Complaints and Compliments Policy

Part of the Trust’s Customer Care Framework - Level 1 policy approval. Version 2 approved 25 November 2020

1. Statement of Intent

1.1 The purpose of this policy is to set out how we (The Trust) will respond to and manage complaints in a fair and consistent way.

1.2 Our aim will always be to resolve complaints as quickly as possible by taking an open, accountable and outcome focussed approach.

1.3 We recognise that complaints represent an opportunity to rebuild trust with our tenants as well as providing us with opportunities to learn and make service improvements. The Continuous Improvement Team reviews complaints and their responses to ensure they meet the requirements of the policy and procedure.

1.4 We also like to know when we have done something well and exceeded your expectations. Therefore we also monitor and respond to compliments that come into the Trust.

2. Outline of Policy

Definition of a complaint

2.1 We adopt the Housing Ombudsman’s definition of a complaint as follows:

An expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions or lack of action by the organisation, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf, affecting an individual resident or group of residents.

Exclusions

2.2 The following matters are not classed as complaints under this policy:

  • Reports of Anti -Social Behaviour or harassment, which are covered by separate policies;

  • A first time request for service e.g. a repair request;

  • Survey feedback e.g. from information you provide from our nominated feedback provider;

  • Complaints about services not authorised by the Trust;

  • Where legal proceedings (by or against the Trust), including personal injury accident claims have been initiated the case will be dealt with separately and not progressed under this policy;

  • Complaints about any policy, process or rule of law will likely be excluded however the Trust will review the application of these in relation to each complaint and then decide whether it is excluded or not.

2.3 We will only investigate complaints relating to our services that have been provided within the previous six months. However, we will review historical concerns if there is evidence of a recurring problem and will also take into consideration any circumstances that may have prevented a complaint from being raised earlier.   

Scope of policy

2.4 This policy extends to all of our customers including individuals (or their advocates), groups of people or organisations who pay for, receive services from or hold reasonable expectations of the Trust as a service provider.

2.5 Members of the public may also complain if they are directly affected by something that the Trust has done or is planning to do.   Members of the public who do not meet the definition in 2.3 do not have an automatic right to access the Housing Ombudsman with their complaint.  We will address and resolve their complaint to the best of our ability as outlined in the policy.

2.6 Former tenants who contact us within six months of their tenancy ending will also be able to raise complaints in line with this policy.

2.7 Complaints received via MPs or local Councillors will be assessed in line with our definition of a complaint and dealt with accordingly. Whilst respecting the role played by MPs and Local Councillors, this will not lead to a complaint being “fast-tracked”

Complaint Process

2.8 We will deal with each complaint case on its merits and where necessary deal with the complaint under a different but relevant policy or procedure. We will make this clear to you following our initial assessment of the complaint

2.9 Complaints and compliments can be made in different ways:

  • By phone, calling 01296 732600

  • Via the website www.vaht.co.uk

  • Via the Trust’s public social media channels

  • By e-mailing complaintsgeneral@vaht.co.uk (not applicable for compliments)

  • Completing and returning a complaints leaflet available to download from our website, via post upon request or collection from our main office reception during opening hours (not applicable for compliments).

2.10 All complaints however made will be processed in line with this policy and the timeframes set out in our Complaints procedure.

2.11 We will always aim to resolve any issues without needing to raise a formal complaint. However you will always have the right to enter your concerns into our formal process if that is your preferred option.

2.12 We set out clear timeframes for responding to complaints and how a complaint can be escalated.

2.13 We have a three stage complaint process (at any point you can seek the support of a member of the Residents Complaint Review Group with your complaint by emailing the complaints inbox): 

Details of our three stage complaint process

Stage

Officer managing complaint

Timeline

Next steps for complainant

Stage 1

Complaints Officer and applicable Service Manager

Decision - 10 working days from receipt of complaint. Can be extended by a further 10 working days if warranted – complainants will be kept fully apprised of any extensions of time required

 
  • Satisfied with outcome

  • Request to escalate

  • Contact Housing Ombudsman

Stage 2

Independent Review of appeal - Complaints Officer and applicable Assistant Director/Head of Service

Decision – 20 working days from request to escalate. Can be extended by a further 10 working days if warranted – complainants will be kept fully apprised of any extensions of time required

  • Satisfied with outcome

  • Request to escalate

  • Contact Housing Ombudsman

Stage 3

Panel review of complaint

Decision – 20 working days from request to escalate

  • Satisfied with outcome

  • Contact Housing Ombudsman

3. Compliments

3.1 We accept the Cambridge Dictionary definition of a compliment: “a remark that expresses approval, admiration, or respect”

Compliment Process

3.2 You can send us compliments via the following channels:

  • By e-mailing complimentsgeneral@vaht.co.uk  

  • By phone, calling 01296 732600

  • Via the Trust’s public social media channels

  • By writing to the Trust at the main office address

3.3 When we receive a compliment, we acknowledge the same and inform the individual or team to whom it relates.

3.4 We monitor the volume of compliments received and report on it quarterly alongside our complaint reporting.

4. Equality and Diversity

4.1 In line with our Equality and Diversity commitments all complainants will be treated fairly, equally and with respect regardless of their gender, race, age, disability, faith, marital status, sexual orientation or any other distinction.

