General Principles of Confidentiality
The rights, privacy and dignity of all persons involved in a complaint will be respected at all times and complaints will be investigated in accordance with the Department's Confidentiality Policy.
In order to investigate the complaint fully it may be necessary to reveal the identity of the complainant and/or details of the complaint. Confidentiality will always be maintained on a strict 'need to know' basis.
Confidentiality may not be maintained in the following circumstances:
If it becomes clear that the complainant is at serious risk of harming themselves or another person.
In the context of criminal behaviour and disclosures required by legal process.
If the complainant expresses concerns that a student attending the service may be at serious risk of harming themselves or another person.
If the complainant is acting on behalf of a student attending the service and it becomes clear that the student is at serious risk of harming themselves or another person.
In the context of child protection issues.
In third party situations such as 3 and 4 above, it may be necessary to contact the student at risk and they may be informed of the concerns of the complainant.
Student Counselling & Development will not disclose any information about clients of the service without their explicit consent. This includes a refusal to confirm whether a student is attending the service or not. If however, as part of your complaint, you express concerns about a student who may be attending for counselling, please be assurred that your concerns will be acted upon where appropriate. In such situations the student may be informed of your concerns. If you have concerns about any student in UCC please encourage them to make contact with Student Counselling & Development.
Informal Complaint Procedure
If you have a complaint about any aspect of our service we would like to hear about it. Here is what you can do first if you have a complaint about a counsellor, staff member or the service:
Informal Complaint Stage 1:
Most difficulties can be settled informally at an early stage by discussing the matter with your counsellor or the staff member involved. This can be helpful in clearing up any misunderstandings and/or correcting any mistakes.
Informal Complaint Stage 2:
If you feel unable to discuss the matter with the person involved, or have done so but still feel dissatisfied, you can ask to speak to the Head of Department (or a Counsellor if the Head of Department is unavailable). If it is not appropriate for you to approach the Head of Department, e.g. if (s)he is your counsellor, you can ask to speak to a Counsellor.
The Head of Department/Counsellor will meet with you. Your concern will be listened to and (s)he will do what is possible to promote clear communication aimed at resolving the problem. They will also speak to any counsellor or staff member involved in the complaint and may also suggest a three-way meeting if it is appropriate and if it is mutually agreed.
Though confidential personal notes may be kept by staff members involved in or investigating the complaint, there will be no official record of the Informal Complaint or the outcome of any informal investigation unless you submit a Formal Complaint. However, client case notes (notes kept by the counsellor about counselling sessions) are strictly confidential and will be disclosed only with the client's explicit permission or in extreme circumstances such as if there is a legal requirement.
Formal Complaint Procedure
If resolution of your complaint cannot be achieved by the Informal Complaint Procedure above then you can avail of the Formal Complaint Procedure.
Formal Complaint Stage 1: Submit your complaint in writing to the Head of Department/Counsellor. Your complaint must be submitted using the UCC Student Counselling & Development Department Formal Complaint Form (32kB). Receipt of your Formal Complaint Form will be acknowledged within 14 days.
If the complaint is about an individual counsellor or staff member then that person has a right to reply. The counsellor/staff member involved will also be asked to submit his/her own account, including what reasonable steps have been or could be taken to resolve matters.
The Head of Department/Counsellor will give your concerns full and careful consideration, and provide you with a written response about the outcome as soon as possible. It may be necessary for the Head of Department/Counsellor to consult relevant external persons for advice. This will be done without disclosing your identity. If your Formal Complaint concerns the Head of Department, then the UCC Vice President for the Student Experience will oversee the investigation.
Formal Complaint Stage 2: Student Counselling & Development is under the remit of the Vice President for the Student Experience. If you consider that the complaint has not been adequately addressed by Formal Complaint Stage 1 above, you can request a review by submitting another updated Formal Complaint Form to the Vice President for the Student Experience. Receipt of your submission will be acknowledged within 14 days.
The Head of Department will also be asked to submit his/her own response, including what reasonable steps have been or could be taken to resolve matters. The Vice President for the Student Experience, in consultation with other relevant University authorities, will address your concerns fully and provide you with a written response about the outcome of the review.
Please note: Confidentiality at this stage (Formal Complaint Stage) rests within the University and not solely with those noted previously.
If the internal investigation, at whatever level, finds that a counsellor or staff member has acted professionally and appropriately, the University will take no further action against that person.
If the internal investigation finds that a counsellor or staff member has acted in an unprofessional manner, or has breached the relevant ethical code, this may then result in a verbal or written warning regarding future conduct and/or referral of the matter to UCC's Human Resources Department for further action and/or referral of the matter to relevant professional bodies.
If the internal investigation finds that a complaint is false and/or malicious then the University may decide to take appropriate action against the complainant.