Frequently Asked Questions

General

You can contact the Advice Line on 03444 77 20 20 between the hours of 10am – 4pm Monday to Friday

You will be connected to a Gateway Assessor who will take some details from you.  Depending upon the complexity of your problem the assessor may be able to help you with information from our www.adviceguide.org.uk website.  If you need to have more detailed advice the assessor will discuss placing your details in the local bureau’s Work Queue.  This will mean that the bureau local to where you live/work will contact you within 48 working hours and discuss your case further with you over the telephone.  The local bureau will then make a maximum of three attempts to contact you – please therefore be specific about when you are able/unable to be contacted.

We don’t judge – don’t tell – and don’t charge.

Yes – all of our face to face advice as well as telephone support is done in a private room – between you and the adviser working with you.

All staff and volunteers adhere to a strict confidentiality code and any documents we make or you provide are kept in locked cupboards.  We minimise the amount of information we store in hard copy format.  We follow strict information assurance guidelines in respect to destruction of information when this has been transferred to our electronic case management system.  Records stored electronically are only accessed by staff members who have successfully completed information assurance training (including annual updating) and through a complex password system with passwords changing on a regular basis.

See details about our information charter at: Information Charter.

If you do not speak English well, or it is not your first Langauage we can still help – we have members of staff who can speak some of the languages spoken locally.  We also use a direct telephone line to a translation service which we may use if it helps you to explain your problem and helps you to understand the advice we can give you.

You are welcome to bring a friend or relative with you to act as an interpreter.

If you would like us to deal with your problem informally before starting any formal complaint just let us know.  We will do everything we can to resolve your problem as far and soon as we are able.

If you are still not satisfied then these are the details of our formal procedure:

All complaints begin in the Citizens Advice service complaints procedure but there are points at which complaints about certain subjects can be taken by you to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).   These are complaints about the following:

  • regulated debt advice
  • obtaining information about your credit record
  • helping you change your credit record

The bureau should provide you with a Financial Ombudsman Service leaflet with details of the FOS.  The FOS will always make sure that the bureau has the opportunity to deal with the complaint before they get involved.

Stage one: Complaint to the local Citizens Advice Bureau

Write to the Chief Executive of Swansea Neath Port Talbot Citizens Advice Bureau if you wish to complain about any service from our bureau.   You will receive an acknowledgement to your complaint within five working days.  An investigation into the circumstances surrounding your complaint will then be undertaken. The records of your visit will be examined to check that proper procedures were followed and the best advice given. The target time for responding in full to a complaint is 8 weeks.  If the issue is complicated, any delay will be explained.

The investigation into the complaint can be delegated, but not to anyone implicated or involved in the issue.  If the complaint is upheld, you will receive a full apology and, where appropriate, be given details of any action that the bureau was able to take to retrieve the situation or at least put things right for the future. The aim is always to achieve resolution at the earliest stage possible.

If your complaint is about the Chief Executive then you should write to the Chair of the Trustee Board at the bureau address.

The letter you receive from the Chief Executive (their appointed Deputy or Trustee Board Chair if they deal with this stage) will also inform you of your right to ask for a review of the investigation should you not be satisfied with the outcome of stage one. Details of how to do this will be provided.

While all bureaux are members of Citizens Advice each is a separate charity run by and accountable to its own Chief Executive and board of trustees. This is why complaints are first handled locally and why the next stage is the responsibility of Citizens Advice as the parent body.

Stage two: review under the direction of the Chief Executive of Citizens Advice

If you still feel that all the issues have not been properly tackled, you can request a further review to be conducted under the direction of the Citizens Advice Chief Executive.

You can send your complaint to Citizens Advice in a number of ways:

  • Electronically: you can use the following link to access the feedback form:  https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/contact_us/contactus.htm
  • By email:  feedback@citizensadvice.org.uk
  • By telephone: 03000 231 900
  • By post:  Advice Policy and Standards team, Citizens Advice, 3rd Floor North, 200 Aldersgate, London, EC1A 4HD
    (Please note that this office is not a public facing office)

Now that the complaint is being examined by Citizens Advice central office rather than the local bureau, the Chief Executive will not concentrate so much on the detail of the case but ensure that the process has been carried out properly and will check that the fundamental issues have been investigated fully.

When Citizens Advice receives a request for a review, they will acknowledge it within 5 working days and ask the bureau to send a copy of the client’s file, which must include letters, emails and notes of the investigations carried out at earlier stages. The paperwork should aim to be sent by the bureau to Citizens Advice within 5 working days.

Once again, the review will produce a full response, which will contain sufficient information to show that the complaint has been fully investigated, and an apology where appropriate. Details will be given of your right for a further review.

The Citizens Advice review will not usually comment on the advice that was given, although it may comment on the advice process followed. It may direct the bureau to offer further advice to you if there are concerns that incomplete advice was given.

Citizens Advice will also provide details of the final stage of the procedure, an independent adjudicator review, to you. Complaints can only progress to an independent adjudicator review if there are areas of the original complaint that were not upheld in the Citizens Advice review.

Stage three: review by an independent adjudicator

The final stage in the Citizens Advice complaints process is a review conducted by an adjudicator who has no connection with the CAB service other than this particular role. The bureau will be advised that an independent adjudicator review has begun. The independent adjudicator, once informed, will conduct a review of the investigation.

The request for an independent adjudicator review should be made by you within 4 weeks of receiving the Citizens Advice review. Requests submitted outside of this period will only be considered as a reasonable adjustment or if there are extenuating circumstances.

The adjudicator may contact you and / or the bureau during this review, for further information. This review will only address whether the investigation so far has been conducted in line with stated procedures and whether it has been handled fairly. The adjudicator will not comment on the substance of the complaint.

If the adjudicator finds that the stated procedure was not followed or that the matter has not been handled fairly, they will specify why and may give directions for a re-investigation.

Citizens Advice will send the full report of the independent adjudicator to you and the Chair of the local bureau trustee board. The decision of the independent adjudicator is final in most cases, although discussion may continue between the bureau, Citizens Advice and you as to how exactly any recommendations might be implemented.

The independent adjudicator review stage does not have a fixed deadline, unlike the earlier stages.

Complaints about debt advice, or about obtaining information about someone’s credit record or helping them change their credit record are eligible to be sent to the Financial Ombudsman Service within 6 months of the bureau’s final response being sent to the complainant. If eligible complainants request an independent adjudicator review, they will be advised of this time limit again by Citizens Advice.

Financial Ombudsman Service Stage for eligible complaints (see above)

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) usually settles complaints based on the paperwork that the complainant and the bureau send them.

Generally, FOS will first try to settle a dispute informally through mediation or conciliation. They may contact the bureau or the complainant to clarify the facts and issues involved or to suggest a way forward.

If it is not possible to resolve the matter over the phone, FOS will confirm their position in writing. This will give the FOS adjudicator’s opinion of the case and set out how, in the adjudicator’s view, the case should be resolved.

The adjudicator may issue a formal ‘adjudication’ report, which is sent to both parties at the same time. The bureau and the complainant would both be given the opportunity to respond.

If matters remain unresolved, either party may ask for a review and final decision made by an ombudsman.

Where an ombudsman becomes directly involved in a case, they will review the complaint before making a final decision. If the complainant accepts an ombudsman’s decision within the specified time limit, both the bureau and the complainant are bound by the decision. Otherwise, the bureau is not bound, but the complainant remains free to take proceedings against the bureau if they wish.

A final decision by an ombudsman is the end of the complaints handling process. Neither the bureau nor the complainant can appeal against the decision.