Complaints and Compensation Policy

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1 Complaints and Compensation Policy 1. Principles 2. Aims 3. Methods 4. Statutory and contractual rights to compensation 5. Statutory and regulatory requirements 6. Performance monitoring 7. Review 8. Date of policy

2 1. PRINCIPLES 1.1 Colne Housing Society endeavours to provide a high quality service which treats all customers with courtesy, fairness and efficiency. The Society is committed to dealing with any concerns or complaints properly, and recognises that customers have a right to complain and that compensation for the loss, inconvenience or distress experienced by customers should be paid in certain circumstances. The Society also recognises that in certain situations those affected by actions of our customers may seek to use the Complaints and Compensation Policy. 1.2 The Society also recognises that an effective complaints handling system not only helps to resolve customers problems but is an important part of continuous improvement and quality management. 2. AIMS 2.1 To resolve complaints effectively and speedily within time targets. 2.2 To ensure that customer complaints are handled in a sympathetic and sensitive manner, respecting the confidentiality and privacy of complainants where appropriate. 2.3 To ensure that the complaints system: (i) is simple to administer and easy to understand (ii) is conciliatory, fair and impartial (iii) is consistent with the complainant s legal rights. 2.4 To apologise to customers with justified complaints, take appropriate remedial action and, where relevant, pay compensation appropriate to the inconvenience or loss suffered. 2.5 To have clear criteria as to the circumstances in which compensation is payable. 2.6 To monitor and learn from customer complaints and ensure that justified complaints are taken into account when reviewing the service and the performance of staff and/or contractors. 2.7 To report details of customer complaints by type and outcome to Committee, customer groups and contractors. 2.8 To provide customers with information about how to complain about the Society s services and how to challenge decisions through its complaints system. 2.9 To provide customers with information about independent sources of help in making complaints and obtaining redress.

3 2.10 To use complaints as a driver for service review and improvement, including reviewing staff training, operational systems, service standards and contractor performance. 3. METHODS 3.1 Who can complain? The complaints process is open to everyone who receives or requests a service from the Society, and to people or organisations acting with the complainant s formal authority. This includes: (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) (g) (h) (i) (j) Residents Housing waiting list applicants Leaseholders who pay us a service charge Freeholders who pay us a service charge Other people such as neighbours affected by the Society s activities Councillors and MP s Solicitors. Organisations such as CAB s and other advice agencies Recipients of Supporting People Services Families, advocates or carers of vulnerable residents The Society cannot deal with individual anonymous complaints. However, a series of anonymous complaints on the same subject will be investigated as they may indicate a service issue. 3.2 How are complaints received? Customers preferences will be the overriding factor in determining how a complaint is received. They may be received in writing, by telephone, in person, by or via our website. Complaints may also be raised in open meetings with residents or leaseholders.

4 Whilst complaints do not have to be made in writing, they will be recorded using the Society s complaints template, with a copy provided to the complainant where the complaint has not been taken in written format (i.e. on the website, by letter or by ). Translation services will be offered where English is not their first language, or the complainant has a sight impairment. 3.3 What is a complaint? This policy is designed to cover complaints about any aspect of the Society s services. For example: (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) The way requests for information or housing applications have been handled The way staff or other representatives have conducted themselves The Society s failure to comply with one of its policies or procedures The standard and quality of the service provided by the Society or its contractors The Society s failure to meet the Homes and Communities Agency s standards for registered providers. Complaints from one occupier about another are excluded as these are dealt with under the Anti Social Behaviour Policy, although where the complaint relates to the failure of the Society to respond to reports of anti social behaviour this will be investigated in accordance with this policy. 3.4 Processing complaints Details of all complaints are recorded on the Society s complaints template and in the complaints log Informal stage Complainants are encouraged to resolve their problem direct with the member of staff they would usually deal with. This is not of course appropriate where the complaint is about the conduct of the member of staff concerned. However, generally it is only when this approach has failed to resolve matters that the matter is referred to the first formal stage of the complaints procedure First stage If a customer has a complaint this is raised in the first instance with the manager who has responsibility for the staff member or service against which the complaint has been made.

5 The Customer and Communities Manager (or authorised deputy) sends an acknowledgement letter within two working days of receipt, advising who is dealing with the complaint and the latest date the complainant can expect to receive a reply. Also enclosed is a copy of the Society s leaflet Making a Complaint. The complaint will be investigated and the Society aims to respond to customers within ten working days. If this standard looks to be exceeded, the manager will contact the customer, advising of the reason for the delay and the anticipated date of response. The Society aims to resolve the majority of complaints at this stage. The complainant will be advised to contact the society within 28 days if they are dissatisfied with the outcome of their complaint Second stage If the complaint is not resolved at the first stage, the matter is referred to the appropriate Director. The relevant Director will investigate the complaint and reply to the complainant in writing within ten working days. If this timescale looks to be exceeded, the manager will contact the customer, advising of the reason for the delay and the anticipated date of response. The complainant will be advised to contact the Society within 28 days if they remain dissatisfied with the outcome of their complaint. This stage provides an opportunity for the Director to review the action taken to date and the decision reached. It also provides an opportunity for complaints of a serious nature to be considered immediately at Director level. These could be incidents of maladministration, impropriety or serious allegations about staff members. These matters may also be dealt with under the Society s Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults Policy (HM28) Third stage If the complainant is dissatisfied with the Director s response they will be offered the opportunity to have the matter considered by the Society s Complaints Panel. The Chairman and Chief Executive will set up a complaints panel, to be chaired by the Society s Chairman or his/her nominee, and include the Chief Executive (or his/her nominee) and a Resident Board Member (or his/her nominee). The Chief Executive may also ask the complainant whether they wish to consider arbitration and mediation by an independent organisation.

