COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE

BAPT COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 The establishment of a Complaints Procedure is part of the continuing commitment of the British Association of Play Therapists (‘BAPT’) to ensure the professional practice of its members. Its purpose is as follows:-

• To safeguard and promote the welfare of the child;
• To provide a means of considering any complaint about an infringement of the BAPT Code of Ethics and Good Practice (Code of Ethics) on the part of a student or full member of BAPT;
• To protect the child, the Complainant and the member of BAPT.

1.2 Use of Language in this Document

• The person bringing the complaint shall be referred to as ‘the Complainant’;
• The person against whom the complaint is made shall be referred to as ‘the Respondent’;
• ‘The Chair Person’ means the Chair Person of the Complaints Committee;
• The Complaints Committee shall be ‘the Committee’;
• ‘The Chair’ means the Chair Person of BAPT (who is also the Chair Person of the Board of Directors);
• ‘The Code of Ethics’ means the BAPT Code of Ethics and Good Practice;
• ‘The Sitting Committee’ means those persons selected from the Committee members by the Chair Person to hear and determine a complaint at Stage 3 of these procedures.
• ‘The Board’ shall mean the Board of Directors of BAPT.
• ‘Days’ shall mean working days.

1.3 When it is not appropriate to use the Complaints Procedure

The Complaints Procedure should not be used about any child protection issue. Child protection complaints should always be made to the Area Child Protection Committee (ACPC) for the area in which the child resides. Please note that the ACPC will be replaced by the Local Safeguarding Children Board when the National Service Framework for Children is implemented.

2. MAKING A COMPLAINT

2.1 The Complainant must put their complaint in writing to the Chair Person. If a child or young person under the age of sixteen wants to make a complaint, the complaint should be put in writing on behalf of that child or young person by a responsible adult.

2.2 Any complaint must be lodged within three years of the alleged breach (or the alleged breach coming to light) unless the Complainant is a child and then it is within three years of his / her majority.

2.3 Any expenses and costs incurred by the Respondent and the Complainant shall be met by themselves and shall not be met by BAPT.

2.4 To initiate the Complaints Procedure the Complainant must present a signed and dated letter which includes the following:

(1) The name and address of the Complainant
(2) The name and address of the client (if not the Complainant)
(3) The name and work address of the Respondent
(4) Details of the services used (i.e. dates of contact with the Respondent and any other relevant details concerning the services used)
(5) A summary of the complaint
(6) Any other relevant information

3. CRITERIA FOR ACCEPTING A COMPLAINT

3.1 The following are the criteria that the Committee will consider in deciding whether to accept a complaint:

• The Respondent is a student or full member of BAPT;
• The timescale is adhered to;
• The complaint concerns a breach of a clause or clauses of the relevant Code of Ethics;
• The complaint is within the jurisdiction of BAPT;
• When the complaint is under investigation by the police or within the jurisdiction of any court or tribunal BAPT will not usually accept and investigate the complaint; and
• The Complainant must have either used the services of the Respondent or is complaining on behalf of a child or young person with whom the Respondent has worked.
• If the complaint is being investigated under the Complaints Procedure of another body/bodies, the Committee may decide to await the outcome of that procedure before making a decision about whether to accept and investigate the complaint

3.2 If the above criteria are not met, the Committee shall not hear the complaint.

Preliminary Evaluation of Complaint

3.3 The Committee shall review each complaint to determine if the complaints criteria have been met. If the criteria have not been satisfied in full, the Committee shall not hear the complaint.

3.4 Other Requirements and Limitations

Complaints by Members or Non members

3.4.1 Anonymous complaints – the Committee will not proceed with any anonymous complaint

3.4.2 Complaints against non-members – if the complaint does not involve a full or student member of BAPT, the Committee shall inform the Complainant that it will not hear such a complaint and may suggest alternative associations or agencies that may hold jurisdiction.

Simultaneous complaints

3.4.3 When there is more than one Complainant against the Respondent, the Committee may in its sole discretion choose to combine the cases or to keep them separate.

