ORE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
Complaints Policy and Procedure
Table of Contents
What is a complaint? 3
Our standards for handling complaints 4
How to complain to us 5
Service complaints procedure 7
If you are still dissatisfied 7
Vexatious and repetitive complaints, and unreasonable or abusive behaviour 10
Recording complaints 11
Contacting us 11
Reasonable adjustments and alternative formats 12
Comments and non-service complaints 12
Vexatious Complaints, Unreasonable and Abusive Behaviour Policy 13
The Ore Community Association is committed to providing a high quality, transparent and accessible service to everyone we deal with. In order to do this we need you to tell us when we get things wrong. We want to help resolve your complaint as quickly as possible.
We handle any expression of dissatisfaction with our service which calls for a response as a complaint. We listen to your complaints, treat them seriously, and learn from them so that we can continuously improve our service.
What is a complaint?
A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction, whether justified or not.
Our policy covers complaints about:
the standard of service you should expect from us
the behaviour of our staff in delivering that service
any action, or lack of action, by our staff or others engaged on Commission business
We refer to these complaints as "service complaints".
Our complaints policy does not cover:
comments about our policies or policy decisions
dissatisfaction or complaints expressed with our policies or decisions about individual cases, funding, or requests for legal advice and assistance
matters that have already been fully investigated through this complaints procedure
We refer to these types of comments or complaints as ‘non-service complaints’. These are handled differently, as set out in the ‘Comments and Non-service complaints’ section on page 12.
Our standards for handling complaints
We can receive complaints by letter or email, or alternatively if required by virtue of reasonable adjustments. We treat all complaints seriously.
You can expect to be treated with courtesy, respect and fairness at all times. We expect that you will also treat our staff dealing with your complaint with the same courtesy, respect and fairness.
We will treat your complaint in confidence .
We will deal with your service complaint promptly. We will acknowledge receipt of a written complaint within five working days where we have a return address and you can expect to have a full reply within 20 working days. In a few cases we will not be able to send a full reply within 20 working days of receipt, for example if your complaint is very complex. If this happens, we will tell you the reason why and let you know when we will be able to reply in full, keeping you fully informed of progress.
You can find further information in our Annual Report and Accounts on the number and categories of service complaints, and the percentage of those upheld.
We will not treat you less favourably than anyone else because of your:
sex or legal marital or same-sex partnership status: this includes family status, responsibility for dependants, and gender (including gender reassignment, whether proposed, commenced or completed)
colour or race: this includes ethnic or national origin or nationality
religious or political beliefs, or trade union affiliation
any other unjustifiable factors, for example language difficulties, age, pregnancy and maternity.
Third Party Reporting
Complainants may wish to have a third party act on their behalf. A third party is any person or organisation acting on behalf of or making enquiries for the complainant. For example, third parties may include:
professionals such as social workers, community psychiatric nurses, doctors or solicitors
family members or friends
Where a third party is helping a complainant with a particular complaint, we need written consent to that effect. Where we have this authority, we will endeavour to take all possible steps to keep the third party informed of progress on the complaint.
We do not need written consent if a MP or elected Councillor is helping a constituent with a complaint, and we can disclose information to them in response to their enquiries.
Also, some lawyers and attorneys are legally empowered in certain circumstances to act on behalf of a complainant, and consent to disclose information is not required.
All complaints received will be dealt with confidentially and in accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998, subject to the need to disclose information as required by statutory authorities, and/or as a result of statutory, legal or parliamentary obligations placed on the Commission.
How to complain to us
If you wish to make a complaint, you can do so by email or letter.
If you are disabled, and need a reasonable adjustment to ensure you can register your complaint, you can contact us alternatively by:
telephone (one of our officers will help you by writing out your complaint)
asking a member of staff to help you in writing out your complaint
Our contact details are in the Contacting Us section below. If you require different adjustments, let us know and we will try and put those arrangements in place where we can.
How we will respond to your complaint
Service complaints procedure
We have a two-stage service complaints handling procedure, explained above. At each stage it will help us to resolve your complaint quickly if you can give us as much clarity and detail as possible, including providing any documents and correspondence and stating that you are making a complaint. If we do not have all the details required to deal with the complaint, we may contact you and ask you for further information.
The Centre Manager is responsible for managing the handling of service complaints including notifying you of the outcome.
This is the first opportunity for us to resolve your dissatisfaction. We expect the majority of complaints to be resolved at this stage. On receipt of your complaint we will contact aTrustee and ask them to respond to your complaint. This includes any service complaints about our former services where we still retain relevant information.
If you are dissatisfied with the response at stage 1, you may request a review. This will be carried out by the Chairman of Trustees. Your request together with all subsequent correspondence relating to it should be sent to our Centre Manager, who will forward your request to the relevant trustee to be reviewed.
