Complaints & Grievance Procedure

Tuam Cancer Care - Registered Charity CHY13826


  1. Purpose

Every person is unique and ideally their care, support and treatment should be tailored to their needs. However, sometimes things do not always work out as planned and things go wrong. It is important, therefore, to have a policy to cover these circumstances and the procedures that enable a person to make a complaint and to have that complaint dealt with in a prompt and satisfactory manner. A policy provides clarity for clients and/or their carers, and for staff, volunteers and all who work in the Centre.

  1. Statement

The key principles in addressing complaints should be:

  • Acknowledging the complaint promptly.
  • Listening to what the person making the complaint has to say.
  • Recording the nature of the complaint.
  • Investigating the complaint thoroughly.
  • Handling the complaint in a consistent manner, even when different people in our Centre might be involved at different times.
  • Ensuring the complaint is dealt with appropriately, fairly and in a timely manner.
  • Learning from the complaint and, if necessary, making changes to the way our Centre works.
  1. Scope

The policy applies to all staff, volunteers (including board members, sub-committee members and front-line volunteers) involved in Tuam Cancer Care. It also applies to clients, family members and friends of clients.

A complaint can be made by any of the following and the complaints policy therefore applies to them all:

  • Clients.
  • The family members and friends of clients.
  • Staff, Volunteers and all who work in Centre.
  1. Glossary of Terms 

Clients:           Person with a diagnosis, family member or friend.

Staff:               Refers to staff, therapists, counsellors, contractors.

Volunteers:    Refers to all volunteers at all levels (board members, sub-committees and front-line volunteers).

  1. Procedures/Guidelines

A complaint can be made in any number of ways, all of which are equally valid and valued. Most complaints can be put right by the person making the complaint talking to the designated person – the Manager (Maureen Grealish). These ways include:

  • In person.
  • By telephone.


  • By e-mail (
  • By letter.
  • By using a complaint form (see Appendix).

A complaint can be made informally or formally. An informal complaint is where the person making the complaint talks to the Manager of Tuam Cancer Care who can sort out the problem for them there and then. If the complainant is still not satisfied and they wish to make a formal complaint, they should be encouraged to do so as soon as possible. The Manager of Tuam Cancer Care is also responsible for handling formal complaints. At times it may be necessary to liaise with the Chairperson of the Board of Directors (Eric Gleeson).

  1. What are the steps involved in handling a formal complaint?

When a formal complaint is made, the following steps apply:

  1. A formal complaint should be sent to Manager. In the event of the complaint being made about the Manager, the complaint should be forwarded immediately to the Chairperson of the Board of Directors.
  2. If a formal complaint is sent to the Coordinator, it should immediately be passed on to the Manager. The complaint should not be discussed and confidentiality should be maintained at all times in relation to the complaint.
  3. Acknowledge receipt of the complaint in writing.
  4. Fully document the complaint, including the nature of the complaint, who it is against and times and dates.
  5. Read your record of the complaint back to the person making the complaint to ensure accuracy.
  6. Report the matter immediately to the Chairperson of the Board of Directors but otherwise maintain confidentiality.
  7. Assure the person making the complaint that they will be kept informed of action that has been taken. If a complaint is made against a member of Tuam Cancer Care’s staff, therapists or a volunteer team, the Manager should follow the steps above if they have not already been done and then:
  8. Carry out an investigation to ascertain the pertinent facts surrounding the complaint.
  9. Notify in writing, the person who is the subject of the complaint, about the content of the complaint which has been made against them.
  10. Allow the person against whom the complaint has been made an opportunity to respond or rebut the complaint.
  11. Ensure that the full details of the complaint are documented, together with any decisions on action, or otherwise, to be taken.
  12. Notify both parties of the decision regarding the complaint – whether or not the complaint is upheld and the reasons for the decision, and what action, if any, will be taken and its outcome.