Complaints of its own motion

3.4.4 When ever the Committee is made aware of an apparent breach by one of its members (full member or student member) of the Code of Ethics, the Committee reserves the right in its sole discretion to invoke the Complaints Procedure of its own volition and investigate such apparent violation of the Code of Ethics as if a Complainant had brought a complaint against the member in question.

4. THE COMPLAINTS COMMITTEE: COMPOSITION AND PROCESS

4.1.1. Committee members will be appointed by the Board, to be ratified by the professional membership at the next AGM following his / her appointment or the next EGM, whichever is the sooner;

4.1.2. Committee members will form a Pool from which a Panel / Committee to consider a complaint at its different stages shall be selected. No Committee member shall form part of the pool unless they have first undertaken training except where this condition would make it impossible to proceed with the consideration of a Complaint;

4.1.3. For three years from the AGM of 2008 one third of the Committee in place in 2005 shall stand down annually in rotation and be eligible for re-election to serve a further two years. Where more than one third of the Committee is due to stand down, this shall be decided by drawing lots;

4.1.4. Excepting the arrangements at 4.1.3 above, Committee members including the Chairperson and Vice-chairperson shall serve for a maximum of five years from the time of joining the Pool subject to re-election by the Membership of BAPT at the next General Meeting after three years of joining the Pool;

4.1.5. Trained Committee members who stand down shall be invited to form a reserve pool from whom selection may be made to consider a complaint in the event that it is not possible to put together a Panel or Committee of members who do not know the Respondent;

4.2 The Committee shall include the following:

(1) A Chair Person who shall not be a member of the Board;
(2) A Vice Chair Person who may be a member of the Board but who may not be the Chair;
(3) Committee members who will be full members of the Association;
(4) A lay member or members at such time as it shall become feasible for the Board to make such an appointment or appointments;

4.3 An administrative secretary will be available to take minutes of the proceedings and copies of these minutes will be provided to both the Complainant and the Respondent.

4.4 Subject to the proviso at 15.1.1 below the Chair Person and in his / her absence the Vice Chair Person will sit as the Chair Person in any proceedings to hear a formal complaint.

4.5 The Committee shall have the right to access legal advice as it deems necessary at all stages of the proceedings.

5. CORRESPONDENCE AND DOCUMENTATION

5.1 Use of Correspondence

5.1.1 The Committee shall conduct as much of its business as is practicable through written correspondence;

5.1.2 The Committee shall make limited use of email with the following conditions and provisos:

• The Chair Person and Committee members all have access to email and agree its use under the conditions set out below;
• Any member of the Committee sending an email also forwards it to the administration office of BAPT who then forwards it to all other members;
• The name of the Respondent shall not appear in any part of the email;
• The name of the Complainant shall not appear in any part of the email;
• The name of the person who holds legal responsibility for the Complainant (if the Complainant is under sixteen years of age) shall not appear in any part of the email.

5.2 Personal Response

5.2.1 The Committee recognises the right of the Respondent to legal representation. If the Respondent instructs solicitors and if the Committee is notified who is acting on the Respondent’s behalf, further correspondence may be conducted through the Respondent’s legal representative.

5.2.2 The Respondent must respond to any charges and recommendations of the Committee either personally or through their legal representative.

5.3 Transcription of Audio Tapes and Video Tapes

It shall be the responsibility of the individual or entity submitting to the Committee an audio tape, video tape or similar data compilation to provide an accurate transcription of the information it contains. Copies of these should always be provided to the other party. The Chair Person may reject any audio tape, video tape or similar compilation if unaccompanied by a transcription.

5.4 Delivery of Documentation

5.4.1 All documentation must be sent recorded delivery to the administration office at BAPT as stated in the BAPT’s publications from time to time;

5.4.2 All email must be forwarded to the administration office at BAPT: .

6. STAGE ONE – EVALUATION OF THE COMPLAINT

In accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998, the Respondent’s home address will not be divulged without their express permission, with the exception, in some cases, that the home address will be the work address.

