Complaints Policy

Guiding Principle

“SIS will aim to develop an organisational culture in which complaints are encouraged and welcomed.”


This policy sets out the principles and procedures to be followed on receipt of a complaint (verbal or written) from service providers or service users of SIS services. It does not address complaints made by employed SIS staff and contracted linguists (which are dealt with through the relevant SIS Grievance and disciplinary procedures), nor to complaints by job applicants (which are dealt with through the EOP recruitment procedures).

1. Why have a complaints procedure?

An effective complaints procedure ensures that SIS has an opportunity to put things right for an individual who has received a poor service, and so that SIS can learn from its mistakes and improve the accessibility, delivery and the quality of services provided.

2. What is a Complaint?

A complaint is defined by SIS as “an expression of dissatisfaction made either verbally or in writing, whether justified or not, about the services that SIS provides”.  A simple enquiry or request for action is not treated as a complaint.

The SIS Complaints Policy will cover complaints about:

  • Accessibility of services provided.
  • The standard and quality of services provided.
  • The attitude, behaviour or conduct of staff employed by SIS.
  • The attitude, behaviour or conduct of linguists contracted by SIS.
  • Any form of discrimination.

The SIS Complaints Policy does not cover:

  • Anonymous complaints.
  • Dissatisfaction with SIS policies or decisions.
  • Matters that have already been fully investigated through the complaints procedure.
  • Complaints against the SP for whom the interpreting session was provided (for service users only)


3. Who may complain?

The Complaints Policy shall apply to anyone who has received or has asked for any of our services.

4. Data Protection Act (1998)

SIS as a data controller has to comply with this Act. This means that when a person is making a complaint, the member of staff dealing with the complaint must tell them that under the Data Protection Act their name and address is being taken in order to progress the complaint and that the information will not be used for any other purposes.

Functions of the Complaints Procedure

The primary function of the SIS Complaints Policy will be to address the concerns of the complainant.  This may result in SIS:

  • Giving an explanation
  • Giving an apology
  • Giving assurance that the matter has been investigated and action has been taken to prevent recurrence.

The secondary function will be:

  • To act as feedback to SIS to help improve the accessibility, quality and standard of services provided.


Time limits for Complaints

Normally a complaint should be made within six months of the incident that caused the problem.

SIS has discretion to extend these time limits where it would have been unreasonable for the complaint to have been made earlier and where it is still possible to investigate the facts.


In order that a member of staff or linguists may be thanked and good practice shared with other colleagues, it is equally important for SIS to receive feedback when employed SIS staff or contracted linguists have delivered a high standard of service.    If service providers and service users wish to commend and/or compliment an individual they can do so by writing directly to SIS offices.


Objectives and Principles of the Complaints Policy

  • SIS recognises that given the nature of the services provided and possible communications constraints it is inevitable that SIS will receive complaints.
  • All core staff, contracted linguists and trustees shall be committed to the SIS Complaints Policy and accompanying procedures.
  • The SIS Complaints Policy will be directed towards improving services and developing staff, rather than attributing blame.
  • SIS recognises that many of our service users may have difficulty in expressing their concerns.  All employed SIS staff and contracted linguists will encourage such people to voice their opinions, without fear of prejudice or recrimination.
  • SIS recognises that suggestions, constructive criticism and complaints can be valuable aids in the management of developing and maintaining standards of service delivery.
  • It is important that no one should be inhibited when making complaints and that there is confidence that concerns will be given proper consideration and treated with sensitivity and confidentiality.
  • Wherever reasonable the management of complaints will be directed towards satisfying the complainant’s objective.
  • In order to prevent further dissatisfaction about delays, SIS will ensure that complainants receive as fast a response as possible without jeopardising other principles. In any event the timescales for managing complaints as set out in the SIS complaints procedure will be followed.
  • Comments and complaints will be treated in the strictest confidence and specific permission sought to share details.
  • SIS will aim regularly to review and amend the Complaints Policy as necessary in light of lessons learnt from complaints received, changes in legislation and in accepted best practice.
  • SIS will accept the involvement of an advocate of the service user’s choice whenever this is their wish. (this shall not be a Bilingual Community Advocate or other linguists who is working for SIS).


Ensuring the Effectiveness of the Procedure

  • All SIS Management Committee members, core staff and contracted linguists will receive a copy of the SIS Complaints Policy.
  • All existing and new workers shall be introduced to the SIS Complaints Policy through induction.
  • The Complaints Policy will be reviewed regularly and amendments should be proposed to and agreed by the SIS Management Committee.
  • SIS will promote the visibility and accessibility of the SIS Complaints Procedure to service users and service providers through the SIS website, direct promotion and through information provided by linguists.
  • SIS will provide translated copies of the SIS Service User Complaints Policy and Procedure in all core languages.
  • The SIS Complaints Policy should ensure ease of access for service users to communicate dissatisfaction with the service by telephone, in writing, by e-mail or by visiting in person.
  • SIS will ensure that all complaints, no matter how they are received, or from whom, are treated with equal priority.
  • SIS will ensure complaints are dealt with in a way that is fair both to the complainant and, if applicable, the staff or contracted worker involved.
  • SIS will show genuine regret that someone has felt it necessary to complain, and be courteous, honest, helpful and open in dealing with the complaint.
  • SIS will monitor complaints and learn from things that have gone wrong.



All core staff, management committee members and contracted linguists should be made aware of the Complaints Procedure during their induction with SIS.

The Learning & Development Officer will ensure that any core staff, management committee members and contracted linguists involved in processing of complaints are supported and feel confident to undertake the work.

