The Parochial Church Council (PCC) is committed to its role that primarily includes “cooperation with the minister in promoting in the parish the whole mission of the Church, pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical.” There may be a time when you feel the need to raise a concern. This procedure is for you if you are unhappy about a matter for which the PCC is responsible and which you reasonably feel has adversely affected you. The time limits stated throughout this policy should be regarded as the maximum time allocated. Dealing with concerns as soon as they may have arisen is always preferable.
1. Scope of this policy
This policy applies to concerns that any person or persons may have regarding any aspect of the activities or affairs of the Parish Church of St Michael & All Angels, Offham or St Mary the Virgin Church, West Malling respectively; hereafter known as “the Church”.
It includes concerns of members of the Church, of others assisting with or interacting with the Church and the activities of the Church. It also includes concerns of the residents of our parish for which the PCC may be responsible.
A concern, within Paragraph 4 below, although relating to a matter which arose in the past is included in this policy, even where the past matter itself would have fallen outside this policy by virtue of Paragraph 2 and Appendix 1.
It includes concerns relating to acts or omissions of the Church, the policies of the Church and the conduct of anyone appointed or elected by or on behalf of the Church to a post or role, whether they are ordained or lay, paid or unpaid, except in the situations covered under Paragraph 2 below.
2. When this Policy does Not Apply because the concern raised relates to matters that are outside the responsibility of the PCC
See Appendix 1.
3. When this Policy does Not Apply otherwise
The PCC cannot please everyone all the time. What we undertake is a willingness to listen and if possible assist in resolving the concern raised.
Anonymous communications will be disregarded as concerns received by the Vicar and anyone else connected in any way with the PCC and the Church.
At each PCC meeting, a standing agenda item of Correspondence will enable the Vicar to report any concerns received. If the Vicar considers any of those concerns to be abusive, malicious, vexatious or frivolous, the PCC and Incumbent together will decide if any are to be disregarded. Even if that happens, the concern has still been reported and minuted as part of the PCC meeting. For these (or such) sensitive matters, the PCC can declare items as a ‘confidential minute’, which means they are minuted in a separate document. While both the Minutes and the Confidential Minutes are filed together in the church’s official paper records, only the Minutes are publicly available.
Minuting such matters is important because it may later show a pattern either for the PCC or the Incumbent, or for the pastoral care of individual or individuals concerned, which may require further work if any are to be disregarded.
4. Raising Your Concern Informally
If you have a concern you must attempt to resolve it informally and within a reasonable period of time.
Informal steps include speaking to the person or persons responsible for the matter to which the concern relates. If that is not appropriate or possible, then speak to the Vicar. The Vicar will listen to your concern and try to both support you and help you resolve your concern informally in the first instance. The nature of the concern raised and the identity of the parties will be held in confidence by the Vicar.
Up to four weeks from the event giving rise to your concern will be regarded as a reasonable period of time.
No more than four weeks should be allocated to trying to find a solution, and wherever possible we would seek to resolve the concern within two weeks.
5. Raising Your Concern Formally
If your concern has not been resolved informally you may decide to lodge your concern formally. The following procedure must commence within four weeks from the conclusion of the informal procedure.
You must communicate in writing or by email so that we can ensure all matters are recorded and the concern is dealt with by the appropriate person or persons. The communication must:
- Provide your full name and address;
- State that you are raising a Formal Concern;
- Set out your concern with details to include names of people, places and dates relevant to the nature of the concern. Any supporting documents should be attached;
- State what steps have been taken to resolve the concern informally;
- State what you would regard as a satisfactory resolution to your concern.
This communication must be addressed to the PCC Secretary who will record receipt of the communication. Within two weeks you will receive confirmation in writing or by email that your communication has been received and stating:
- The members of the PCC Complaints Committee who will deal with your concern;
- How it will be dealt with;
- When it will be dealt with;
- When you will receive an answer (see 6. below).