6.1 On receipt of the initial written complaint from the Complainant the Chair Person shall within ten working days acknowledge the complaint in writing to both the Complainant and the Respondent.

6.2 The Chair Person (or in his/her absence the Vice Chair Person) in consultation with
two other members of the Committee shall review each complaint to determine whether the criteria for accepting the complaint has been met and if so whether there is a case to answer. The Committee shall notify the Complainant and the Respondent in writing within 30 days of the receipt of the written complaint (or within 30 days of receipt of the additional information under 6.4 below) if there is a prima facie case to answer.

6.3 If the complaint received is of such serious nature to suggest that users of the services provided by the Respondent may be at particular and immediate risk the Chair Person in consultation with the Vice Chair Person and two other members of the Committee may issue an Order to temporarily suspend membership to BAPT and shall inform the Chair of the action taken. The Respondent will have 7 working days to reply against suspension before any final decision is made.

6.4 If there is insufficient information to determine whether the criteria have been met the Chair Person shall write to the Complainant requesting additional information. The Complainant will have 30 days to respond.

6.5 The Respondent shall be informed in writing of any such request and its outcome.

6.6 If the Committee under 6.2 above notifies the Complainant and the Respondent that there is no case to answer then the complaint and the relevant proceedings will be terminated with immediate effect.

6.7 If the Committee under 6.2 above notifies the Complainant and Respondent that there is a case to answer then the notification under 6.2 shall contain the specific Principle or Principles of the Code of Ethics which the Committee considers to have been contravened. The Respondent shall also be sent a copy of the complaint with the notification letter and will be asked by the Committee to submit an initial written response.

6.8 The Respondent shall have thirty working days from the date of the notification under 6.2 and 6.7 above within which to submit his initial written response to the Committee.

7. STAGE TWO – INFORMAL RESOLUTION OF THE COMPLAINT

7.1 Within ten working days of receipt of the Respondent’s written initial response under 6.8 (or expiry of the period allocated for the submission of an initial response) the Chair Person together with two Committee members shall consider the complaint and the response to assess whether it would be appropriate to attempt to resolve the complaint informally.

7.2 If informal resolution is deemed appropriate the Chair Person shall invite both / all parties to consider this, and offer mediation without prejudice by an independent person who may or may not be a member of BAPT acceptable to all parties.

7.3 If all parties accept this course the mediator may set up an informal meeting of the parties within thirty working days of being appointed to try without prejudice to reach a resolution of the complaint. If a settlement is reached that settlement of the complaint shall be recorded in writing, dated and signed by all parties, and shall be submitted to the Committee for its approval. If the Committee approves the settlement, this shall be recorded in writing, signed and dated by the Chair Person and the complaint and the relevant proceedings shall be terminated. If the settlement is not approved by the Committee this shall also be recorded in writing together with the reasons, and shall be signed and dated by the Chair Person.

7.4 If the Committee determines that the complaint is of a serious nature or if the parties have not been able to reach a resolution informally within 30 working days of the Chair Person’s invitation to consider mediation under 7.2 above or if the Committee does not approve the settlement under 7.3 above then the complaint shall move to Stage Three of these procedures. The invocation of Stage 3 of these procedures shall be notified to the Complainant and the Respondent in writing.

8. STAGE THREE - THE SITTING COMMITTEE

8.1 The Sitting Committee shall comprise a minimum of three persons selected by the Chair Person (or in his/her absence the Vice Chair Person), to include (wherever possible) one or two lay people, to hear and determine this Stage of the complaint.

8.2 The Chair Person will ensure that the proposed Sitting Committee members do not have a conflict of interest and appear otherwise able to apply fairly the Code of Ethics based solely on the record in the particular case.

8.3 It shall be the responsibility of the Chair Person to review all the documentation that has been received and to request any further documents that may be needed from the Complainant, the Respondent or any other person. The Complainant shall have thirty working days from the notification under 7.4 in which to submit a response to the Respondent’s initial response (if any) made under 6.8 and/or any additional evidence the Complainant deems appropriate and pertinent to the complaint.

