DfC complaints procedure

If you are unhappy with the service you receive from the Department for Communities you have the right to complain.

Complaints policy

The Department for Communities complaints policy is designed to deal with complaints in relation to the functions carried out by the Department and its staff.

At times you may feel that the Department for Communities has made a wrong decision or you may be unhappy about a service you received and you wish to address the issue by way of a formal complaint.

The Department for Communities aims to treat everyone fairly and any complaints will not affect any services provided to them.

The Department will carry out a thorough investigation into all complaints received and will at the very least apologise if a mistake has been made or a service has been provided at a standard below what you would expect. 

Complaints procedure

There are two separate approaches for handling complaints within the Department.

The first approach is for business areas where the complainant is unhappy with a decision or service provided by the Department.  These complaints do not normally involve services which are provided to individual customers. There is a two stage complaints process which is detailed below.

Stage one

If you wish to make a complaint then you should write to the office which has made a non benefit decision or provided a service about which you wish to complain.

Once the complaint is received by the Department it will be passed to the relevant senior manager.  The office will acknowledge the complaint within two working days of receipt and your complaint should be answered within ten working days of receipt.

If there is a legitimate reason that your complaint cannot be answered within ten working days, the relevant senior manager will write to you to outline the reason for the delay and the expected date of reply.

Stage two

If you are not satisfied with the response at Stage One, you should contact the Department again in writing and ask for your complaint to be re-examined. You will need to outline why you are dissatisfied with the initial response. The relevant business area will acknowledge the complaint within two working days of receipt and your complaint will be addressed by the Director responsible for the office which has made the decision or provided the service about which you wish to complain.

The Director will answer your complaint within ten working days of receipt of the complaint, however if for any reason there is a problem with collating the response, the Director will inform you of the reason for a delayed response and will inform you of the expected date of reply.

If you remain unhappy with the responses at Stage One and Stage Two you still have the right to contact the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman to ask that your complaint be investigated.  You may do this in the following ways:

By writing to:
Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman
Progressive House
33 Wellington Place
Belfast
BT1 6HN
Freepost: Freepost NIPSO

or

By telephoning:
Telephone: 028 9023 3821
Textphone: 028 9089 7789
email: nipso@nipso.org.uk
Website: https://nipso.org.uk/

The second approach is for Social Security benefits where the customer is unhappy with the service provided by the Department.  These complaints involve services which are provided to individual customers.  There is a two stage complaints process which is detailed below.

The first thing you should do is contact the office that is dealing with your case and give them the details. They are the best people to deal with your complaint. You will find their address and phone number on any letters they have sent you.

Stage One

If you are not satisfied with their response, you can raise your complaint with the Office Manager responsible. The office dealing with your case will give you their name and address.

The office will acknowledge the complaint within two working days of receipt and your complaint should be answered within ten working days of receipt.

If there is a legitimate reason why your complaint cannot be answered within ten working days, the relevant senior manager will write to you to outline the reason for the delay and the expected date of reply.

Stage Two

If you feel that the Office Manager has not settled your complaint, you can write to the Director. The reply you receive from the Office Manager will tell you who to contact.

You will need to outline why you are dissatisfied with the initial response. The Department will acknowledge the complaint within two working days of receipt and your complaint will be addressed by the Director responsible for the office which has made the decision or provided the service about which you wish to complain.

The Director will answer your complaint within ten working days of receipt of the complaint, however if for any reason there is a problem with collating the response, the Director will inform you of the reason for a delayed response and will inform you of the expected date of reply.

If you have written to the Director and are still not satisfied, and you want an independent person to look into your complaint, you can phone or write to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO) or Independent Case Examiner (ICE).

Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO)

Even though it is not part of our complaints procedure, you can pass your complaint to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman when you have exhausted our internal complaints process. You can contact them in a number of ways -

By writing to:

Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman
Progressive House
33 Wellington Place
Belfast
BT1 6HN
Freepost: Freepost NIPSO

or

By telephoning:
Telephone:
 028 9023 3821
Textphone: 028 9089 7789
email: nipso@nipso.org.uk
Website: https://nipso.org.uk/(external link opens in a new window / tab)

INDEPENDENT CASE EXAMINER (ICE)

The Independent Case Examiner is not part of the Department, and the service is free. For more information about the Independent Case Examiner you can visit their website: www.ind-case-exam.org.uk. You can contact them in a number of ways.

By writing to:
Independent Case Examiner
PO BOX 209
Bootle  L20 7WA

or

By telephoning:
Telephone:
 0800 414 8529
Fax: 028 9023 4912
email: ice@dwp.gsi.gov.uk
Website: www.ind-case-exam.org.uk(external link opens in a new window / tab)

 

Making a complaint

To make a complaint you should contact the office that is dealing with your case.

For those in receipt of Universal Credit you may make a complaint via your journal on the Universal Credit System, by telephone, at your local office or by emailing uc.customerservice@nissa.gsi.gov.uk.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Child Maintenance Service have specific complaints procedures and these should be addressed to these areas using the links to these websites below:

Making a complaint about top management in the department

If you are a member of the public or an external stakeholder and your complaint is about a staff member in top management of the department, there is a different procedure for making a complaint.

Top Management in the NI Civil Service and its agencies means the Head of the Civil Service, Permanent Secretaries and anyone in a Grade 3/Deputy Secretary position (or equivalent level). 

Find out more about how to make a complaint about top management on the Department of Finance website at the link below.

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