Complaints procedure

The Department is committed to providing the highest standard of service to all its customers.  Our aim is to get things right first time.

However, if you are not entirely satisfied with any aspect of our service, please tell us and we will do our best to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.

The procedure set out below explains how you can make a complaint about the quality of our services.

Complaints not covered by this procedure

Schools operate their own complaints policies and procedures therefore complaints relating to a school should be raised directly with the school. More information on how to raise a complaint with a school is available on the nidirect website.

Bodies that the Department works with also have their own separate complaints procedures which can be obtained by contacting the relevant organisation.  Links to the organisations websites can be found on our Home page.

If a complaint relates to inspection please refer to the Education and Training Inspectorate's website.

How to make a complaint against the Department

Stage 1:  Informal procedure

Our aim is to resolve any complaint quickly and you are invited initially to bring any matter of concern to the attention of the Departmental Official with whom you have been dealing.  However, if you still feel dissatisfied after this approach, you may initiate a formal complaint in writing.

Stage 2:  Formal procedure - level 1

You should write to us giving full details of the complaint.  We will arrange for your complaint to be investigated and we aim to provide a full written reply within 15 working days of receiving it.  If a full reply cannot be given within this timescale, you will be advised of progress and told when you can expect a full response.

You can contact the complaints team in writing, by email or by fax:

Stage 3:  Formal Procedure - Level 2

If you are not satisfied with our reply you can contact the Department's Complaints Team again giving full details of your complaint and why you remain dissatisfied.  The Complaints Team will arrange for the matter to be reviewed by a senior manager and for a response to be issued within the timescales as set out in Stage 2.

Our standards

In all cases the Department will:

  • acknowledge receipt of your complaint (normally within 2 working days of receiving your complaint)
  • carry out a thorough investigation
  • aim to provide a written reply to your complaint with a full explanation of the outcome of our investigations within 15 working days and, where this is not possible, let you know when a reply can be expected
  • apologise if we have made a mistake or if a problem has been caused by us
  • let you know what we have done or will do to put things right

Making a complaint about top management in the department.

If you are a member of the public or an external stakeholder and your complaint is about a staff member in top management of the department, there is a different procedure for making a complaint.

Top Management in the NI Civil Service and its agencies means the Head of the Civil Service, Permanent Secretaries and anyone in a Grade 3/Deputy Secretary position (or equivalent level). 

Find out more about how to make a complaint about top management on the Department of Finance website at the link below.

The Northern Ireland Public Service Ombudsman (NIPSO)

Our Complaints procedure is not a substitute for your right to complain to NIPSO.  If you have exhausted our complaint procedure you can ask NIPSO to investigate your complaint. You should note, however, that the Ombudsman will generally expect you to have used all the steps of the Department's complaints procedure before accepting your complaint.  You should contact NIPSO within six months of completion of our complaint procedure (although NIPSO may investigate a late complaint if there are special circumstances).

DE Raising Concerns at Work Policy (Public Interest Disclosure - Whistleblowing)

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