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Northern Ireland Assembly Complaints Procedure: Policy Statement

Our approach to handling complaints

The Assembly Commission welcomes feedback from the public and use it to help us improve the services we provide.

When things do go wrong, we are keen to hear about it so that we can look into the issue, learn lessons for the future and, where possible, identify improvements to our ways of working. We are keen to resolve problems quickly and sometimes this can be best done on an informal basis. However if this approach fails to satisfy you the attached procedure will assist you in making a formal complaint.

We also undertake to provide full and constructive responses to any complaints we receive.

Why the Complaints Procedures have been introduced

We have always engaged with the public and responded to concerns and complaints. We have introduced formal complaints procedures to ensure consistency of approach and service standards when dealing with complaints.

Aims and objectives

Through the introduction of our complaints procedures, we aim to:

  • Provide a simple and transparent process to enable members of the public to complain about Northern Ireland Assembly services;
  • Create a mechanism for recording and reporting on complaints received so that management can monitor trends and take any necessary action; and
  • Encourage Northern Ireland Assembly staff to discuss complaints about the delivery of services within their teams and agree changes to practice where this is appropriate.

Guiding principles

Our approach to complaints handling is guided by:

  • The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission’s (“the Commission”) values of professionalism, integrity and accountability; and
  • Our commitment to using feedback from the public to drive improvements to the way we deliver services to the public.

Scope of the Complaints Procedures

The Complaints Procedures cover complaints from members of the public relating to the delivery of services by Northern Ireland Assembly staff, and/or perceived failures in complying with the Assembly’s Equality Scheme.

They do not cover complaints about:

  • Decisions of the Northern Ireland Assembly and its committees;
  • Decisions of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission acting properly within its legal powers;
  • MLAs or their staff;
  • Executive Ministers; or
  • Executive Departmental policy.

Members of the public wishing to complain about any of the above can contact our Communications Office on 028 9052 1333 for advice on where to direct their complaint.

This policy does not cover complaints from members of staff relating to their employment, or from contractors providing services to the Assembly Commission – separate procedures are available in both cases.

Northern Ireland Assembly Complaints Procedure

As an organisation, we strive to improve the way we work and become more efficient and effective. To help us achieve this, we welcome your thoughts and comments about our services.

To find out how to send questions, comments and suggestions to us, please see the Contact Us page of our site.

We appreciate that, when things go wrong and cannot be resolved informally, you might wish to make a formal complaint, so we have developed a process that will enable you to bring complaints to our attention.

What do our complaints procedures cover?

Our complaints procedures cover complaints in relation to the delivery of services by the Northern Ireland Assembly and/or perceived failures in complying with the Assembly’s Equality Scheme. They do not cover complaints about:

  • Decisions of the Northern Ireland Assembly and its committees;
  • Decisions of the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission acting properly within its legal powers;
  • MLAs or their staff;
  • Executive Ministers; or
  • Executive Departmental policy.

If you have a complaint on these issues, please contact the Communications Office for advice on where to direct your complaint.

How do you register your complaint?

It may be possible for the member of staff who you have been dealing with to resolve your complaint. The first step should therefore be to raise the matter with the official who will do all they can to resolve the matter.

If this fails to satisfy your concerns you should make a formal complaint.

This is the second step in having your complaint dealt with. To register your complaint you can do one of the following:

  • Complete and submit an online complaint form
  • Contact the Assembly on 028 9052 1252 and ask to speak to the Complaints Coordinator who can assist you with registering your complaint. This includes arrangements for submissions in alternative formats and any adjustment requirements that ensure equality of opportunity.

If you refer to any documentation in your complaint, a copy of this should be provided.

You should make a complaint as soon as possible after you first become aware of the matters you are complaining about and, in any event, within six months of that time. We may, however, be prepared to consider a complaint made outside that time limit if we consider that, in the particular circumstances of the complaint, there is good reason why the normal time limit should not apply. Anonymous complaints will not be accepted.

If you cannot act for yourself, a representative may make a complaint on your behalf. We will require the person claiming to be acting on your behalf to provide proof that he or she is authorised to act in this way.

To address and respond to your complaint, we will need information from you. We will use this information only in relation to the specific complaint you have lodged. If you have any queries regarding the information you give us, please contact the Assembly’s Complaints Coordinator on 028 9052 1252.

What do we do with your complaint?

Once we have received your complaint we will:

  • Acknowledge receipt of your complaint within 3 working days
  • The complaint will be investigated. If the complaint is about a service, it will be passed to the Directorate within the Assembly which delivered the service, and following this investigation the responsible Director will write to you. If the complaint is about a member of staff, it will be investigated and the Complaints Officer will write to you with the outcome. This will normally be within 20 working days from receipt of your complaint. However, if for any reason the investigation cannot be completed within this timescale, the Complaints Officer will write to you to advise you of progress and indicate when the investigation will be completed. Where a complaint is made concerning a perceived failure to comply with our Equality Scheme, the Assembly’s Equality Manager will investigate the complaint and you will be kept fully informed of the procedures for dealing with the complaint under Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

We will inform you as soon as possible if your complaint needs to be dealt with by another organisation. If possible, we will indicate where you might redirect it. We cannot forward a complaint to another organisation on your behalf.

What happens if you still have concerns?

If you are unhappy with the outcome of your complaint, you can ask for it to be reviewed by the Clerk/Director General of the Northern Ireland Assembly. You should do so within 20 working days of our response being issued, although the Clerk/Director General may decide to accept appeals after this date. The Clerk/Director General will consider the reasons given by you as to why you are not content with the investigation, will consider the case in the context of these reasons and will respond to you within 20 working days. If a full response is not possible within this timescale, a progress update will be provided within 20 working days and a full response will follow as soon as possible after that.

If you still have concerns after the Clerk/Director General has responded to your complaint (or if the complaint relates to the Clerk/Director General), you may raise your complaint with the Assembly Commission. The Assembly Commission will expect you to have raised your complaint in accordance with the procedures outlined above in the first instance and for it to have progressed through each possible stage before you take a complaint to them. It is expected that a complaint to the Assembly Commission will be lodged within twelve months of the incident or event that gave rise to it. The Commission’s decision is final.

Where a complaint relates to an alleged failure by us to comply with the Assembly’s Equality Scheme, and you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the Assembly Commission’s investigation, you can refer the matter to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. The Assembly Commission will co-operate fully with any investigation initiated by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, providing access to any relevant documentation that the Equality Commission may require. Similarly, the Assembly Commission will co-operate fully with any investigation by the Equality Commission under sub-paragraph 11 (1) (b) of schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Commitment to confidentiality

When we receive complaints about our services, we hold these and any related correspondence on a shared directory, access to which is controlled by the relevant Director.

When we receive complaints about the behaviour of named or otherwise identifiable members of staff, we have additional safeguards in place to ensure confidentiality. Details of these complaints are not held on the shared directory but are instead held securely and locally by the head of the relevant office.

Personal data associated with a complaint is never disclosed further or used for any other purpose other than the complaint.

Useful links

As stated above, we cannot forward complaints to other organisations on your behalf. However, if you have a question, comment or complaint in relation to the following areas, you may wish to check these organisations’ websites for further information:


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