(i) The establishment of a Complaints Procedure follows logically on the establishment of an Accreditation Scheme. The purpose of such a procedure is to provide a means of processing any complaint about an infringement of the Code of Ethics and Practice of the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy on the part of an Accredited Member or Pre-Accredited Member working towards Accreditation of the IACP.
(ii) It is the guiding principle of this Complaints Procedure that, where possible or appropriate, an amicable solution will be sought.
(i) The Complaints Committee shall consist of
(ii) Appointments will normally be made in January, and each member of the
- Six to eight Accredited Members, appointed by the Board of Directors, who will be asked to serve for a period of four years. Retiring members may be reappointed by the Board of Directors for a further period of four year
- An Extern Member who is not a member of IACP appointed by the Board of Directors for a period of three years, who can be re-appointed for one further period of three years only.
Complaints Committee will sign a declaration of confidentiality.
C. The Complaints Procedure
There are three possible stages to the Complaints Procedure:
(i) Stage One
- When a complaint is received, it will be referred to the Secretary of the Complaints Committee. Only written and signed complaints will be considered. Anonymous written complaints have no validity and will be destroyed. Only complaints made within seven years of the event(s) complained of will be considered (except in cases where the complainant was being counselled as a child i.e. under eighteen years of age, and where the period under investigation shall not be more than twenty-five years ago).
- The Secretary will seek written authorisation from the complainant to show the letter of complaint to the Counsellor / Therapist (hereinafter referred to as the Counsellor) in all cases. If the complainant requests that the Counsellor not be shown his/her letter of complaint, the Secretary will write to point out that the Complaints Procedure demands that the Counsellor be aware of the complaint alleged against him/her before there can be further investigation, and requesting either a further written complaint which can be shown to the Counsellor, or a written authorisation permitting release of the first letter of complaint.
- If the Complainant does not respond within two months, then the Secretary will write to the Complainant by registered post to ascertain if s/he wishes to bring the complaint further. If, after a further two weeks, the necessary authorisation is not forthcoming, the Complainant will be informed in writing that the complaint cannot be considered further.
- When, and if, the required authorisation is received, the Secretary shall appoint two members of the Complaints Committee (hereinafter referred to as the Examiners) to investigate the matter. Members of the Complaints Committee must declare any interest they may have in relation to any complaint, and shall be ineligible to be appointed Examiner in that case.
- The Examiners will try to conclude their investigation as quickly as possible, recognising that a serious allegation has been made against a Counsellor in the conduct of his/her professional duties.
- The Examiners shall inform the Counsellor of the complaint. The complaint letter shall be made available to the Counsellor, in person at a preliminary meeting in the IACP registered office or, with the Counsellor’s agreement, by registered post.
- At that preliminary meeting, or by post, the Counsellor is asked to respond in writing, and is informed that this letter will be made available to the Complainant, again either by registered post or at a meeting.
- At the discretion of the Examiners, exploratory meetings involving either or both parties may be held. The complainant may be accompanied to such meetings by a support person, and the counsellor concerned by his/her supervisor.
- If the Counsellor refuses to co-operate fully in the Complaints Procedure, the Complaints Committee may recommend appropriate action to the Board of Directors.
- If the Complainant is satisfied with the written reply, or with the exploratory meeting (if it took place), the procedure may be completed at this stage, if the Complaints Committee thinks fit. The Counsellor will be informed if the procedure is thus completed. If the Committee decides that a case remains to be answered, then the procedure will move on to Stage 2, or the Committee may determine sanctions as in section Dii.
(ii) Stage Two
- The Examiners will consider the issues raised, and will have the discretion to arrange to meet both parties, together or separately, as they see fit.
- The Complainant will be advised that s/he may be accompanied to meetings by an independent supporter of his/her choice, or if s/he prefers, by an Accredited Member nominated by the Complaints Committee, (in either case, hereinafter referred to as the Advocate), and the Counsellor will be advised that s/he should be accompanied by his/her Supervisor.
- The meeting(s) will be chaired by one of the Examiners, will last for one hour maximum, and will allow statement of complaint, response, and questions by all present. The meeting shall be recorded.
- If the Complainant does not attend this meeting, an explanation will be sought. If a reasonable explanation is forthcoming, the procedure will be re-activated once more. If not, the complaint will lapse.
- Following on these meeting(s) the Examiners shall make a written report and recommendations to the Complaints Committee. The Committee and the Extern will meet, as soon as possible, to consider this report and will make a decision based on the report, or will proceed to Stage 3.
- The procedure may be completed at this stage, if the Complaints Committee thinks fit. Both the Counsellor and the Complainant will be informed if the procedure is thus completed. If the Committee decides that a case remains to be answered, then the procedure will either move on to Stage 3, or the Committee may determine sanctions as in section Dii.