8.4 The Respondent shall be sent a letter enclosing a copy of the Complainant’s written submissions made under 8.3. If no response is made by the Complainant under 8.3 the Respondent shall be informed of this fact and invited to supply any additional information / evidence he or she considers appropriate within thirty working days. A copy of the Respondent’s additional evidence will be made available to the Complainant.

8.5 The letter under paragraph 8.4 above shall contain a precise description of the alleged behaviours at issue and identify the specific section(s) of the Code of Ethics that the Respondent is alleged to have breached.

8.6 The Chair Person shall enclose a copy of the evidence submitted to date by the Complainant or on the Complainant’s behalf that will be included in the record before the Sitting Committee; a copy of the Code of Ethics and the Complaints Procedure will also be provided.

8.7 Documentation should be submitted in the expectation it will be shared fully with both / all parties to the complaint.

8.8 Full documentation will be circulated to the Sitting Committee including any further documentation that the Complainant and Respondent wish to submit at this stage.

8.9 In the event that one or neither party submits further documentation the Sitting Committee shall proceed on the basis of the information before it.

8.10 The Respondent may wish to seek professional advice and guidance. It may also be appropriate for the Respondent to obtain legal advice.

8.11 When the thirty working days period under 8.4 has expired the Chair Person shall within ten working days set a date for the complaint to be heard, whether or not further documentation has been received, and shall ensure that a bundle of all documents is provided to both parties and the members of the Sitting Committee. It shall be at the Chair Person’s discretion whether to accept late submitted documentation.

9. THE HEARING BY THE SITTING COMMITTEE

9.1 The convening of the Sitting Committee shall take place within thirty working days of the date of notification to the Respondent and the Complainant;

9.2 The Complainant and Respondent shall within 10 working days of receiving the letter notifying them of the date of the Hearing confirm to the Chair Person their attendance at the Hearing.

9.3 The Respondent has the right to legal representation or lay support at the Hearing. The Sitting Committee has the right to refuse the attendance of witnesses at the convening of the Sitting Committee if their attendance is deemed inappropriate.

9.4 The Sitting Committee expects the attendance of the Respondent, Complainant and/or the person who holds legal responsibility for the Complainant (if the Complainant is under sixteen years of age). Failure to attend without good reason or notice will mean the Chair Person shall have the power to decide:

(1) To proceed with the Hearing;
(2) To adjourn the Hearing to a date not less than thirty working days in advance;
(3) To terminate the proceedings; or
(4) To refer the matter for consideration to the Board.

9.5 Where any witnesses are to be called by the Respondent or the Complainant a written statement of their views shall have been submitted during the relevant phases of Stage 3, and any witnesses not having provided such a statement can only be heard at the hearing with leave of the Sitting Committee.

9.6 The Sitting Committee will not rely upon information submitted unless it has been shared with the Respondent and the Complainant and they have had a chance to respond thereto.

9.7 The Sitting Committee shall review the information before it and on a unanimous decision may adjudicate as follows:

9.7.1 That there is insufficient evidence to support a finding of one or more breaches to the Code of Ethics and there is no case to answer;

9.7.2 There is sufficient evidence to support a finding of one or more breaches of the Code of Ethics and the complaint is upheld.

10. THE FINDINGS OPEN TO THE SITTING COMMITTEE

10.1 Professional Misconduct

A finding of professional misconduct signifies that the practitioner has contravened the ethical and behavioural standards that should reasonably be expected of a member of the profession of Play Therapists. Misconduct is defined as acting in contravention of the written and unwritten rules of the profession.

10.2 Professional Malpractice

A finding of professional malpractice signifies that the services for which the Play Therapist is responsible have fallen below the standards that would reasonably be expected of a Play Therapist exercising reasonable care and skills. Examples of malpractice include, but are not restricted to: incompetence, negligence, recklessness, the provision of an inadequate professional service.

A finding of serious malpractice is appropriate if the malpractice is of sufficient seriousness to merit a period of suspension of membership of BAPT.

