Complaints procedure

How to make a complaint about an APHA service.


Introduction

Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) is committed to providing high quality services.

Monitoring and evaluating how we deliver our services, is an important part of ensuring our customers receive a continually improving service based on feedback.

Feedback may be positive (plaudits) or negative (complaints or expressions of dissatisfaction).

Our service standard complaints procedure provides a formal route for you, as a customer, service user or member of the public, to bring a complaint to the attention of APHA and helps us to continually improve our services.

What is a complaint

A service standard complaint is a spoken or written expression of dissatisfaction or concern you may have about services provided internally or externally by APHA, actions or lack of actions by the agency or staff.

We take all such complaints very seriously and aim to resolve them in a timely manner, both sensitively and fairly. We will admit when we have got things wrong and where we can, put things right.

Issues that can be raised

You can raise with us, any aspect of the service provided by the APHA that you disagree with such as:

  • if you feel a member of staff has acted incorrectly
  • we took too long to do something
  • we have implemented policies or regulations incorrectly

Business as usual will continue whilst your complaint is being investigated.

We will do all we can to resolve your concerns. However, if despite our best efforts we cannot reach a conclusion that meets your satisfaction, then you can ask your Member of Parliament (MP) to take your case to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Where we cannot help

If you have a complaint or question which relates to Defra’s policies or the interpretation of legislation, you should contact the relevant policy area within Defra. This is not within APHA’s remit. We can only answer complaints about how policies or regulations are delivered.

Before contacting Defra you should check to see if the information to answer your query has already been published. See Defra contacts and key topics. Alternatively, you can contact the Defra Helpline.

You can also ask your MP to take up your complaint with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at Defra or with another Defra minister.

Complaints process

There are a number of steps your complaint may go through as we work to resolve it. Most complaints are resolved at the first step.

Where possible we encourage people to resolve issues amicably with the individual person or team they initially spoke to, or a manager in that department. We find that this can help to resolve the issue before it escalates into a more formal complaint. In most situations, the opportunity to open up the communication channels again can help resolve or clarify any misunderstandings, such as interpretations of policy or legislation (explained above).

If you’re not sure how to contact the team you’ve been dealing with, see APHA contacts or email APHA Customer Advice on customeradvice@apha.gov.uk. You can raise your issue via telephone, email or letter. APHA is not able to enter into correspondence on such issues via social media platforms.

APHA has a zero tolerance of abusive behaviour and language towards its employees.

Please be respectful when you are communicating and raising issues with us. We may not respond to abusive calls, emails and correspondence.

1. Unresolved service standard issues - complaints (stage 1)

If you’re unable to resolve an issue you can make a complaint to a senior manager within the team. When we receive your complaint we’ll send an acknowledgement to confirm it has been received with notification of the pending investigation. We aim to complete a stage 1 investigation into the complaint within 20 working days. We’ll contact you if further information is required that means it will take longer than this.

If you wish to provide new information or evidence at any time throughout the complaints process, you’re welcome to do so. However, this may cause further delay to your case, in order to give the information the necessary attention it deserves. If this should happen you will be notified of the expected revised schedule.

When raising a complaint, you should set out the facts as fully as possible including:

  • what went wrong
  • when it happened
  • who you dealt with
  • what you would like to happen next

The more details we have, the better we can deal with your complaint. You also need to tell us your:

  • email and postal address
  • day time telephone number

Complaints relating to the Welsh Language Scheme should be directed to APHA’s Welsh Language Officer. You can email Welsh.Language@apha.gov.uk.

2. Escalating a service standard complaint (stage 2)

We appreciate it is not always possible to resolve issues or concerns immediately or directly. In such cases, your complaint will be escalated to the APHA Service Standard Adjudicator Team, who are able to provide a further response and in some cases conduct an Internal Review.

Escalated service standard complaints are those relating to the way APHA, or an individual, have provided a service and where it has not been possible for you to resolve the issue at stage 1.

You (the complainant) have 28 working days, from the date of previous response sent by APHA, to request in writing, why you feel the complaint requires further consideration. Ensure you provide any additional relevant information, if appropriate.

You can contact the APHA Service Standards Adjudicator by email or post:

APHA Service Standards Adjudicator
ESCMU
Woodham Lane
New Haw
Addlestone
Surrey
KT15 3NB

Email: APHA.CorporateCorrespondence@apha.gov.uk

Again we will aim to resolve your complaint within 20 working days. If this is not possible, they will write to you and explain the delay, informing you when you may expect a response.

3. Internal Review

If you’re still not satisfied with the response you have received, you may request an Internal Review from a Senior Service Standards Adjudicator, who will independently investigate your case.

In most cases, we aim to complete these investigations within 20 working days of the case being escalated. If this is not possible the person investigating will write to you and explain the delay, informing you when you may expect a response.

Again you have 28 working days from the date of your previous response to request an Internal Review. Your request must be in writing (email or post) and clearly set out why you feel the complaint requires further consideration, providing any relevant information appropriate to the investigation.

The Adjudicator will contact the team previously dealing with the case to seek their input and will review your case, making a decision independently of any that has previously been made.

Once complete you will be informed of the conclusions and any proposed resolutions within 20 working days. If this is not possible the APHA Service Standards Adjudicator will write to you and explain the delay, informing you when you may expect a response.

4. Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

If you’re not satisfied with the reply from our internal review you can ask your Member of Parliament (MP) to raise your concerns with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman helps to resolve complaints about government departments and other public bodies. They do not become involved until we have had the opportunity to deal with your complaint through our procedure.

Your complaint must be made to your MP within 12 months from the day you became aware of the issue you are complaining about. If the Ombudsman receives a case after this deadline they will only investigate if they consider there are special circumstances in which to do so.

The PHSO website provides information and guidance for the successful handling of complaints to government departments.

Providing feedback

To ensure the APHA complaints procedure is working correctly and meeting our objectives, we may contact a random sample of people who have previously complained to the agency, to ask if:

  • they were happy with the complaints process
  • the process was followed correctly
  • they have any comments or suggestions on how they would like to see the process improved

Feedback received will be anonymous and will contribute to our performance measurement.

Positive feedback

If you wish to send us positive feedback (also known as a plaudit) about the agency or the particular work carried out by a member of staff. These comments are always very welcome and those relating to a member of staff are always passed on to the individual concerned and their line manager. If you would like to send in any such comments, please do so via the following email: APHA.CorporateCorrespondence@apha.gov.uk.