Complaints procedure

Purpose

The aim of this document is to provide a clear explanation of how to access and use our Complaints Procedure and what will happen at each Stage of the process.

THE COMPLAINTS PROCESS

Within 2 working days - Expression of dissatisfaction / Complaint assessment

We will contact complainant either to discuss and resolve dissatisfaction quickly or confirm via a letter that complaint has been logged at Stage 1 of the Trust Complaints process. The Ombudsman decides whether or not to investigate your complaint. If they investigate they will make a determination and share that with the Trust. Housing Ombudsman Service, Exchange Tower, Harbour Exchange Square, London, E14 9GE

Within 10 days - Stage 1

We aim to investigate and respond in writing within 10 working days of the acknowledgement letter date.

Within 20 days

Complainant given time to accept Stage 1 decision or request that complaint is escalated to Stage 2

Within 2 days

Escalation request received and Senior Manager will review new reasons and/or additional information provided by complainant alongside the Trusts original response. Decision will be confirmed in writing to complainant advising whether or not request to escalate has been accepted or it has not.

Within 10 Days – Stage 2

We aim to investigate and respond in writing within 10 working days of confirming that we have accepted the request to escalate.

Within 20 days

Complainant given time to accept Stage 2 decision or request that complaint is escalated to Stage 3

Within 5 days

Escalation request received and Senior Management will review new reasons and/or additional information alongside the Trusts previous responses at Stage 1 and Stage 2.

Within 30 days – Stage 3

Complaints’ panel arranged. Complainant invited to attend and present their complaint to 2 Board Members and Trust Director.

Within 10 days

Complaints’ panel will write to complainant. Following receipt of the panels’ response complainant can accept decision or choose one of the following options:

  • Ask Residents’ Forum to review complaint
  • Ask an MP or Councillor to refer complaint to Housing Ombudsman
  • Wait 8 weeks and then contact the Housing Ombudsman directly and ask them to review complaint. The Ombudsman decides whether or not to investigate your complaint. If they investigate they will make a determination and share that with the Trust. Their address is: Housing Ombudsman Service, Exchange Tower, Harbour Exchange Square, London, E14 9GE

1. How to access the Complaints process

1.1 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 you can collect one from our main office reception.

2. STAGE 0 (Informal approach)

We aim to resolve within 2 days. When you first contact us we will aim to resolve your concerns informally either through our Customer Service Team and/or with the support of colleagues within the Trust. We will aim to do this within 2 days of you contacting us to reduce the length of time you have to wait for a resolution. Importantly this work is logged in our system. Any evidence of poor service delivery identified by us at this stage will be logged as a Learning action. If you are not happy with our response at this stage you can ask for your concerns to be assessed by the Continuous Improvement Team for potential logging as a formal Complaint at Stage One of our Complaints process.

3. STAGE ONE (1)

We aim to complete this stage within 10 working days. Should you remain dissatisfied with our informal response you can ask for your concerns to be referred to our Continuous Improvement Team who will assess your concerns, in line with the Complaints Policy. Your concerns will be logged in the Trusts Housing Management system and allocated a unique 4 digit reference number. The Continuous Improvement Team will contact you, in writing within 2 days, to either confirm that a complaint has been raised or to explain why your concerns will not be considered as a complaint. Your complaint will be assigned to a Service Manager who will carry out a full investigation, including discussing your concerns with you. They will endeavour to respond to you within 10 working days. If, for any reason, this timescale is unlikely to be achieved the Service Manager will contact you and explain the reasons for the delay and advise you of an anticipated date of response. Should you remain dissatisfied following the conclusion of our investigation you have 20 working days in which to contact us with valid reasons for requesting that your complaint is escalated to Stage Two (2). Your reasons will be reviewed by a Head of Service or an Assistant Director who will contact you to either confirm that your complaint has been escalated or the reasons why it has not. Should they decide that your complaint will not be escalated to the next stage you can appeal to the Housing Ombudsman (See Appeal to the Housing Ombudsman Section 9). 