4.2 Reasonable adjustments in line with the Equalities Act such as accessibility to discuss complaints with staff and the provision of information in a different format e.g. large print, audio tape, an alternative language or where the services of a translator are required can be provided upon request.

5. Unreasonable or Persistent Complainants    

5.1 Should the behaviour of a complainant adversely affect our ability to adequately support other complaint investigations then such behaviour may be deemed as “unreasonable or persistent”. Whilst always a last resort, in a small number of such cases we may decide to restrict the complainant’s contact with the Trust.

5.2 Such restrictions will require the approval of a Head of Service, Assistant Director or Executive Director and may include limiting contact to a specific member of staff and/or agreeing that communication is restricted to only one type such as phone, email or letter. (We will aim to agree an appropriate method with the complainant and confirm this formally in writing). Any such decisions will be demonstrate regard for the Equalities Act.

5.3 We will still aim to resolve the complaint in line with our Complaints’ Procedure.

5.4 Additional information regarding this subject can be found in the “Unreasonable or persistent complainants” - guidance document.

6. Housing Ombudsman Service

6.1 If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome of your Complaint you have the right to either refer your complaint to a ‘Designated Person’ to help resolve the complaint immediately or wait 8 weeks and then contact the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS).

6.2 A ‘Designated Person’ can be an individual such as an MP or local councillor in England or a group such as a Tenant Panel that is recognised by the Trust.

6.3 Should the ‘Designated Person’ be unable to resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of you they may arrange for it to be forwarded to the HOS for its consideration.

6.4 As a member of the HOS (as required by the Housing Act 1996 (amended by the Housing Regeneration Act 2008)) we will cooperate fully with the Ombudsman making all files and records available on request. Actions required as a result of any determinations will be overseen by either the Chief Executive or the relevant Director supported by Trust staff as required. We will ensure full compliance of the Ombudsman’s “Final Determination” barring any exceptional circumstances.

6.5 Additional information regarding this subject can be found in the “Designated Person” – Guidance document.

7. Value for Money

7.1 All complaint responses will be subject to review by the Continuous Improvement Team who will ensure that potential opportunities for improvement are identified. Service Managers are responsible for developing and implementing improvement work discovered during a complaint investigation. We will publish learnings outcomes from complaints as part of our annual value for money resident report, on our website and in publications such as newsletters.

7.2 In certain cases there may be times when residents or customers may suffer some disadvantage or loss as a result of actions, errors or mistakes made by the Trust. In these instances compensation may be considered.  (For more information please see the Trust’s Compensation Policy.)

7.3 We will regularly review the cost and quality of the complaints handling service and seek efficiencies. To assist with this process we will obtain relevant benchmarking information provided by other housing providers.

8. Consultation

8.1 This policy has been revised following consultation with the Residents’ Forum.

9. How will the policy be implemented

9.1 All staff across the Trust are responsible for the implementation of this policy.

9.2 We will engage with the Residents’ Forum, the Housing Ombudsman and maintain relevant compliance under the current legislation (See section 11).

10. Monitoring

10.1 This policy will be reviewed in line with any changes in legislation, regulation, resident feedback and sector best practice. 

10.2 Performance measures and targets have been developed to help determine the efficiency and effectiveness of the Trust’s complaint service. Internal and external feedback will be used to obtain complaints performance information and identify progress and service improvements. These will be reported to senior management within the Trust and its Board.  Performance on complaints handling will also be published on the Trust’s website at least twice a year.

11. Review

11.1 This policy will be reviewed every three years subject to significant changes in legislation, regulation or governance arrangements that require an immediate update. This policy is accessible to all of our tenants and stakeholders without exception.

12. Legislation relevant to this policy and other documents

  • The Housing Act 1996

  • The Housing & Regeneration Act 2008

  • The Localism Act 2011

  • General Data Protection Regulation 2018

  • The Data Protection Act 2018

  • Equality Act 2010

  • Trust Compensation Policy

  • Membership of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme is mandatory

Details of Policy Author

Author Jamie Scott
Job title Service Improvement Manager
Email jamie.scott@vaht.co.uk
Phone 01296 732759