  1. What are the principles of conducting a formal investigation?

If the complaint warrants a formal investigation, the following principles shall apply:

  • Any formal investigation will be led by the Manager.
  • Terms of reference will be drawn up for the formal investigation.
  • The investigation will be carried out objectively and thoroughly and in line with the terms of reference.
  • The investigation will be carried out as quickly as possible.
  • The person who made the complaint will be informed that a formal investigation will take place.
  • Confidentiality must be maintained throughout the investigation process to the greatest extent possible.
  • Staff/therapists/volunteers will be obliged to co-operate with the investigation and will be fully supported throughout the investigation process.
  • A written record of all meetings will be maintained and treated in strictest confidence.
  • Staff/therapists/volunteers who attempt to obstruct or exert pressure on any person involved in the investigation will be considered to have committed a disciplinary offence.
  • A written report on the findings of the investigation and recommendations will be provided.
  • This written report will be provided to the member of staff/therapist/volunteer against whom the complaint has been made and they will be given the opportunity to comment before any action is taken.
  • The person who made the complaint will be informed in writing of the action to be taken and its outcome.
  1. Anonymous complaints

Anonymous complaints may or may not be vexatious and as such cannot result in a formal investigation unless there is supporting evidence. However, it is important that anonymous complaints are taken seriously and that the Manager is satisfied that the complaint is valid or otherwise, and act accordingly.

  1. Allegations of abuse

An allegation of abuse is a very serious matter and must be treated as such. The primary concern should be to ensure that a client/or a member of Centre personnel (staff/therapist/volunteer) who is the subject of the abuse is not put at further risk of abuse while an investigation of the allegation takes place.

The steps outlined above in section 6 on how to conduct a formal investigation will apply.

In addition, the following reporting procedures should be followed by staff, volunteers and therapists in the event of abuse being either suspected or alleged:

  1. Ensure the details of the allegation are fully documented, including dates, times and witnesses.
  2. Read this record back to the person making the allegation in order to ensure it is accurate.
  3. Report the matter immediately to your supervisor/manager.

In the event that you as a staff/therapist/volunteer team member witness abuse against a client, you should:

  1. Intervene or seek help to stop the inappropriate behaviour.
  2. Do not confront the alleged abuser on your own.
  3. Ensure the client is not in any immediate danger.
  4. Ensure the client receives necessary treatment and support.
  5. Report the matter immediately to the Manager.
  1. External reporting

If an allegation of abuse against an elderly person or other vulnerable adult (e.g. person with physical disability or learning disability) is made, the person should be given the choice of reporting the allegation to the authorities. The exceptions to this which require that you make a report are:

  • Where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a criminal offence has taken place, the matter must be reported immediately to the Gardaí.
  • Where the person is at serious risk of harm, the matter must be reported immediately to the Gardaí and/or Health Service Executive Community Care team.

In all circumstances the person must be made aware that you are making a report and to whom this report is being made.

Staff, therapists and volunteers will be made aware of their obligations under the Child Care Act 1999 and the Children Act 2000. Where allegations of child abuse are made, the provisions of Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children shall apply.

Allegations of child abuse should be reported to the Health Service Executive Community Care team.

Allegations of child abuse where a criminal offence is suspected must be reported to the Gardaí by the designated person in Tuam Cancer Care Centre as specified in the Centre’s Child Protection Policy.

  1. The Defence of Qualified Privilege

Where you as a staff member, therapist or volunteer have a duty to speak and you do so without malice, you will be assured that the Defence of Qualified Privilege applies. This protects you from any defamation claim that your statement might give rise to.

  1. Protective measures

During an investigation involving allegations or complaints against a staff member, therapist or volunteer, it may be necessary to put ‘protective measures’ in place to ensure that no client or staff member/therapist or volunteer is exposed to unacceptable risk.

Protective measures are not disciplinary sanctions and will be explained as such to staff/therapists /volunteers.

Protective measures may include the following:

  • Providing an appropriate level of supervision.
  • Putting the staff member off duty with pay or putting the volunteer off duty pending the outcome of the investigation.

Putting a staff member/therapist or volunteer off duty will only be used in exceptional circumstances. These include where there is a clear allegation of abuse of a serious nature, including physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

Support will be provided to a staff member or volunteer who is suspended.

When deciding on the appropriateness of putting protective measures in place, the views of the staff member, therapist or volunteer will be taken into consideration but the final decision rests with management.