Complaints and Compliments Policy

Part of the Trust’s Customer Care Framework - Level 1 policy approval

1. Statement of Intent

1.1 We aim to provide excellent services however we realise that there may be occasions when our customers express dissatisfaction. On these occasions we will seek to respond quickly and effectively by putting things right in a fair and consistent manner. However if you (the complainant) remain unhappy with our response you can ask us to review our actions within our Complaints procedure.

1.2 This policy sets out the boundaries for dealing with a complaint within which the complaints procedure will operate.

1.3 All departments within the Trust are responsible for investigating and responding to complaints in line with this Policy and the Complaints procedure. The Continuous Improvement Team reviews complaint 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

2.1 The Trust defines a complaint as a clear expression of dissatisfaction, requiring a response, relating to a service provided or not provided. Such expressions of dissatisfaction will relate to:

  • the standard or failure of a service

  • action or lack of action in response to a request for service

  • poor attitude or performance of Trust staff or people working on behalf   of the Trust

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

  • a report of Anti -Social Behaviour or harassment, which is covered by separate policies;

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

  • Complaints about services not authorised by the Trust.

  • Complaints about any policy, process or rule of law, which has been followed correctly but which the customer feels has disadvantaged them in some way e.g. rent arrears or service charge collection.

  • Personal injury accident claims or matters involving legal action are not dealt with under this Policy.

2.3 We will only investigate complaints relating to our services that have been provided within the previous six months.  

2.4 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.

2.5 We reserve the right not to progress a complaint within our complaints procedure where you have not provided valid reasons for doing so or we believe that we have resolved the matter to the best of our ability. Such decisions will require approval by the relevant Head of Service (After Stage 1), Assistant Director (After Stage 2). Progress to Stage 3 will require approval by an Executive Director.

2.6 We will always aim to resolve any issues without needing to raise a formal complaint. However you will always have the right to expect that we will enter your concerns into our formal 3 stage process if that is your preferred option and you can ask for members of the Residents’ forum to review your complaint.

2.7 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. Members of the public may also complain if they are directly affected by something that the Trust has done or is planning to do.

2.8 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”.

2.9 Complaints or expressions of dissatisfaction can be made in different ways:

  • By phone, calling 01296 732600

  • Via the website www.vaht.co.uk

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

  • By writing to the Trust at the main office address

  • Completing and returning a complaints leaflet available to download from our website, via post upon request or collection from our main office reception.

2.10 Compliments can be made in the following ways:

3. Equality and Diversity

3.1 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.

3.2 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.

4. Unreasonable or Persistent Complainants    

4.1 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.

4.2 Such restrictions will require the approval of a Head of Service or Assistant 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).

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

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

5. Housing Ombudsman Service

5.1 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).

5.2 A ‘Designated Person’ is an individual recognised by the Trust as someone who is authorised by you to act on your behalf and can include any MP in England or any Local District Councillor.

5.3 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.

5.4 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.

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

6. Value for Money

6.1 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. (Evidence of completed Improvement work should be shared with the CI Team).

6.2 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)

6.3 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.

7. Consultation

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

8. How will the policy be implemented

8.1 Members of the Continuous Improvement Team will be responsible for the implementation of this policy.

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

9. Monitoring

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

9.2 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.

10. Review

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

11. Legislation relevant to this policy and other documents

  • The Housing Act 1996

  • The Housing & Regeneration Act 2008

  • The Localism Act 2011

  • The Data Protection Act 2018

  • Equality Act 2010

  • Trust Compensation Policy

  • Various approved Trust operational polices and procedures.

  • 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