NCS | Concerns and Complaints about an Organisational Member

The Society’s policy on raising a complaint against a registered Organisational Member

The Society’s policy in raising a complaint against an Organisational Member is that you should first raise your complaint with the Organisational member directly rather than with the Society. The Organisational member 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 the Organisational member, including any appeals process, before contacting the Society. If you fail to do so, you will be referred back to the Organisational member to complete their process.

The Society is unable to advise or get involved in complaints until these steps have been completed.

The Organisational member 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 the Organisational member is not following their process or is not responding to your complaint, the Society will send the Organisational member a Process Notification. This notification will inform the Organisational member 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 Organisational members actions are “substantive.” For example, a delay in replying to your complaint would not be seen as a substantive issue, but if the Organisational member is 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 the Organisational member’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 and so forth.

What we do

We would expect to receive all documentation related to how you had followed the Organisational member’s complaints process, and the outcome of that process. We would then appoint a Case Officer for your case. They will write the Organisational member 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 the Organisational member, 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 the Organisational member has fallen short in safely and ethically offering the service they pertain to offer.

The Society may respond with the following:

Condition: That they make a substantial change to bring their service in line with ethical working within a certain timeframe. If this condition is not met, their ‘Organisational member’ recognition may be suspended.

Action Point: They will be required to make a relevant change to their service offering by the time they renew their Organisational membership with the Society

Learning Point: They will be asked to consider making a minor change, for example, by clarifying something in their advertising, service provision details etc…

Suspending or Removing Society membership

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

1. The Organisational member blatantly refuses to follow any complaints procedures or fail to adhere to the Society Terms and Conditions/ Code of Ethical working

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

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

4. There is evidence of substantive and major breaches in terms of ethical working. There is a high threshold for this – for example, criminal activity.

Appeals

There is no right of appeal to Society decisions with regards to complaints about Organisational members. All decisions are subject to annual review by the Professional Standards Committee and by an Independent Assessor.

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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