4. STAGE TWO (2)

We aim to complete this stage within 10 working days. Your complaint will be investigated by either a Head of Service or an Assistant Director who will review our Stage One (1) response along with the additional information that you have provided. They will contact you to discuss your concerns and aim to respond in writing within 10 working days advising whether or not your complaint has been upheld. Again if, for any reason, this timescale is unlikely to be achieved we will contact you explaining the reasons for the delay and advise you of an anticipated date of response. Should you remain dissatisfied following the decision taken at this stage you will be offered the opportunity to engage a designated person such as an MP or Local Councillor to discuss your complaint directly with us. If this does not resolve your concerns your complaint will be reviewed by an Executive Director of the Trust and considered for escalation to Stage Three (3). The Executive Director will contact you in writing to confirm their decision and if they consider there is no valid reason for your complaint to be escalated you can appeal to the Housing Ombudsman. (See Section 9 Appeal to the Housing Ombudsman). If they do believe that your reasons are valid you will be advised that a Complaints’ Panel at Stage 3 of our Complaints process will be convened.

5. STAGE THREE (3)

We aim to complete this stage within 30 working days. A Complaints’ Panel consisting of two members of the Trust’s Board and the Chief Executive or another Executive Director who has not been involved in the case previously will be convened as soon as possible. Depending upon circumstances the relevant Assistant Director and/or Head of Service may also be requested to attend the meeting. Also in attendance will be a support officer to keep a record of the meeting. This meeting will take place no later than 30 days following the date on which the complaint reached Stage 3. Such decisions will only be reached following consultation with and approval by an Executive Director of the Trust. You will be invited to attend the Panel meeting and given the opportunity to present your case. If you wish to you can bring along an advocate to support you. Advocates can include relatives, care providers, voluntary workers or even “designated persons” (although in some circumstances this may then prevent the designated person from taking part in any later review of the case). The Panel will hear the complaint and will have the opportunity to question the complainant and if in attendance, the Head of Service. A record of the meeting will be made. The Panel will write to you with their decision within 10 working days of the Panel hearing.

Note: If at any point we believe that you have not provided valid reasons or suitable grounds for wanting your complaint escalated for example you wish to escalate the complaint for the sole purpose of hoping to receive a more favourable outcome from a different employee, we reserve the right not to escalate the complaint further and will consider the complaint as closed. At this point we will advise you that you have exhausted our Complaints process. 

6. If a complainant remains dissatisfied

If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome of your complaint after it has been reviewed at each stage of the Formal process you can ask for it to be considered by a Designated Person or Designated Panel. The Designated Person can be any MP in England or any Local District Councillor or 3 members of a recognised Resident’ forum. For guidance on how this process will work please refer to the ‘Designated Person’ - Guidance.

7. Unreasonable or persistent complainants

In a very small number of cases the actions or behaviour of a complainant may be considered unacceptable. For guidance on this matter please refer to the Unreasonable or persistent complainants – Guidance

8. Customer Satisfaction

The Trust is committed to engaging with all of its customers including complainants who can often provide useful insight into how we are delivering our services. Therefore 20 working days after we consider your complaint has been closed we will submit your contact details to our 3rd party provider who captures customer feedback. As part of this process you may be contacted and asked to give your views about our approach to managing your complaint. Your feedback may be used may be used for training or auditing purposes in the future. If you do not wish to be contacted by our survey provider please let us know.

9. Appeal to the Housing Ombudsman

Having first exhausted our Complaints process including any discussions with a designated person on your behalf you can refer the complaint to the Housing Ombudsman no sooner than 8 weeks after our final response. Contact details for the Housing Ombudsman: Housing Ombudsman Service Exchange Tower Harbour Exchange Square London E14 9GE Telephone: 0330 111 3000 Email: info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk

10.Monitoring and Review

As part of our ongoing commitment to continuous improvement our Service Improvement Manager will be responsible for reviewing this procedure and updating as required every 12 months. In addition the process will be formally reviewed every three years in order to reflect good practice/or changes in legislation.

11.Compensation

There may be occasions where you are entitled to compensation due to poor service delivery after the investigation of your complaint. Please see our Compensation Policy for details.

12.Legislation and Trust Policy

Legislation relevant to this policy and supporting procedure:

  • The Housing Act 1996

  • The Housing & Regeneration Act 2008

  • The Localism Act 2011

  • The Data Protection Act 2018

  • Equality Act 2010

  • Membership of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme is mandatory

Trust policies that are relevant to this procedure:

  • Complaints Policy

  • Compensation Policy

  • All other Trust Policies covering operational process and procedures

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