NCS | Concerns and Complaints about a Training Provider

Introduction

The Society offers various quality assurance schemes for training providers. The primary scheme is called “course accreditation.” This involves a process whereby the Society conducts an assessment of the training provider against our standards of registration. The assessment will involve components such as a full review of course content, policies and procedures pertaining to training and placement work and a site visit to observe teaching, skills work and reviews of student course work. The purpose of course accreditation is to enable students, who qualify from an accredited course, to join the Society’s Accredited Register and be recognised by the Society as safe and competent to practice.

In addition to course accreditation, the Society also offers other forms of training recognition such as “Quality Checked” and “Advanced Specialist”. These forms of training recognition do not lead to registration with the Society but are different ways of recognising training which we have assessed.

Periodically, the Society re-accredits or re-approves training courses by asking for further, up to date information and by checking a selection of materials. This process may also include a further site visit.

All training providers are assessed on a case-by-case basis completely impartially by the Society.

The Society’s policy on raising a complaint

The Society’s policy in raising a complaint against your training provider is that you should first raise your complaint with your provider rather than with the Society. Your provider should have a written complaints procedure and they are obliged to provide you with a copy and follow its steps. This should include an appeals step, preferably to an independent or external appeals process.

Unless your complaint is regarding a significant risk to the public, for example, client abuse, you should therefore follow all steps set out by your training provider, including any appeals process, before contacting the Society. If you fail to do so, you will be referred back to your training provider to complete their process.

The Society is unable to advise or get involved in complaints between students and their providers until these steps have been completed. You will likely have a legally binding training contract which requires both parties to resolve their differences via a complaints process.

My training provider refuses to provide me with a copy of their process, is not following their process, or is unreasonably delaying their response

If you can provide the Society with evidence (in writing) that your training provider is not following their process or is not responding to your complaint, the Society will send your provider a Process Notification. This notification will inform your provider that, unless they can provide evidence (in writing) that they are following their process within 28 days, the Society will hear your complaint. The test the Society will apply before taking this step is whether the training provider’s actions are “substantive.” For example, a delay in replying to your complaint would not be seen as a substantive issue, but your provider stonewalling you and refusing to supply you with a response would be.

Significant Risk to the Public

If you can evidence significant risk to the public, then the Society may intervene before your complaints process is finished, or instead of you following your provider’s process. There is a high threshold for this – for example, evidence of abuse.

Kinds of Complaints we can and cannot hear

We cannot get involved in complaints regarding issues such as value for money, refund requests, ability to find work, wishing to withdraw from a course, placement provision, course recognition and so forth. These are all matters which would be covered by your training provider contract.

We can only hear complaints related to how your training provider may not have met one or more of our training standards. Examples might be that your training provider syllabus is meant to cover certain topics which are not covered; that your tutor has no relevant qualifications or experience to be teaching your course; or that your course materials did not cover a topic correctly.

Essentially, students may be dissatisfied with their course for a number of reasons, but the Society’s role is restricted to benchmarking against our standards.

What we do

We would expect to receive all documentation related to how you had followed your training provider’s complaints process, and the outcome of that process. We would then appoint a Case Officer for your case. They will write to your training provider and ask them to respond with any relevant evidence.

In complex cases a full meeting of the Professional Standards Committee may be called. If any member of the Committee also works with your training provider, then they will be excluded from the proceedings.

Once the Case Officer has all relevant materials, they will make an informed decision as to whether your training provider met our training standards. If they believe that a standard has not been met, they will usually action this in one of the following ways:

Condition: The training provider will be given a condition that they make a substantial change to bring their course in line with our standards within a certain timeframe. If this condition is not met, their training recognition may be suspended.

Action Point: The training provider will be required to make a relevant change to their course by the time of their next re-accreditation or reassessment.

Learning Point: The training provider will be asked to consider making a minor change, for example, by clarifying something in their course materials.

Suspending or Removing Training Recognition

The Society’s Professional Standards Committee will suspend or remove training recognition in cases where:

1. The training provider blatantly refuses to follow any complaints procedures or allow the student to make a complaint, and/or

2. A Condition is not fulfilled by the training provider within the required time frame, and/or

3. An Action Point is not fulfilled by the training provider after a reminder to do so, and/or

4. There is evidence of substantive and major breaches in terms of the training standards. There is a high threshold for this – for example, blatant cheating by the provider, non-provision of service, etc.

Appeals

There is no right of appeal to Society decisions on training provider complaints. All decisions are subject to annual review by the Professional Standards Committee and by an Independent Assessor.

Complaints by Third Parties

If you are not a student then any complaints about a training provider, or a course that is recognised by The Society, you are required to submit, in writing, your concerns including all evidence to support your complaint.

Your concern/complaint, and any evidence, will be submitted to the Training Provider concerned as they have a right of response.

Thereafter, your concern and their response will be reviewed by a Case Officer and/or referred to the Professional Standards Committee.

The decision of the Case Officer or the Professional Standards Committee is final.

Complaints, with all relevant evidence, should be sent to: Conduct@nationalcounsellingsociety.org

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