Complaints and Disciplinary Policy and Procedure Information Sheet No. A7 Revised July 2003 1. INTRODUCTION The person complained against will be given a copy of the The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) is complaint, including the name of complainant, and a copy responsible for holding the National Register of trained of the Complaints and Disciplinary Procedure. psychotherapists. As a member organisation of the UKCP, the WHEN A COMPLAINT IS ACCEPTED Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice in the UK (AFT) is required to set standards for those who wish to be 2.2 If the Ethics Committee is unclear as to the nature of the registered, to handle the registration process and to deal with complaint or it appears that the complaint does not involve complaints in a manner which is consistent with the UKCP SPM, the committee will explore the complaint (this usually guidelines. involves correspondence to gather further information from the parties involved). Registered psychotherapists are expected to adhere to the member organisation’s Code of Ethics and Practice as approved 2.3 If the Ethics Committee decides that the complaint possibly by the appropriate UKCP section. Serious professional misconduct involves serious professional misconduct (SPM) it will be may lead to suspension or expulsion of the therapist from AFT formally investigated by an Investigation Committee. and to removal from the UKCP register. 2.4 All subsequent evidence pertaining to the complaint from Non-registered members of AFT (either qualified family therapists either party will be available to all parties throughout the who have not registered with UKCP through AFT or other proceedings. professionals using family therapy ideas i.e. systemic 2.5 If it comes to the notice of the Ethics Committee that a practitioners) who bring the organisation into disrepute are criminal investigation is under way then it may initiate suspension subject to discipline by the AFT board which may lead to of membership of AFT / UKCP registration. suspension or termination of membership of AFT. 2.6 The resignation of a member of AFT shall not be allowed to Members of the public or other members of AFT who are impede the process of any investigation as long as the alleged concerned about the ethical conduct of an AFT member should offence took place during that person’s membership. Later re- bring this to the attention of AFT’s Ethics Committee who will application for membership will require the approval of the AFT consider the matter according to AFT’s Complaints and Board and the UKCP will be informed of all actions. Disciplinary Policy and Procedure. The Ethics Committee is accountable to the Board of Directors of AFT. 2.7 In cases where allegations are made regarding a criminal offence it will usually be appropriate to refer the case to the If an allegation of serious professional misconduct (SPM) is police. made, the Ethics Committee will constitute itself as a formal Investigating Committee (IC) which includes lay members. If, following investigation, it is clear that there is a case of SPM to 3. COMPLAINTS INVOLVING POSSIBLE SERIOUS answer, the complaint will be heard by AFT’s disciplinary body, PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT the Complaints Committee. The Complaints Committee will All complaints involving possible serious professional misconduct adjudicate on the complaint and may impose a range of (SPM) by members of AFT will be formally investigated in sanctions. A complainant or practitioner who believes that the accordance with UKCP guidelines. This applies not only to disciplinary action of AFT has not been fair or just may appeal. members of AFT registered by AFT with the UKCP but also to other AFT members unless they are already subject to a formal If the complaint does not clearly allege serious professional investigation by a professional body in relation to the particular misconduct it will be considered in stages. The initial exploratory complaint. stage will offer the opportunity of mediation and conciliation; but should a prima facie case of SPM be established, a formal INVESTIGATING COMMITTEE investigation will commence. 3.1 Upon acceptance of the complaint by the Ethics Committee of AFT, the Chair and at least two other committee members 2. COMPLAINT will nominate five or more persons to conduct the A complaint must relate to an alleged breach of the Code of investigation. The Investigating Committee (IC) will consist Ethics and Practice of AFT and be with regard to a named of one or more lay persons and four Ethics Committee member of AFT. The complaint must be in writing. members (or AFT Board Members). They would be expected INITIAL STAGES to be totally impartial, and to declare any interest that might prejudice this. Alternative names will be provided until both 2.1 Upon receipt of a written complaint the Executive Officer of parties agree. AFT will pass it on to the Chair of the Ethics Committee (EC). 3.2 The IC will appoint a lead investigator who will co-ordinate The EC will acknowledge receipt of the complaint and the the investigation, arrange interviews with the relevant Chair and at least two other committee members will parties, and collate written submissions and other determine whether the complaint falls within the Code of documentary evidence. Ethics and Practice. 3.3 The IC will consider the evidence gathered and decide this role, and who are impartial. This person (or persons) will whether there is a case of SPM to answer. A member of the arrange to meet with the complainant and the therapist IC will then present the case at the formal hearing of AFT’s complained against, separately and / or together, and explore disciplinary body, the Complaints Committee. the nature of the complaint in detail. Areas of agreement and disagreement between the parties involved will be sought. COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE HEARINGS 4.2 The outcome of the above meeting(s) will be notified in 3.4 A Complaints Committee (CC) shall be appointed to examine writing to the Ethics Committee, which will determine whether and adjudicate on the complaint through hearing a there is a prima facie complaint involving serious professional presentation, written and verbal, by both parties of their misconduct (in which case a formal investigation will commence) positions. The