Complaints policy

Contents

1.0       Introduction and scope.

1.1       What is a complaint?.

1.2       Who can make a complaint?.

1.3       Exclusions.

1.4       Feedback and improvement

1.5       Objectives and performance monitoring.

1.6       Accessibility and awareness.

2.0       Policy Statement

2.1       Making a complaint

2.2       Complaint resolution.

2.3       Investigation and communication.

2.4       Privacy.

2.5       Unacceptable behaviour

3.0       Resolution and compensation.

3.1       Acknowledging service failures.

3.2       Appropriate resolution.

3.3       Exclusions.

4.0       Roles and Responsibilities.

5.0       Related Documents.

5.1       Internal

5.2       External

6.0       Relevant Legislation

7.0       Compliance

1.0     Introduction and scope

This Complaints Policy has been developed in line with Wandle’s values, which are:

  • Think customer
  • Build relationships
  • Work together
  • Aim high
  • Own it

It will ensure that actions we undertake will be underpinned by our vision of:

“Homes to be proud of and services you can trust”

The Complaints Policy has also been developed in line with Wandle’s Target Operating Model and contributes towards the following long-term strategic objective:

  • Our customers are at the heart of what we do, co-designing our services and receiving consistently good services and value for money

We acknowledge that despite our best-efforts mistakes will happen. We do not always get things right or meet the expectations of our customers. When something goes wrong, we aim to find out why and put it right as quickly as possible.

This policy reflects a positive complaints culture that puts the customer first; seeking to rebuild trust while learning from our mistakes to deliver service improvement.

For the purpose of this policy the term “customer” (unless otherwise stated) includes tenants, leaseholders, shared owners, applicants for housing and any other person or organisation to which we provide a service or have a legal or contractual obligation.

1.1         What is a complaint?

Wandle considers a complaint to mean:

  • 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.

To ensure concerns are resolved as quickly as possible, we may choose to manage any report of dissatisfaction as a complaint even if the customer did not intend to initiate that process.

A complaint should be considered as separate to a service request. A service request is a request from a customer requiring action to be taken to put something right.

We will raise a complaint when the customer raises dissatisfaction with the response to their service request.

Survey feedback may not necessarily need to be treated as a complaint, though, where possible, the person completing the survey should be made aware of how they can pursue their dissatisfaction as a complaint if they wish to.

Chasers on a service request, such as a missed appointment, can often be resolved with an apology and the provision of another appointment and may not need to be recorded as a complaint. However, if further enquiries are needed to resolve the matter, or if the customer requests it, we will log this as a complaint.

We will only log complaints where we have evidence of service failure that has occurred within six months unless there is a health and safety concern.  Where a claim of disrepair is made, we will extend this further where it will allow us to address a potential claim through our complaint’s procedure as provided for in the pre Action Protocol for Housing Conditions Claims (England) paragraph 4.2 which can be found here

1.2         Who can make a complaint?

We will accept complaints from any Wandle customer or those made via an advocate or representative authorised to act on their behalf.

We will normally treat simultaneous complaints from one customer as a single complaint.  However, where a response has been issued, or where the additional complaint would unreasonably delay the response, a separate complaint should be logged.

If we receive a joint complaint about the same issue from multiple customers, we may ask the group to nominate a lead contact to help us manage their concerns efficiently.

We will accept complaints from those choosing to remain anonymous. In the event that an anonymous complaint is received, we will do our best to follow all relevant policies to ensure that a suitable resolution is reached but may not be able to fully complete all stages of this policy.

1.3         Exclusions

We will not usually accept complaints when:

  • We have not previously been made aware of an issue and given the opportunity to put things right, except where a claim of disrepair has been made. See 1.1 above.
  • There is a more suitable alternative process available to resolve concerns raised more effectively and efficiently or the concern raised is a service request (e.g. service charge queries, anti-social behaviour reports or insurance claims), complaints will be accepted where we have failed to follow these processes.
  • The same issues have already been raised by the customer and have already been considered through our complaints process
  • The issue giving rise to the complaint occurred over six months ago, except where a claim of disrepair has been made. However, we will consider older reports of relevant issues as background to complaints if necessary and will consider older concerns when responding to safeguarding or health and safety concerns.
  • The complaint relates specifically to an approved Wandle policy; however, we will accept complaints about how a policy has been applied.
  • Legal proceedings have been started relating to the same concern and a claim has been filed with a court.
  • A court, tribunal or Ombudsman has already considered the matter, or
  • Access to our complaints process has been restricted in line with our Excessive Use and Unreasonable Behaviour Policy

