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Complaining about an advice agency

This page has information about what you can do if you need to complain about an advice agency.

What can I complain about?

If you visit an advice agency such as a housing aid centre, welfare advice centre, money advice centre or Citizens Advice Bureau and you aren't happy with the service you receive, you may wish to make a complaint. You can complain about:

  • poor service (for example, if you telephone the agency and your calls are never returned)
  • rude members of staff at the agency
  • unfair treatment
  • incorrect advice.

Should I complain?

If you're thinking about complaining about an agency, it's a good idea to bear in mind the following things:

How is the agency run and funded?

Many agencies are run by charities and may not have the resources or staff to provide comprehensive or round the clock service. Some agencies are staffed by volunteers, who aren't being paid for their work, and who may have other jobs as well. As a result, the agency may only be open for a few hours a week, and you may need to leave a message on an answerphone out of hours.

If it takes a while to get an appointment or an adviser takes a long time dealing with your case, this doesn't necessarily mean they don't take you and your case seriously, it may just mean they are very busy and have lots of cases to deal with.

What does the agency say it can do?

Before you make a complaint, you should also think about what kind of service the agency is providing and what they have promised you. For example:

  • an adviser at a housing aid centre can help you challenge the council if you've had a homeless application turned down, but they can't promise that you'll be offered a permanent home
  • a debt adviser can help you work out a budgeting plan and negotiate with your creditors, but they can't promise to get you out of debt
  • a relationship counsellor can help you talk through your problems, but they can't promise that you and your partner won't split up in the future.

How do I complain?

Most agencies should have a formal complaints procedure you can go through. You should contact them to find out:

  • if they have a complaints procedure
  • if they do, what it is and how you can get a copy of it
  • what you should do next.

If there isn't a formal complaints procedure, you can write to the agency's manager to complain. In your letter, you'll need to include:

  • your name and contact details
  • what you're complaining about (make sure you stick to the facts and include times and dates of things that have happened)
  • the names and job titles of anyone in the agency that you're complaining about
  • what you'd like to be done about it (for example, an apology).

Ask the agency to send you a response in writing within a certain time period (for example, two weeks) and make sure you keep copies of any letters you send to or receive from the agency.

What if an agency is discriminating against me or harassing me?

If you feel that an agency has discriminated against you because of your gender, race, sexual orientation or gender identity, or because you're disabled, for example, by treating you badly or less favourably than other customers, or if staff at the agency have been harassing you in any way, you may be able to take action against them. The section on discrimination and harassment explains this in more detail.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
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