We value complaints and use information from them to help us improve our services. If something goes wrong or you are dissatisfied with our services, please tell us.

Information on our complaints process is available to download at the bottom of the page and there is also an Easy Read leaflet [PDF] available.

What is a complaint?

We regard a complaint as any expression of dissatisfaction about our action or lack of action, or about the standard of service provided by us or on our behalf.

What is covered by the complaints procedure?

You can complain about things like:

  • failure or refusal to provide a service
  • inadequate quality or standard of service, or an unreasonable delay in providing a service
  • an alleged failing in the way we have taken a decision, (this may need to be dealt with in conjunction with a separate review process).
  • dissatisfaction with one of our policies or its impact on the individual
  • failure to properly apply law, procedure or guidance when delivering services
  • failure to follow the appropriate administrative process
  • conduct, treatment by or attitude of a member of staff or contractor.

Your complaint may involve more than one service or be about someone working on our behalf.

What is not covered by the complaints procedure?

There are some things we can’t deal with through our complaints handling procedure. These include:

  • a routine first-time request for a service
  • a request for compensation only
  • issues that are in court or have already been heard by a court or a tribunal
  • disagreement with a decision where there is a statutory procedure for challenging that decision (such as an application review or abatement negotiation), or an established appeals process
  • a request for information under the Data Protection or Freedom of Information (Scotland) Acts
  • a grievance by a staff member or a grievance relating to employment or staff recruitment
  • a concern raised internally by a member of staff (which was not about a service they received, such as a whistleblowing concern)
  • a concern about a child or adult’s safety
  • an attempt to reopen a previously concluded complaint or to have a complaint reconsidered where we have already given our final decision
  • abuse or unsubstantiated allegations about our organisation or staff where such actions would be covered by our Unacceptable Actions Policy or equivalent policy; or
  • a concern about the actions or service of a different organisation, where we have no involvement in the issue (except where the other organisation is delivering services on our behalf).

Please note: This procedure is not a means to deal with all instances of challenges to the many decisions that we take on applications and accounts. It is only relevant to a SLAB decision should there be a clear and obvious dissatisfaction expressed in the way in which we have come to that decision.

If other procedures or rights of appeal will help you resolve your concerns, we will give information and advice to help you.

Who can complain?

Anyone who receives, requests or is directly affected by our services can make a complaint to us.

This includes representing someone who is dissatisfied with our service (for example, a relative, friend, advocate or adviser). If you are making a complaint on someone else’s behalf, you will normally need their written consent.

Please also read the section on Getting help to make your complaint.

How do you complain?

You can complain in person, by phone, in writing, or email.

It is easier for us to resolve complaints if you make them quickly and directly to the department concerned. Talk to a member of our staff in the department you are complaining about, and they can try to resolve any problems on the spot. When complaining, tell us:

  • Your full name and address
  • As much as you can about the complaint
  • What has gone wrong
  • How you want us to resolve the matter.

How long do you have to make a complaint?

Normally, you must make your complaint within six months of:

  • The event you want to complain about, or
  • Finding out that you have a reason to complain.

In exceptional circumstances, we may be able to accept a complaint after the time limit. If you feel that the time limit should not apply to your complaint, please tell us why.

What happens when you have complained?

We will always tell you who is dealing with your complaint.

Our complaints procedure has two stages:

Stage One – frontline response

We aim to resolve complaints quickly and close to where we provided the service. This could mean an on-the-spot apology and explanation if something has clearly gone wrong, and immediate action to resolve the problem.

We will give you our decision at Stage One in five working days or less, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

If you are not satisfied with the response we give at this stage, we will tell you what you can do next.

If you choose to, you can take your complaint to stage two. You must normally ask us to consider your complaint at stage two either:

  • within six months of the event you want to complain about or finding out that you have a reason to complain; or
  • within two months of receiving your stage one response (if this is later).

Stage Two – investigation

Stage Two deals with two types of complaint: those that have not been resolved at Stage One and those that are complex and require detailed investigation.

If you do not wish your complaint to be handled at stage one, you can ask us to handle it at stage two instead.

When using stage two we will:

  • Acknowledge receipt of your complaint within three working days
  • Confirm our understanding of the complaint we will investigate and what outcome you are looking for
  • Try to resolve your complaint where we can (in some cases we may suggest using an alternative complaint resolution approach, such as mediation); and
  • Give you a full response as soon as possible, normally within 20 working days, where we cannot resolve your complaint.

If our investigation will take longer than 20 working days, we will tell you. We will agree revised time limits with you and keep you updated on progress.

What if you're still dissatisfied?

After we have fully investigated, if you are still dissatisfied with our decision or the way we dealt with your complaint, you can ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) to look at it.

The SPSO cannot normally look at:

  • A complaint that has not completed our complaints procedure (so please make sure it has done so before contacting the SPSO)
  • Events that happened, or that you became aware of, more than a year ago
  • A matter that has been or is being considered in court.

Contact the SPSO

Website: www.spso.org.uk/contact-us

Freephone: 0800 377 7330

Address: SPSO, Bridgeside House, 99 McDonald Road, Edinburgh, EH7 4NS

[NB: If you would like to request a Freepost envelope from SPSO, please contact their freephone above or use the SPSO contact form.]

What if your complaint is about a solicitor?

Service provided or conduct

If your complaint concerns the service provided by your solicitor, including in the Public Defence Solicitors’ Office, the Civil Legal Assistance Office or the Solicitor Contact Line, you may also make a complaint to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC). This is an independent body set up by the Scottish Government to investigate all complaints about the service of the legal profession.

Contact the SLCC

By post: The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, 12-13 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh

Telephone: 0131 201 2130

Website: www.scottishlegalcomplaints.org.uk

Email: enquiries@scottishlegalcomplaints.org.uk

Legal aid work

We are not a complaint handling body for the legal professions and the SLCC is the appropriate organisation to raise concerns about the service or conduct of a solicitor.

However, we will consider activities undertaken by a solicitor to ensure work is necessary, reasonable and done in accordance with legal aid legislation and guidance.

Any such concerns can be sent to our Investigations Unit: SolicitorInvestigations@slab.org.uk

Getting help to make your complaint

We understand that you may be unable, or reluctant, to make a complaint yourself. We accept complaints from the representative of a person who is dissatisfied with our service.

We can take complaints from a friend, relative, or an advocate, if you have given them your consent to complain for you.

You can find out about advocates by contacting The Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance.

Telephone: 0131 510 9410

Email: enquiry@siaa.org.uk

Website: www.siaa.org.uk

You can also find out about advisers in your area through Citizens Advice Scotland.

We are committed to making our service easy to use for all members of the community. In line with our statutory equalities duties, we will always ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to help customers access and use our services.

If you have trouble putting your complaint in writing, or want this information in another language or format, such as large font, or Braille, please tell us in person, contact us on 0131 226 7061 or email us at general@slab.org.uk.

Our contact details

In person: The Scottish Legal Aid Board, Thistle House, 91 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh, EH12 5HE.

Our standard opening times are Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

Telephone: Our main switchboard telephone number is 0131 226 7061 (open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm).

Email: general@slab.org.uk

You can find specific team contact details on our Contact us page.


Customer Guide to Complaints leaflet

Information on our complaints process is also available as a downloadable leaflet.

File Type Size Date
Customer Guide to Complaints 230 KB | 31 March 2021 PDF 230 KB 31 March 2021