If you are still dissatisfied
If having followed the two internal stages of our service complaints procedure you remain dissatisfied, you can ask to have your complaint reviewed by the Charity Commission. The Charity Commission will assess whether there is evidence of service failure or maladministration on our part. You have a maximum of 28 days from the date of the final response to register a complaint with the Charity Commission.
By Post: Charity Commission, P O Box 211, Bootle L20 7YX.
By telephone: 0300 066 9197
When we get things wrong we will act to:
accept responsibility and apologise
explain what went wrong and why, and
put things right by making any changes required
learn lessons from mistakes and change policies and practices where proportionate and sensible to do so
The action we take to put matters right (i.e. redress) in response to a service complaint can include any combination of the remedies set out in the list below. The general principle we follow is that complainants should, so far as possible, be put in the position they would have been in, had things not gone wrong.
The remedy applied needs to be proportionate and appropriate to the failure in service, and take into account what redress people seek when they complain. An apology is generally the most appropriate action, but other action may also be necessary in some circumstances.
List of remedies
A full apology, explaining what happened and/or what went wrong. ( an apology is not an acceptance of liability under Section 2 of the Compensation Act 2006)
Remedial action, which may include reviewing or changing a decision on the service given to an individual complainant
Provide the service required in first instance (immediately, if appropriate)
Putting things right (for example a change of procedure to prevent future difficulties of a similar kind, either for the complainant or others)
Training or supervising staff; or a combination of both
In the majority of cases, remedies other than financial compensation will satisfy the complainant. Financial compensation is a final option, and will only apply in cases where the loss or suffering is considered to warrant such a payment i.e. in cases of actual direct or indirect financial loss.
In circumstances where it is decided that our action or lack of action has resulted in maladministration, if the complainant has suffered direct or indirect financial loss, compensation may be payable.
Where it is decided, following investigation of a complaint, that a complainant has suffered an injustice and or hardship resulting in direct or indirect financial loss due to maladministration, we will determine whether compensation is an appropriate remedy by looking at all the evidence, including how much the complainant can demonstrate they have lost, or what extra costs they have incurred as a result of our maladministration.
The reason for our decision will be recorded by the decision maker and included in our response.
Vexatious and repetitive complaints, and unreasonable or abusive behaviour
All complaints will be dealt with in accordance with this policy. However, unreasonable or abusive complaint behaviour does happen from time to time, and vexatious and repetitive complaints are an increasing problem for public sector bodies. Difficulties in handling such situations can place strain on time and resources and can be stressful for staff who have to deal with these complex and challenging issues.
The Charity Commission -=defines unreasonably persistent complainants as “those who, because of the frequency or nature of their contact with an authority, hinder the authority’s consideration of their or other people’s complaints”.
Complaint details, outcomes and actions taken are recorded by us and used for service improvement. We record all complaints we receive and collate data from them to help us understand what types of problems are most prevalent, and how well we are doing to resolve them.
We value your feedback and expect to use it to help us to:
get things right in the future if we have not done so already
become more customer focused
be more open and accountable
act fairly and proportionately
seek continuous improvement
We will handle your information so that it is only processed and retained appropriately and legally, in line with data protection legislation.
Vexatious Complaints, Unreasonable and Abusive Behaviour Policy
This policy is integrated with other existing Commission policies. It does not address issues of health and safety directly, which are dealt with elsewhere.
This policy deals with service complaints which Commission staff consider vexatious or repetitive, and behaviour which we deem as unreasonable. It has been developed taking into account the Information Commissioner's (ICO) guidance under the Freedom of information Act 2000.
Some complaints may relate to our final decisions on matters such as:
applications for grants;
applications for legal assistance;
requests for enforcement action; or
requests for changes to our policies.
There are separate Commission procedures addressing such matters. Where those procedures have been exhausted, any subsequent complaints which are deemed to be vexatious or repetitive will also be dealt with in accordance with this policy.
Vexatious or repetitive complaints
We sometimes receive complaints which can be deemed ‘vexatious’ or ‘repetitive’. Some of these complaints can be costly to handle; or responding to them may be a disproportionate use of our staff’s time.
Deciding whether a complaint is vexatious requires us in each case to take into account the context and history of the complaint. We will consider whether the complaint is likely to cause unjustified distress, disruption or irritation. In particular, we will consider the following issues:
Could the complaint fairly be seen as obsessive?
Is the complaint harassing or causing distress to staff?
Does the complaint appear to be designed to cause disruption or annoyance?
Does the complaint lack any serious purpose or value?
The concern we will address is whether a complaint is vexatious in terms of the effect of the request on us and not whether the applicant is personally vexatious.
By its ordinary meaning, the term ‘vexatious’ refers to activity that “is likely to cause distress or irritation, literally to vex a person to whom it is directed”.
For a complaint to be vexatious, we will consider whether there is a proper or justified cause for it. We will not only examine the complaint itself, but also its context and history. That context may include other complaints made by the applicant to us (whether complied with or refused), the number and subject matter of the complaints, as well as the history of other dealings between the complainant and ourselves. The effect a complaint will have may be determined as much, or indeed more, by that context as by the complaint itself.