The complaints procedure must remain separate from any disciplinary action. Where disciplinary action is indicated, the necessary action and investigation will be undertaken separately by following SIS’s relevant Disciplinary procedures. The complaints procedure for the matter in question may need to be suspended until disciplinary action has been taken.

Vexatious Complaints

A complaint can be regarded as vexatious when the subject has been considered and found to be unjustified, but when the person making the complaint is:

  • Not prepared to accept that conclusion and
  • Persists in making the same or a substantially similar complaint.

Continuing to respond to such complaints can take up a significant amount of SIS’s resources in time and money and can thereby detract from the services that can be provided for others.

If the Learning & Development Manager considers that a complaint has become vexatious, they can ask the Chair of the SIS management committee or another trustee for support in dealing with the complaint.   A Director, in consultation with the Chair, may decide not to pursue the complaint any further.  The person making the complaint will be informed of this decision.



SIS works hard to provide the best possible services but things can sometimes go wrong.  The following document explains how you can make a complaint if you are dissatisfied with the service we have provided.

If you have a comment or complaint we want to make it as easy as possible for you to tell us about it, this is why we have a Complaints Procedure. SIS values the views of our customers.  Your views give us valuable information about our services and the way that they are delivered.

Any information you give us will be treated in the strictest confidence and in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.  Any information relating to a third party will also be treated in confidence and in accordance with the Act.  The information provided will only be used for the purposes of dealing with complaints and for monitoring.

We will attempt to deal with all complaints informally in the first instance, seeking a quick and satisfactory resolution.

Complainants have the right to independent support, from a person or organisation of their choosing, during any stage of the complaint process.  SIS can signpost complainants to independent advocacy organisations who could help.

How to make a Complaint

STAGE 1 –  Problem Solving

If you are dissatisfied with the level of service or the conduct of any individual working for SIS, you should, in the first instance, report this to SIS as soon as possible..  It is often possible for SIS to put things right quickly at this stage without the need for you to resort to a formal complaint.

You can report your dis-satisfaction in writing, by e mail, by phone or in person.  Please do not raise your dissatisfaction with a Community Interpreter working for SIS.

In writing

You can send us a letter in your first language.

Send or bring it to the SIS Offices in an envelope addressed:

Learning & Development Officer
Sussex Interpreting Services
Community Base
113 Queens Road

Please mark the envelope “Private and Confidential COMPLAINT” (in English) so any necessary translation is done by an independent translator from outside the area.

Please ensure you include your own contact details in the letter.

SIS will acknowledge your complaint as soon as a translation has been received (we aim for 5 working days).

By e mail

Please fill in our online Complaints form.

SIS will acknowledge your complaint as soon as a translation has been received (we aim for 5 working days).

By phone

You can report your complaint by telephoning our service co-ordination number 01273 702005.  This number is staffed by English speakers but has a 24 hour answerphone to leave messages in your first language.  Please state clearly

  • Your name
  • Your telephone number
  • That you wish to complain
  • A time (within office hours) for SIS to call you with a Community Interpreter

The Community Interpreter used to call you will be independent and from outside the area.

In person

Please ask for SIS at the Community Base reception and a member of the team will come to talk to you.

During this informal stage your complaint will usually be dealt with by the Learning & Development Officer or delegated to a member of the SIS staff who has the best understanding of the issues involved.

The member of staff will fully investigate the complaint, speaking to the different parties involved then report in writing directly to the person who has made the complaint.

If you think that the process is taking too long or you are unhappy with the outcome of the informal process in Stage 1 you may wish to formalise your complaint by moving to Stage 2.

STAGE 2 – Formal Complaint

At this Stage you will be offered a meeting with the Quality Assurance Manager to discuss your concerns.

We aim to offer a meeting date within 7 working days of receiving notification (in writing, by e mail, by phone or in person) that you wish to formalise the complaint and to proceed to Stage 2.   SIS will arrange for an independent Community Interpreter from outside the area to be present at this meeting if required.

The Quality Assurance Manager will investigate the complaint and the response made during the informal stage and attempt to resolve the issues.

The Quality Assurance Manager may delegate any aspect of the investigation to a nominee.  If the complaint involves a member(s) of staff the Quality Assurance Manager will also offer the opportunity to the individual staff member to put forward their account in the form of a written statement.

You will then receive a written reply to your complaint (we aim to respond within 10 working days of the meeting).  The written reply will tell you:

  • whether we uphold your complaint
  • what we plan to do about the issues raised in your complaint
  • if we do not agree with your complaint, why not
  • how you can appeal if you are unhappy with our decision

If your complaint is particularly complex the timescales may be longer. We will keep you informed of the reason for any delay and when you can expect a full reply.  If the matter is not resolved to your satisfaction during this stage and you remain aggrieved you may ask for your complaint to be referred to Stage 3 of the Complaints Procedure.

This intention should be submitted in writing by completing the “Proceed to Stage 3 Form” –  which will be enclosed with the Quality Assurance Manager’s response letter.

STAGE 3 – Your right to Appeal

You will be sent an acknowledgement by the Chair of the SIS Complaints Panel following your notifying us that you wish to proceed to Stage 3.  We aim to respond within 7 working days.

At this stage your complaint will be looked at by a SIS Complaints Panel (which will consist of 2 members of the SIS Board of Trustees and a SIS Director).  You will have the option to meet with the SIS Complaints Panel if you wish and a meeting date will be offered within 10 working days of our receiving notification that you wish to Proceed to Stage 3.

You will then be sent a letter confirming the decision of the Complaints Panel.  We aim to respond within 7 working days of meeting with the Panel.

STAGE 4 – Referral to SIS funders

If you remain unsatisfied with the decision of the SIS Complaints Panel you will be advised of your right to take the matter to the primary funders of SIS and provided with their relevant contact details.