6. Formal Dealing with Your Concern
The PCC’s Complaints Committee will deal with such communications. The work of this committee is carried out confidentially and the PCC Secretary keeps a record of all discussions. No PCC member with prior involvement in the issues complained about will be included on the Committee and it may be necessary to use substitutes (previously agreed by the PCC) to ensure the Committee can meet within the set time. A long-serving PCC member, with good experience of PCC processes, will chair the Committee.
The PCC Secretary will inform the committee that your communication has been received and arrange a meeting of the membership of the Complaints Committee, or such members as are not referred to by name in your communication. The Vicar will not sit on this committee.
Prior to any meeting you will receive an invitation to attend so that you can present your concern, as previously recorded by you in writing, to the committee in person. You may bring a friend for support only. You must send a confirmation or refusal of attendance to the PCC Secretary at least three days before the date of the meeting given in the invitation. The meeting should be conducted as informally as possible, albeit recognising it is a minuted meeting of the PCC’s sub-committee.
The Chair of the Committee will outline the purpose of the meeting, reflecting what you have written in your formal communication. Confidentiality will be emphasised.
Members will be introduced and you will be invited to speak. Members may wish to ask questions for clarification. The meeting will end when you and the Members feel there is nothing further to be stated. It would be usual for the Chair of the meeting to conclude matters after one hour. The PCC Secretary will have minuted the meeting.
If you do not want to attend the meeting you must reply to the PCC Secretary declining the invitation. The PCC Complaints Committee will consider your concern solely on the basis of your written communication in which you raised your Formal Concern.
7. Right of Reply
The person or persons about whom the concern has been raised must be permitted a right of reply. In order to provide for such a right of reply, that person or persons must have a copy of the communication containing the Formal concern.
If the communication includes your postal address, email address or other communication details, these will be blanked out from the copy the person(s) sees. The PCC’s file will be the official record of proceedings.
The procedures, dates and time frames set out in sections 5. and 6. above shall apply to and be provided for that person or persons.
8. Conclusions of the Complaints Committee
The Committee will draw up its conclusions and reasons. These will be minuted by the PCC Secretary and communicated to you within four weeks of receiving your formal communication and will be copied to the person or persons about whom the concern was raised, and to the PCC, including the Vicar.
This will be the FINAL response by the PCC to your concern.
If you remain dissatisfied, you may wish to consider contacting the Charity Commission.
Parochial Church Councils are independent bodies but are regulated by the Charities Commission as charities.
The Charity Commission can be contacted either via the website www.gov.uk/complain-about-charity, or by writing to them at Charity Commission First Contact, PO Box 1227, Liverpool L69 3UG.
THIS POLICY DOES NOT APPLY where your concern is about:
- The Safeguarding of Children and Vulnerable Adults. In the first instance, please contact the Parish Safeguarding Officer or the Diocesan Safeguarding Team, www.rochester.anglican.org/safeguarding.
- Your Employment by the PCC – please refer to and follow the Grievance procedure provided for you in your terms and conditions of employment.
- Licensed or Commissioned Ministers ( eg. Readers and Lay Ministers) – Raise the matter with the Vicar. If the matter remains unresolved, contact the Archdeacon of Tonbridge, 8 Mill Stream Rise, Tonbridge, Kent, TN11 9FD or phone 01732 833840
- The Clergy – depending on the nature of your complaint, a variety of instruments may be applicable including their Statement of Particulars, the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy and the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. In the first instance, you should visit the Church of England website at https://www.churchofengland.org/about/leadership-and-governance/legal-services/clergy-discipline to find out more and be guided in how to raise a concern or make a formal complaint.
- Bullying and Harassment by adults – refer to the Diocesan Anti-Bullying and Harassment policy at https://rochester.anglican.org/resources/forms-and-guidance/
- Health and Safety or Data Protection. If you have a concern about the Church in either regard, the matter should be raised with the PCC in the first instance as the responsible body. If you feel your concern is not adequately dealt with, you should refer to the specific external organisations who oversee such matters in the UK.
Policy last updated: 18 May 2020
Approved by PCC: 22 May 2020
To be reviewed: May 2021