Making a complaint

Resolving an issue informally

Sometimes it's possible to resolve a problem quickly by talking to the people involved, without going through any formal procedures (but be careful about missing any deadlines if you do need to go to court). It's always a good idea to seek advice before raising an issue directly with the person(s) involved. See Getting help and advice.

If you feel able to, you should consider raising the problem with the person, organisation or public authority that you feel has breached your human rights, either by speaking to them or writing a letter. You should explain the issue and say that you feel you have a complaint on human rights grounds, and ask for a response to your complaint.

Alternatively, if you don't think you are able to speak to them yourself, you could consider finding an advocate to support and help you get your views across.

What is an advocate?
An advocate is someone who can represent and defend your views, needs, wishes, worries and rights if you do not feel able to do this yourself. Advocates can also help you to participate in and make decisions. They are wholly independent and should be there to help you, not to get personally involved in your case. They are not the same as legal advocates, such as lawyers, who have specialist legal knowledge and training. Legal advocates represent people formally, in courts or tribunals.

Find out more about advocates by contacting one of the organisations above in Getting help and advice.

Complaining within an organisation

If your complaint relates to an organisation (such as an employer or a service provider) and the organisation has a formal internal complaints system, you should use that as a first step.

If not, you could make a complaint to the decision-maker / relevant person and / or that person’s superior. It’s a good idea to keep a written record of what has happened to you and when, as well as who you’ve spoken to, what action you’ve taken and any response you receive.

Help with making a complaint

If you need help in thinking about or making a complaint, you could contact a local or specialist advocacy organisation:

If you have used an internal complaints process and the problem has not been resolved to your satisfaction, you should check whether there is a process for making an internal appeal before you do anything else. 

Using complaints procedures

Sometimes pointing out the human rights implications of a situation may not change things. The person or organisation concerned may refuse to listen to you, or may disagree that there is a problem. Alternatively, you may decide that the situation is best approached more formally.

If your complaint relates to a public authority, it may be better to use the organisation's formal complaints procedure before taking legal action (but, again, remember the time limit for legal action may run out before the complaints process has finished). All public authority service providers must have a complaints procedure, setting out how people who use their services, or those acting on their behalf, can make a formal complaint.

If you have already gone through the public authority’s complaints procedure and the problem has not been resolved to your satisfaction, you can register your complaint (see Complaining to an external organisation).

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