerned and ensuring standards of service. There should be clarity in informing, transparency in record-keeping and justice in decision-making. The Chief Executive acts on behalf of COMPASS and not in the interests of any individual person. Complaints will be dealt with in a confidential manner and details will not be disclosed, except to the parties concerned.


In the event of a complaint being made about a counsellor’s, trainer’s or staff member’s competence or ethical stance during counselling, training, client assessment or any administrative process, the Chief Executive will undertake the following procedure, provided that the complaint is received within 3 years of the incident/s in question. Should the complaint be made about the Chief Executive, the Chair of COMPASS will implement the procedure.


When a complaint is made in person or by telephone, the complainant should be invited to submit it in writing.

The Chief Executive (or Chair) will notify the counsellor/trainer/member of staff immediately, either by telephone or letter, whichever seems most appropriate. The person will be encouraged to seek professional support, particularly through supervision.

If considered appropriate, the Chief Executive (or Chair) will suggest to the complainant that the complaint be raised directly with the person involved at their next counselling session or at a specially arranged meeting with a staff member, in an attempt to resolve the matter directly.

It is the complainant’s responsibility to inform the Chief Executive (or Chair) as to whether or not this has been successful.

Once a letter of complaint has been received, the Chief Executive (or Chair) should invite the complainant to a meeting within 10 working days, with a view to clarifying the issue raised and establishing the grounds for a complaint. Consideration could be given as to whether one of the Counselling Service Managers be present at this meeting.

The person about whom the complaint is made is invited to make a written response concerning the complaint.

If the complaint cannot be resolved by these means, it will then be taken to a Complaints Panel within 30 working days.


Each party must be informed that the complaint is being taken to a Complaints Panel. They must be treated equally in being consulted about details of date and time, and appropriate objections about boundary issues must be considered when appointing the Panel.

The Panel will consist of 3 members and a minute-taker. One member should be a senior person, maybe the Chair of the relevant committee, and one may have particular knowledge of the area of the complaint. The Chair should be a person who is external to COMPASS. The person taking the minutes should have some knowledge of the issues involved, in order to be able to write an accurate record of the Panel’s proceedings. There should also be an electronic recording made of the meeting of the Panel. The Complaints Panel acts with the authority of the Council of Management in making any decisions concerning the complaint.

The date set for the Panel to meet should give enough time for proper arrangements to be made and responses to be received. Each party should be invited to be accompanied by a “friend” who may speak on their behalf.

The Panel should receive copies of the letter of complaint and any response to it prior to the meeting. Any written or verbal submissions must be on issues of substance which can be supported with evidence from witnesses and documents.

At the time of the meeting, separate rooms will be set aside for each party and their accompanying friends. The Panel will first read the letter of complaint and any response to it, and then interview the complainant and “friend”, followed by the person against whom the complaint has been made and “friend”. At no time will the two parties meet together with the Panel, but each may be called back for further questioning.

After the hearing the Panel will deliberate and come to a decision which will be recorded and made known to the Chief Executive (or Chair) who will send it to each party and the Council of Management within 5 working days. The letter will also contain information regarding an appeal against the decision.

In the event of the complainant being dissatisfied with the outcome and wishing to appeal against the Panel’s decision, a letter of appeal must be received by the Chief  Executive (or Chair) within 10 working days of the date on which the letter stating the Panel’s decision was sent.


The Panel will consist of 3 members, who were not on the Complaints Panel, and a minute-taker. Two members, including the Chair, must be external to COMPASS.

The procedure before, during and after the meeting of the Appeals Panel will be the same as it was for the Complaints Panel. The Panel’s decision is final. If the complainant is still not satisfied and wishes to take the complaint further, it may be referred to the Professional Conduct Panel of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Details of the formal complaint, the formal response, the decision of the Complaints Panel and that of the Appeals Panel will be kept for 5 years. Any other records will be kept for 2 years. Both parties and all the Panel members will be informed of this.

Reviewed: April 2016

Next review: Under review