6 The panel will normally meet within 20 working days of the Chief Executive receiving notice from the complainant that they wish their complaint to be considered by the Complaints Panel. If this timescale looks likely to be exceeded, the complainant will be kept informed. A Director who has not been involved in the complaint process will prepare a report for the complaints panel containing copies of all relevant documentation The complainant will be invited to attend in person to present their complaint. The complainant may be accompanied by a friend or supporter if they so wish. The decision of the complaints panel will be reported to the complainant within 5 working days of the panel meeting. The Chief Executive will ensure that any necessary follow up action is taken. The findings of the complaints panel will be reported to the next Operations Committee Further options If the complainant is still not satisfied after following the Complaints Procedure, they may choose to refer the complaint to a designated person (or Democratic Filter) within eight weeks of the outcome of the stage 3 hearing. A designated person may be one of the following: An MP A local councillor The Resident Committee Should a complainant choose to seek redress through a Democratic Filter, the designated person may choose to try to resolve the complaint locally, refer it directly to the Housing Ombudsman or refuse to take it on board. The decision of the designated person is final. If a complaint has not passed through a Democratic Filter, eight weeks after the outcome of the stage three hearing, the complainant may refer the complaint to the Housing Ombudsman Service. The Ombudsman is independent from the Society and aims to provide a fair and effective way of resolving complaints about social housing providers from people receiving, or wishing to receive, their services. The Society will provide information and contact details for both the Resident Committee and the Ombudsman Service to all customers using the complaints procedure.

7 3.4.6 Further Information Complainants are also advised that they may wish to contact the following during the complaints process: The Citizens Advice Bureau. Local Authority housing advice services. The Environmental Health Department at the local Council. 3.5 Discrimination and harassment Discrimination Complaints of discrimination can be dealt with under the complaints procedure but complainants will be made aware of the alternative courses of action available under the Equality Act The Society recognises its responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 not to discriminate against any person as an employer or as a provider or manager of housing services on the grounds of :- Age Disability Gender Trans gender Sexual orientation Race and ethnicity Religion or belief Complainants will be made aware of their right to pursue an action in relation to discrimination under the Equality Act Harassment Complainants will also be made aware of their right to pursue an action in relation to harassment under the Equality Act 2010, in addition to the remedies available to the Society as landlord specified in the policy on anti social behaviour.

8 3.6 Compensation Following an upheld complaint, if the Society s service has not met the specified standard and a customer has been inconvenienced or suffered financial loss as a result, they may be entitled to a compensation payment. The amount of the payment will depend on: (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) The nature of the problem. The degree of financial loss or inconvenience caused to the customer. The length of time the problem has been going on. Previous action taken by the Society, including any recompense previously made. Any costs the customer has had to meet as a result of the problem. Compensation awarded will be calculated using the matrix given as Appendix A, taking into account financial loss and inconvenience or distress caused to the complainant. Receipts, or other documentary evidence, must be obtained by the Society where the customer claims compensation for financial loss. Customers will be made aware that compensation payments are accepted in full and final settlement of their claim, and that further compensation in relation to the same event will not be paid Compensation will not be paid if the Society is unable to achieve it s service standards due to circumstances beyond it s control. e.g.: (a) (b) Exceptional weather conditions Accidental damage where the Society is not at fault e.g. burst pipes, blocked drains or other events which could not have been predicted and/or were not reported. Compensation is not intended as a replacement for home contents insurance. Any alteration to the property or its services carried out by the customer without permission or to an adequate standard (c) (d) Loss or damage caused by customers, visitors or adjacent occupiers Where the customer prevents or delays the Society delivering a service, or contributes in some other way to the service failure Delegated authority to award compensation payments is granted as follows: Up to Service Manager

