Making a Complaint

Every year we help thousands of local residents solve their problems and over 98% of our clients are satisfied with the service they receive.  However, very occasionally someone may go away feeling more than a bit disgruntled. Perhaps you had to wait a long time, only to find out that there was very little we could do for you; maybe you felt that you were not treated with respect or courtesy; or perhaps the advice we gave you did not work out for you or was even wrong.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts mistakes do happen sometimes. We know we are not perfect, and we want to be better. That is why we have a complaints procedure. Sometimes we can put things right; sometimes we can only explain ourselves and apologise. But we always want to improve by learning from our mistakes. What you tell us about your experience helps us to look at how we do things and to improve our service for people who come to us in the future.

Misunderstandings can often be sorted out on an informal basis. Don't be afraid to contact our Advice Services Manager to discuss your complaint - she might be able to iron out the problem straightaway.  But if you feel the problem needs to be looked at and put on an official footing, you can put all the information in a letter and send it to us at the Civic Centre, St Peters Street, St Albans AL1 3JE or email us at

To make sure that all complaints are handled efficiently and fairly, we have a complaints procedure which has a number of stages that you can move through if you continue to feel unhappy with the response you have received.

  1. Informal resolution

Our aim is to return you to the advice process or otherwise resolve your complaint as smoothly as possible - although we recognise that it is not always possible.

  1. Making a formal complaint to Citizens Advice St Albans District

Complaints will be acknowledged within 5 working days of receipt.  We will explain how your complaint will be dealt with and by whom and give you a timescale for a full response.  If your complaint is about immigration casework, you can take your complaint to the OISC (Office of Immigration Services Commissioner) at any stage.

If you feel your complaint has not been resolved at this stage, you can escalate it to be reviewed by the Chief Executive of Citizens Advice St Albans District.

The aim of this stage is to investigate what went wrong, and provide a full response to you within 8 weeks.

The investigation will:

  • Be impartial. Your complaint will be approached with an open mind, and the facts and contentions in support of your complaint will be considered.
  • Be confidential. Your complaint will be investigated in private and care will be taken when disclosing to others any identifying details of your complaint.
  • Be transparent. You will be told about the steps in the complaint process and be given an opportunity to comment on any information that may be evidence against your complaint.

The investigation into your complaint may be delegated, but not to anyone implicated or involved in the issue.

After the investigation, we will send you our response in writing.

  1. Escalating your complaint - Citizens Advice

If you are not happy with our response, you may escalate your complaint to be reviewed by Citizens Advice. The aim of the review is to check:

  • Citizens Advice St Albans District have followed the complaints process
  • Citizens Advice St Albans District have adequately addressed all issues raised by you
  • The investigation was carried out in a fair and transparent way
  • whether if there is a need for continued or additional advice
  • whether the conclusions reached were fair and reasonable and if there was sufficient evidence to support them

Citizens Advice will acknowledge your request for a review within 5 working days.

A copy of the Citizens Advice review will be sent to you and copied to the Chief Executive of CASTAD.

  1. Independent adjudicator review

*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.

The final stage in the Citizens Advice process is a review by an adjudicator appointed by Citizens Advice who has no connection with the Citizens Advice service other than this particular role.  A request for an independent adjudicator review should be made by you within 4 weeks of receiving the Citizens Advice review, though requests submitted outside of this period will be considered if there are extenuating circumstances.

Citizens Advice will send a full report from the independent adjudicator to you and the Chair of the Trustee Board at CASTAD. The decision of the independent adjudicator is final in most cases.

  1. Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)

Complaints about debt advice, or about obtaining information about a credit record or helping you to change a credit record are eligible to be sent to the Financial Ombudsman Service within 6 months of CASTAD’s final response being sent to you.

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) usually settles complaints based on the paperwork that you and CASTAD send them.  Generally, the FOS will try to settle a dispute informally through mediation or conciliation.  If it is not possible to resolve the matter over the phone, FOS will confirm their position in writing.

The adjudicator may issue a formal 'adjudication' report, which is sent to you and CASTAD, both parties will be given the opportunity to respond.  If matters remain unresolved, either party can ask for a review and final decision made by an ombudsman.

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