Publication - Disability Sectoral Plan July 2006 - 12. Complaints & Redress Procedures

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12. Complaints & Redress Procedures


12.1 Introduction

Provision has been made in the Disability Act for the provision of a complaints procedure. Accordingly, the Department is making specific provision for a system of complaint and redress as required under sections 26 and 39 of the Disability Act 2005. The Department will ensure that over and above its existing Social Welfare Appeals and Customer Comments and Complaints systems, an adequate complaints and redress structure for people with disabilities be put in place to deal with issues concerning access for the full complement of services administered by Department and the agencies under its aegis.

12.2 Social Welfare Appeals Process

The services for which the Department is responsible provide essential supports to people, including people with disabilities, who have recourse to them. In this regard, one of the guiding principles identified in the Department's Strategy of Statement is the recognition of the need for fairness and mutual respect through having an independent adjudication system for those who are dissatisfied with a decision made on their entitlements.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office provides that independent system. Any person who is dissatisfied with a decision in their case can appeal to that office where their case will be dealt with by an Appeals Officer. In addition to catering for decisions given on statutory schemes and services for which the Department is responsible, the Social Welfare Appeals Office also includes a right of Appeal in respect of certain decisions made by the Health Services Executive with regard to Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

12.3 Customer Comments and Complaints System

Within the framework of its existing Customer Action Plan (2004/2007) the Department already operates a system of comment and complaints. The primary objective of this system is to maintain a well publicised, accessible, transparent and simple to use process for dealing with comments and complaints about the quality of service provided. Within al Departmental offices the system is publicised and a formal system of reporting and follow up actions have been are established. All comments and complaints received by service users are to be dealt within 15 working days. All comments and complaints generated by the system are monitored on a regular basis.

12.4 Complaint and Redress System

In line with the requirements of the Disability Act 2005 (sections 26 and 39) the Department and agencies under its remit are formalising procedures that will be available to persons who consider that they have been adversely affected by any failure on the part of the Department or its agencies to comply with any aspect of the legislation.

In drawing up procedures in accordance with the legislative provisions the Department and its agencies have taken account of The Ombudsman's Guide to Internal Complaints Systems (

To ensure a degree of consistency across the Department in relation to the complaints procedures, senior officials will in the first instance be authorised in the capacity of Access and Inquiry Officers. Accordingly, any complaint with regard to these provisions should be forwarded to the senior officials responsible for accessibility matters who, in turn, will consider the matters complained of and, if necessary, will bring forward proposals to change the operational procedures to ensure improved access to services. The duly authorised Access and Inquiry Officers will in the exercise of their functions have regard to the following Ombudsman publication (available at The Ombudsman's Guide to the Provision of Redress.

A person dissatisfied with the outcome of a complaint in relation to the accessibility of social welfare services will be entitled to appeal the outcome to the Office of the Ombudsman. Section 40 of the Disability Act 2005 relates to the application of the Ombudsman Act 1980. In this regard, it should be noted that the Ombudsman's role covers complaints about all bodies, organisations and other persons to which the Plan applies.

The Ombudsman has underscored the importance of preventing a breakdown in communications between public bodies and their customers in dealing with complaints before those complaints reach her Office. Many complaints could and should be easily and speedily settled at a very early stage by the Department or agencies themselves.

All such procedures and structures, prepared in accordance with the above, shall be published by the Department or public bodies, and shall include the following:

  • The procedures for the making and investigation of complaints and such other matters relating to complaints as are considered appropriate.
  • The name and contact details for the person(s) within the Department or its agencies, to whom complaints may be addressed. A person, or persons, so nominated shall be referred to as "complaints officers" responsible for the conduct of investigations in accordance with the above-mentioned procedures, and independent in the performance of his or her functions.
  • Publication of the system on the Department's and relevant agencies websites and through other appropriate media.
  • The complaints and redress system details will be made available to relevant disability groups and organisations.
  • Procedures and structures, prepared in accordance with the above, will be required to be finalised not later than September 2006.
  • A person may make a complaint to the Ombudsman in relation to a decision of an access/inquiry officer in relation to these provisions. Procedures prepared in accordance with the above shall make provision for informing all complainants of this right.
  • Officers duly appointed and who carry out a complaints investigation function under this plan will be required to report to annually in relation to complaints concerning alleged non-compliance with the provisions of this plan, and the changes brought forward, or proposed, to ensure improved access to the services covered by this plan.

In conclusion, the Department and its agencies will review this complaint and redress system over the period of this sectoral and in light of experience gained and having regard to the level of and nature of the complaints received. The review will inform whether modification or amendment to the system will necessarily be required.

Last modified:25/09/2008

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