10.3 Bringing the Profession into Disrepute

A finding of bringing the profession into disrepute signifies that the practitioner has acted in such a disgraceful way that that the public’s trust in the profession might reasonably be undermined if they were accurately informed about the circumstances of the case.

10.3.1 A finding under this heading must amount to "disgraceful conduct in a professional respect”. This involves consideration of three elements:

(1) Conduct that is regarded as "disgraceful” need not amount to moral turpitude or be restricted to acts of serious immorality;

(2) The conduct must have been conduct that has some connection with the Professional role in order to be considered as "failing within a professional respect”. It ought not to be concerned with matters that can reasonably be viewed as solely personal and private.

(3) "Conduct in a professional respect” is not confined to conduct in pursuit of the profession in question.

11. SANCTIONS

11.1 If the Sitting Committee concludes that the Respondent is in breach of the Code of
Ethics and that a sanction should be imposed, then it will decide on one or more of the following:

(1) Advisory Consultant Requirement:

This is someone who is appointed by BAPT (and paid for by the Respondent) who will oversee the work of the Respondent and at the end of a three month period shall give a report to the Board on whether there remain any concerns about the Respondent’s practice as a Play Therapist.

If the Respondent is a BAPT Registered Supervisor, his or her registration as a supervisor may be withdrawn indefinitely or for a period and they will need to make a re-application to become a Supervisor in the future.

(2) Supervised Practice

The Respondent is advised that they will need to undertake a period of supervision by a qualified and experienced play therapist that is approved by BAPT as a registered supervisor for a period of not less than six months, at the end of which a report on the practice of the Respondent shall be submitted to the Board. This report will address and give consideration as to whether the Respondent has satisfied the supervisor that the concerns raised in their practice have been addressed and there are no longer any concerns about their practice as a Play Therapist.

If there remain concerns about the Respondent the Board may:

(a) Require the Respondent to continue to receive supervision from a very experienced supervisor approved by BAPT for a further defined period.

(b) Remove the Respondent’s name from the BAPT Register of BAPT approved supervisors, if therein listed. The Respondent’s name can be removed if necessary only for a defined period but the Respondent will be required to make a fresh application to the Board to be a supervisor again if their name has at any time been removed.

(c) Inform an employer or training establishment of any decision to remove the Respondent’s name of BAPT approved supervisors, if the Respondent fails to do this themselves within 30 days.

(d) Recommend that the Respondent is not suitable to practise as a Play Therapist and terminate the Respondent’s membership.

The Respondent will be under a probationary period whilst 1 or 2 above is in process.

(3) Suspension of Membership

The Respondent’s membership will be suspended for a specified period of time to be followed by a review, where there are concerns that suggest the Respondent needs further training before resuming practice as a Play Therapist.

11.2 No Sanction imposed

The Sitting Committee can decide that there has been a breach of the Code of Ethics and issue no specific sanction or the Board may issue a written warning outlining areas of poor practice.

12. NOTIFICATION OF FINDINGS

12.1 The Complainant and Respondent will be notified of the decision and, where applicable, of the sanction within fifteen working days of the Hearing.

12.2 Any decisions made with regard to (a) the removal of the Respondent’s name from
the register and (b) a referral to the register of people who are not suitable to work with children and vulnerable adults will, in every circumstance, be based on the consideration of public interest and the severity of the findings.

12.3 If the complaint is upheld by the Sitting Committee (and Appeals Panel) details of the decision and sanction will be published on the BAPT website and in the Magazine.

12.4 The notification of findings under this section is subject to the right of appeal as outlined below.

13. APPEAL AGAINST THE COMMITTEE’S DECISION

13.1 Any appeal must be in writing specifying under what grounds it is submitted and accompanied by any supporting documentation. It must be served on the Chair within 28 working days of the date of the written notification of the decision and/ or sanction of the Sitting Committee.

13.2 Whilst the appeal is lodged then all external notification of sanctions including publication in the Magazine is held until the outcome of the appeal is determined.

13.3 The parties have a right to seek legal / professional advice.

13.4 Where the sanction the Respondent has received by the Sitting Committee is a suspension of membership, then the Respondent shall remain suspended from practising as a BAPT-registered Play Therapist until the outcome of the Appeal.