We will take into consideration the following factors (which are not an exhaustive list) when determining whether a complaint is vexatious:
where the complaint requests information which has already been provided
where the nature and extent of the complainant's correspondence with us suggests an obsessive approach to disclosure
where the tone adopted in correspondence by the complainant is confrontational and/or haranguing and demonstrates that the purpose is to argue and not really to obtain information
where the correspondence could reasonably be expected to have a negative effect on the health and well-being of our staff
where the complaint, viewed as a whole, appears to be intended simply to re-open issues which have been disputed several times before, and is, in effect, the pursuit of a complaint by alternative means
where responding to the complaint would likely entail substantial and disproportionate financial and administrative burdens for us
where it is not a one-off complaint, but a case of the same complaints having been made repeatedly, or where on repetition, the particulars of the complaints have been varied making it difficult to know exactly what the complainant is seeking and making it less likely that the request can be satisfied
No single one of the above factors would lead to a finding, by itself, that a complaint was vexatious. However, based on the strength of the various factors, taken together with the history and context of a complaint, a complaint may be deemed vexatious by the Commission.
It is important of course that all complaints from a single source should not be deemed vexatious just because some may have been so previously. This is particularly the case if, on the face of it, the complaint seems to be specific, stand alone and straight forward. However, it is entirely appropriate and necessary, when considering whether a complaint is vexatious, to view that complaint in context - if, say, the complaint is part of a wider grievance against the Commission and is, for example, inextricably linked to an individual’s quest to hold the Commission to account for perceived shortcomings.
Complaints can sometimes become a vehicle for individuals to try to reopen previous issues. Although we recognise that people are not always satisfied with the responses they receive, the raising of complaints is not a panacea for problems that have not been resolved through other channels. Continued complaints after the underlying complaint has been addressed, go beyond the reasonable pursuit of resolution.
The Ore Community Association understands that people may act out of character in times of distress or due to frustration. We do not view behaviour as unreasonable just because a complainant is forceful or determined. Our staff make reasonable allowances for complainants' behaviour.
However, sometimes the situation between a complaint and the staff can escalate and the behaviour of the complainant becomes unacceptable, for example becoming abusive, aggressive or threatening. Such abusive, aggressive, threatening or vexatious complaints are in the very small minority but we sometimes find ourselves in the position where we need to restrict or bring to an end communication and access to our premises or staff.
Our staff have the right to undertake their work free from abuse, threats and harassment, or vexatious and repetitive complaints. We expect our staff to be treated with courtesy and respect. Ore Community Association has a duty to protect the welfare and safety of staff and considers that violence, threats or abuse towards staff is unacceptable. Staff are also expected to treat complainants with courtesy, respect and fairness.
Complainants who harass, or have been abusive, aggressive or threatening on one or more occasions towards our staff - or their families or associates - directly or indirectly, will be considered unreasonable.
Any threats or acts of violence will cause direct contact with the complainant to be discontinued. Violence includes behaviour or language (written, oral, or in tone or otherwise) that may cause staff to feel afraid, threatened or abused. Examples of unacceptable behaviour includes but not exclusively threats, verbal abuse, derogatory remarks, rudeness, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, disablist or other harassment based on personal characteristic or obscene remarks, repeatedly demanding disciplinary action be taken against staff, and where complainants are known to have recorded meetings or telephone conversations without consent.
We also consider that inflammatory statements and unsubstantiated allegations can amount to abusive behaviour.
Furthermore, all staff will bring to an end phone calls if the caller is considered aggressive, abusive or threatening. The complainant will first be told that we consider their language offensive or their behaviour unacceptable, and will be asked to stop using such language or behaviour.
If an officer considers behaviour to be unreasonable they are advised in the first instance to refer it to their manager who may seek advice and guidance before determining future contact with the complainant, be that by telephone, in person, or electronically.
Where complaints are deemed vexatious, the complainant will be notified in writing that no further correspondence will be entered into on the matter in question. Our staff will initially keep one form of contact open so that there is not a 'blanket ban' on contact for any individual.
Where unreasonable or abusive behaviour is determined, the complainant will be notified in writing that no further contact will be undertaken, and this will apply to all contacts. A copy of this policy will be included and, if and where appropriate, a no-contact period specified. If further contact is necessary, the complainant will be informed that it will be made through a Trustee or their nominated officer/s. A decision to restrict contact will be reconsidered if the complainant subsequently demonstrates more reasonable behaviour.
If you disagree with a decision made by the staff to regard your behaviour as unreasonable, you can challenge it.
All incidents of harassment or aggression will be documented and referred to senior staff. In appropriate circumstances these matters may be referred to the police and the Association may consider taking appropriate legal action against the complainant, if necessary, without prior warning.