- If a decision is made based on the report, it will be relayed to both the Complainant and the Counsellor, and may be recommended to the Board of Directors for ratification.
- If within two weeks of having been notified of the decision of the Complaints Committee, either party requests, on reasonable grounds, a more formal meeting, then Stage 3 can be implemented.
(iii) Stage Three
- The Committee will call the Complainant and Advocate, the Counsellor and his/her Supervisor to a meeting, where the Committee will be represented by a Panel made up of the Extern, the two Examiners and a third member of the Complaints Committee to act as Chairperson. The Secretary of the Committee will facilitate the ensuing discussion.
- Both the Complainant and the Counsellor are at liberty to engage their own legal advisors to attend the formal meeting, provided that the Secretary will have been given prior notification thereof in writing as to the name of such representative, a week before this meeting.
- The Complaints Committee reserves the right to engage its own legal advisor to attend these meetings, for the purposes of assisting the Panel in examining and interviewing the person/s appearing before it, and with a view to considering all or any material produced.
- The Formal Meeting will be recorded, and will follow these stages:
- A. Complainant explains the nature of the complaint and may subsequently be questioned by members of the Panel.
- B. Counsellor will answer complaint, and may be questioned by members of the Panel.
- C. The Complainant may add further points, may then be questioned, and sum up his/her position.
- D. The Counsellor may add further points, may then be questioned, and may sum up his/her position.
- E. The Panel will prepare a report and recommendations for the Committee, which will meet to consider the matter within four weeks. The Committee will make a decision for appropriate action, and when withdrawal of membership of IACP is involved, will seek ratification from the Board of Directors. The Committee will communicate such action to the parties concerned in writing.
(i) The Committee may find that no breach of the Code of Ethics and Practice has occurred, and no action need be taken.
(ii) Where action is required, this may include sanctions to be imposed on the Counsellor, which may be one or more of the following:
- Requirement to change in a specific way by a specific date, which may include further training.
- Requirement to work under a nominated supervisor for a specified period of time.
- Withdrawal of accreditation and/or membership for a specified period and/or until specific changes have been undertaken.
- Permanent withdrawal of accreditation and membership.
(iii) Any Counsellor whose accreditation has been withdrawn shall be asked to cease counselling for as long as such withdrawal of membership remains in force.
(iv) The Board of Directors shall record sanctions involving permanent withdrawal of accreditation and membership (as in Dii4 above) in the following edition of its professional publication, and shall notify the Counsellor’s current Supervisor.
(v) The IACP reserves the right to notify whomsoever the Complaints Committee and the Board of Directors consider appropriate.
(vi) The Complaints Committee shall monitor, as far as possible, any sanctions imposed, and when these are lifted, shall notify the Counsellor and the Supervisor, and in cases where membership has been withdrawn, the Board of Directors.
(vii) Re-application for membership may be necessary in some instances, and the Complaints Committee shall then inform the Accreditation Committee that, in the opinion of the Complaints Committee, the former criteria for accreditation may stand.
(viii) All investigative procedures shall be conducted in strictest confidence. Discussion of complaints outside the Complaints Committee should never identify the individuals concerned, until withdrawal of accreditation is recommended.
(i) The IACP does not undertake to investigate, according to these procedures, a complaint by a member of the public against counsellors who are not Accredited Members of IACP.
(ii) The acceptance of a complaint for investigation by the Complaints Committee does not mean that the Committee accepts the Complainant’s view. Each case will be investigated on it’s merits. Expenses are not paid to any of the parties involved, with the exception of the Extern.
(iii) The Code of Ethics and Practice is indivisible; Members must comply with all guidelines and stipulations laid down by IACP.
(iv) Complainants and those complained against must provide documentary evidence to substantiate all claims and statements where it becomes appropriate. All communication and reporting will be in writing.
(v) For complaints to be considered, counselling confidentiality will be suspended, inso far as it pertains to the investigation of the complaint.
(vi) Persons such as counsellors have the right under the law to communicate freely with an inquiry body considering a complaint against them, and providing that communications will be considered to be occasions of qualified privilege. IACP investigate procedures operate on the basis that, in general, communications by counsellors within the complaints procedures are proctected, providing they were not motivated by malice.
(vii) When work on a complaint has been finalised, all the related documentation will be placed in a sealed envelope, the date and names of Complainant and Counsellor only on the outside of the envelope, and kept in the IACP registered office. Records will be kept for ten years, and destroyed thereafter.
(viii) Appeals will only be entertained on the grounds of a serious departure from the procedures by the Complaints Committee.
(ix) This procedure will be reviewed yearly by the current Complaints Committee, and the Committee will have the discretion to design a process having regard to a
particular case, adhering as closely as possible to these guidelines.
(x) This Procedure takes effect from 18th October 2003