14. GROUNDS FOR APPEAL

14.1 The Respondent may appeal on any of the following grounds:

(1) The facts were found against the weight of the evidence;

(2) There is evidence to suggest that a procedural impropriety may have had a
material effect on the finding and the decision of the Sitting Committee; or

(3) There is new evidence which was not previously available to the Committee.

14.2 The documentation will be considered by an Appeals assessor who will decide whether there are grounds for the Appeal. If a decision is made that grounds exist, both parties will be informed.

15. APPEALS PANEL PROCEDURE

15.1 Composition of the Appeals Panel

15.1.1 Upon the receipt of the application for appeal, the Chair shall designate an Appeals Panel of three people, which may include the Chair and where possible at least one lay person, who have not been involved at any previous stage in the hearing of the complaint.

15.1.2 The Chair shall notify the other party of the Appellant’s decision to appeal, the date when the appeal will be heard and the grounds on which the appeal is made;

15.1.3 Both parties shall have the right to be present at the Appeal hearing at their own expense;

15.1.4 Where the appeal is made on the basis of new evidence brought by the Appellant a copy of this evidence shall be sent to the other party who shall have the right to submit a written response which must be received at least 10 working days before the Appeal hearing.

15.2 Consideration and vote by Appeals Panel

Within thirty days of receipt of the Appellant’s application to appeal the members of the Appeal Panel shall meet to hear the appeal. Having heard or in other manner received the submissions of all parties, the Appeal Panel shall confer with each other and, on the basis of the verbal representation and written documentation provided and deliberations among themselves, shall decide:

1) There is sufficient evidence to satisfy any grounds for an appeal, in which case the Appeals Panel shall vote to take one of the following actions:

(a) Overturn either the decision and/or the sanction/s imposed by the Sitting Committee

(b) Modify the sanction/s imposed

(c) Allow for a re-hearing

2) There is sufficient evidence to uphold the original Sitting Committee decision and sanction/s, in which case these decisions and sanctions will be accepted and adopted.


15.3 Notification

15.3.1 The Chair of the Appeals Panel will notify the Chair of BAPT in writing of the decision of the Appeals Panel;

15.3.2 The Chair of BAPT shall inform the Respondent and the Complainant of the Appeals Panel’s decision.

15.3.3 The decision of the Appeals Panel shall be final.

16. LAPSED MEMBERSHIP

Failure to renew membership or resignation of membership to BAPT during a complaints investigation will not terminate or invalidate the process of the Complaints Procedure.

17. EFFECTIVE DATE

The Complaints Procedure of the BAPT will apply to all complaints received after 10th June 2008 and shall replace all previous Complaints Procedures.

18. SUPPORT FOR RESPONDENTS

18.1 BAPT recommends that all members who become the subject of a complaint should be supported and have the entitlement to select the manner of support they require during the course of the enquiry into the complaint against them. This help and advice may be provided by a member of the Board provided that such member of the Board informs the Chair of their involvement and does not become a member of the Committee, Sitting Committee and/or Appeals Panel whilst the complaint is subject to these procedures. Support may be provided by an ordinary member of BAPT, subject to the same exclusions from involvement in the complaint procedures.

18.2 The Chair should provide protection for members of the association in the face of fictitious and persistent complaints.

18.3 Written guidance should be provided to all members of BAPT which describes the Complaints Procedure and their rights and responsibilities within it.

19. CONSIDERATION OF DIVERSITY ISSUES

The principle and practice of maintaining and upholding equality in respect of ethnic, cultural and religious diversity, gender, age and sexual orientation shall be maintained throughout the Complaints Procedure to enable those conducting complaints to be alert to the possibility of discrimination in the initiation of the complaint and within the investigatory process itself. The Complaints Procedure adheres to a clear condemnation of oppressive and discriminatory behaviour, and it is BAPT’s determination neither to collude nor to tolerate such behaviour in any form.

20. COMPLAINTS

There are no current complaints.


(Revised April 2013)