9 Up to 500 Director Up to 1000 Chief Executive Over 1000 Chairman of Operations Committee In general, payments of compensation will be made in the form of money, vouchers or a goodwill gesture, such as a bouquet of flowers. Details of all compensation payments will be reported annually to the Operations Committee. The Society will refer any personal liability claims to its insurers. 3.7 Time limitation Upon making a complaint, customers will be advised that there is a six month time limit from the date of the event giving rise to the complaint to the date the complaint is registered. This is not intended to affect customers statutory rights, but recognises that a significant lapse of time makes vigorous and meaningful investigation difficult. 4. STATUTORY AND CONTRACTUAL RIGHTS TO COMPENSATION 4.1 The Society will meet its obligations to provide compensation under the terms of the Right to Repair and Right to Compensation for Improvements. This right was granted to Local Authority tenants under the Leasehold Reform and Urban Development Act 1993 and extended to Secure and Assured tenants of RSL s through Housing Corporation Circular HC 33/ The terms of this are found in the Society s Repairs and Maintenance Handbook. 5. STATUTORY AND REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS 5.1 The Homes and Communities Agency s requirements are set out in the Regulatory framework, Tenant Involvement and empowerment standard, specifically customer service, choice and complaints. These state that registered providers shall have an approach to complaints that is clear, simple and accessible that ensures that complaints are resolved promptly, politely and fairly. Furthermore Providers shall offer a range of ways for tenants to express a complaint and set out clear service standards for responding to complaints, including complaints about performance against the standards, and details of what to do if they are unhappy with the outcome of a complaint. Providers shall inform tenants how they use complaints to improve their services. Registered providers shall publish information about complaints each year, including their number and nature, and the outcome of the complaints. Providers shall accept complaints made by advocates authorised to act on a tenant s/tenants behalf.

10 5.2 This policy complies with the Society s obligations under Section 180 of the Localism Act PERFORMANCE MONITORING 6.1 The following indicators will be used to provide the Operations Committee with performance information relating to complaints. This information will be reported on an annual basis. Reports on complaints are also regularly presented to contractor meetings, internal senior management meetings and the Resident Committee. (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) (g) Number of customer complaints about services by reasons, type of customer, gender, age, disability, ethnicity, sexuality, religion or belief and outcome. Number of complainants to whom compensation was paid, by reason. Value of compensation paid to complainants, by reason. Details of any successful court cases brought by complainants against the Society by reason and outcome. Number of complaints upheld by a Democratic Filter or the Housing Ombudsman. Number of customer complaints not investigated/resolved within target times. Actions taken to change service standards, management systems or other responses to complaints received during the year. 6.2 In addition, the percentage of complaints responded to within target time, and customer satisfaction with the outcome of complaints is reported quarterly to the Operations Committee. 7. REVIEW 7.1 The Society will formally review its policy on Complaints and Compensation through the Committee structure, once every three years taking into account any changes and making amendments accordingly. In addition to this, amendments considered of sufficient magnitude or importance will be implemented in between review dates where appropriate. 8. DATE OF POLICY 8.1 March 2013

11 APPENDIX A COMPENSATION CALCULATOR This guide is to be used by service managers to assess a financial payment of compensation. The amounts to be inserted will vary in each case depending upon the circumstances. Did the claimant contribute to any loss or disadvantage suffered? It may be that the claimant contributed to a delay, or failed to take reasonable actions themselves which could have reduced the loss or disadvantage. This needs to be considered as part of the financial package. Was any loss or disadvantage due to money not being paid/refunded? In this case, the remedy should include a sum representing the unpaid money. Amount Have any reasonable costs been incurred by the complainant that would not otherwise have been incurred? Did the claimant suffer a loss of some nonmonetary benefit? These are costs which would not have been normally reasonably incurred. The actual expenses should be reimbursed in full or in part. Where the claimant has lost out on some kind of benefit (e.g the loss of the use of a room) which is nonfinancial, the following will be used as a guide. 50% of weekly rent for loss of use of kitchen, bathroom, or living room 20 per week for loss of use of bedroom or dining room Amount Amount Did the claimant lose the opportunity of some kind of benefit? Where the claimant has missed out on an opportunity that would have been available to them, from which the complainant would have benefited, then compensation would be appropriate. Amount Did the claimant suffer distress or inconvenience? Payments for distress or inconvenience will be calculated on a case by case basis. Suggested reasonable compensation for distress or inconvenience caused are given overleaf. Amount Were any reasonable professional fees incurred? Where legitimate and appropriate professional fees have been incurred, these should be reimbursed in full or in part. Amount Total Sum =

12 Examples of distress or inconvenience caused and suggested reasonable compensation are as follows; Impact Stress or Inconvenience Caused Compensation No Impact Low Impact Medium Impact High Impact Customer has not suffered inconvenience or distress as a result of the compensation event. Customer has not suffered significant inconvenience or distress as a result of the compensation event. The circumstances are such that the service has not achieved the expected standard, but the impact is no greater than a reasonably tolerant person could be expected to accept and the compensation constitutes a token in acknowledgement of the failure to perform. Where the compensation event is clearly an injustice to the customer and the service has markedly failed to meet the required standards. This relates to serious failure in service standards. It could either be the severity of an event, a persistent failure over a prolonged period of time, or an unacceptable number of attempts to resolve and address an issue. 0 To 50 To 100 To 250

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