Complaints Committee will consist of three to or adjudicate regarding the complaint and make recommend- five members including one or more lay people, one or more ations for future practice wherever possible. Should it be representatives of the UKCP Section, and one or more decided that the procedure stops at this point, either through senior members of AFT. They will be expected to be totally conciliation or inadequate reason to proceed, the UKCP will be impartial, and to declare any interest that might prejudice notified. this. 4.3 Should the complainant fail to attend a meeting with the 3.5 The complainant, and the therapist complained against, investigating third party or refuse to proceed, without good may be accompanied at the Complaints Committee hearing reason or due notice, it will be assumed the complaint is by a ‘friend’ or adviser, who may represent them or assist, withdrawn. Both parties will be notified to that effect, and no if they wish. They may also call witnesses in their support. further action will then be taken. 3.6 The Executive Officer of AFT will be responsible for arranging 4.4 Should the therapist who has been complained against fail a suitable venue, and notifying all participants in writing, to attend a meeting with the investigating third party, or refuse giving at least six weeks’ notice of the date. to be involved, the procedures will go ahead and, the Ethics 3.7 Written evidence from both parties will be required, and Committee may recommend to the Chair of AFT that membership should be received by the Executive Officer at least three of the organisation be terminated and that the findings of the weeks before the Complaints Committee meets, and will complaint be published. then be distributed to all parties concerned. Limited further submission by either party may be accepted on the day of 5. APPEALS the hearing at the discretion of its members. Either party may appeal against the decision of a Complaints 3.8 At the Complaints Committee hearing a summary of both Committee within four weeks of notification of the hearing’s parties’ cases will be put, beginning with the complainant’s. outcome. The appeal should be in writing to the Executive Questions may then be put by one party to the other Officer of AFT. Upon receipt of the appeal the Chair of AFT shall through the Chair: the complainant or his / her representative nominate one or more members of AFT not previously involved will begin questioning. Finally, committee members may to review the proceedings and ensure that they were correctly seek clarification from either party, or from witnesses who carried out. Should there be evidence that the proceedings may have been called earlier. At any time during the were not correctly carried out then they may recommend that procedure a recess may be called, at the instigation of the a new panel be appointed to adjudicate the complaint once Chair of the committee or of either party at the discretion again as in Section 3 above. An appeal may be made by either of the committee. When all required clarification that is party to the UKCP on the grounds of improper procedure. material to the case has been gained, the Chair will summarise the case presented by the parties, who will then be asked to 6. PUBLICATION OF FINDINGS withdraw while the committee considers the case in private. Complaints regarding SPM which have been upheld will be An accurate record of the proceedings will be kept. published in Context. This will include the name of the therapist, a brief description of the complaint, the sanctions imposed, and 3.9 The decision of the Complaints Committee will be notified any general lessons which can be drawn from the case. The in writing to all parties involved within two weeks of the name of a UKCP-registered psychotherapist who has been hearing date. The Chair of the Registration Committee will removed from the register will also be published in The notify both the Chair of AFT and the UKCP of the outcome Psychotherapist. Lessons learned from minor complaints which and of any sanctions recommended. Sanctions include have been upheld will be reported anonymously in the Ethics suspension or termination of membership of AFT which Committee’s annual report. leads automatically to suspension or termination of registration with UKCP. 7. ADMINISTRATION The Ethics Committee will generally decide whether there is a 4. COMPLAINTS NOT INVOLVING SERIOUS complaint to answer within three months of the complaint PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT being received. Following acceptance by the Ethics Committee (MEDIATION AND CONCILIATION) that there is a complaint to answer, the subsequent procedure This stage aims to gather information from both parties with should generally be concluded within six months. regard to matters around the complaint, and offers the possibility of mediation and conciliation. The protocols of the complaints procedure may be revised by the Ethics Committee of AFT from time to time, with approval 4.1 Upon acceptance of the complaint by the Ethics Committee as required from the Chair of AFT and the UKCP. Feedback is of AFT, the Chair and at least two other members of that welcome. Only in exceptional circumstances will complaints be Committee will nominate one or more persons to conduct this acted upon that pertain to events more than three years process. Alternative names will be provided until both parties previously. The complainant and therapist complained against agree. These names will be drawn from members of the Ethics must be responsible for expenses incurred, including in making Committee, the Board of AFT, or other senior family or other submissions and in travel, and AFT cannot be held responsible therapists who have the required experience and abilities for in any way. The Chair of the Professional Affairs Committee (PAC) welcomes general feedback and suggestions on Information Sheets and can be contacted via Sue Kennedy, AFT Administrative Secretary, 12A Executive Suite, St James Court, Wilderspool Causeway, Warrington WA4 6PS. Tel: 01925 444414 Fax: 08701383881 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. AFT is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England, No. 3018026. Registered Charity No. 1063639. Registered office: 142 Garstang Road, Fulwood, Preston PR2 4NA.
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