If we are unable to accept a complaint request, we will inform the complainant of this within 10 working days. Where we do not accept a complaint, we will provide a detailed explanation which sets out the reason why the matter is not suitable for the complaints process. Where we refuse a complaint, we will provide contact detail for the Ombudsman

1.4         Feedback and improvement

We want to learn everything we can from our complaints to improve customer experience and our relationship with our customers and to promote a positive complaint and learning culture:  To do this we will;

  • Provide feedback to customers through relevant publications and Annual Report on failures in complaint handling, reasons for dissatisfaction and the actions taken to learn and improve from this
  • Review trends, themes and relevant data at leadership level to identify any systemic issues, serious risks or areas for improvement
  • Keep our staff informed of the reasons for dissatisfaction and lessons learned
  • Pro-actively use learning from complaints to revise policies and procedures and provide adequate training to all involved parties
  • We will use feedback from post complaint survey and through Tenant Satisfaction Measure surveys to identify themes in complaints and complaint handling to ensure we’re providing the best service to our customers.  Where feedback from a survey indicates a need for action to be taken, we will ensure this is done.

1.5         Objectives and performance monitoring

Complaint resolution performance including learnings and improvements made will be included in our Annual Report each year.

A self-assessment against the Housing Ombudsman Service Complaint Handling Code will be completed annually and approved by the Board to ensure compliance with the Service. The outcome of the self-assessment will be reported to the Board and be made available for customers to access.

1.6         Accessibility and awareness

We will make it easy for customers to complain and will inform them about their right to access the Housing Ombudsman Service at any time during their complaint. Our publications, website, and online self-service portal will provide customers with easy to access information about our complaint policy and how to make a complaint. The EIA for this policy contains further information about this.

2.0     Policy Statement

2.1         Making a complaint

We will accept complaints via our online self-service portal or website, by email, post, in person and by any other reasonable method. Where a complaint is received via an official Wandle social media or a publicly accessible forum, we may ask that further contact is made via another accessible communication channel to ensure that confidentiality and privacy is maintained.

2.2         Complaint resolution

Acknowledgement of complaint

The first thing we will do when we receive a complaint is ensure we understand what has caused the dissatisfaction, what impact it has had and what our customer wants us to do to put things right.  We will ensure that we include our understanding of the complaint, and the outcomes the customer is seeking, where we feel that any part of the complaint is unclear, we will ask for further clarification to ensure a full understanding of the definition of the complaint. Where necessary we will ensure that we manage customer expectations from the outset and will be clear where a desired outcome is unreasonable or unrealistic.

Once we have received sufficient details, we will provide confirmation to the customer that a complaint has been opened, including reference details for the complaint, how to contact us and information about the complaint policy and Housing Ombudsman Service. We will acknowledge all complaint requests within five working days.

Complaint stage one

All new complaints will be reviewed at stage one of our complaint processes. This involves an internal investigation to establish what has gone wrong and what needs to be done to put things right. It may be possible for us to resolve a complaint at first point of contact when a suitable resolution can be agreed with the customer at this early stage.

The Customer Resolution Lead may allocate complaints handling to another person. Where this is the case, the complaint handler appointed must have appropriate complaint handling skills and no conflicts of interest.

We will provide a response to stage one complaints within 10 working days if possible. There may be times when we cannot respond within this timeframe, in these circumstances we will inform the customer why this is and will not extend beyond a further 10 working days without good reason. Where we do have to extend a response beyond 10 working days, this must be agreed with the customer. Where an agreement cannot be reached we will provide the Housing Ombudsman’s contact details so the resident can challenge the our plan for responding and/or the proposed timeliness of our response.

Complaint stage two

If a customer remains dissatisfied following our response at stage one or feels that we have not delivered on our resolution plan, a request can be made to escalate their complaint to stage two of our process. Only concerns that were part of the original, stage one complaint will be considered at this stage.

A request to escalate a complaint to stage two of our process must be made within a reasonable period, this will normally be within two months of our stage one response or completion date of agreed stage one resolution actions.  If necessary, we will seek further clarification to ensure full understanding of the complaint is agreed between us and the customer. 

Stage two complaints will be investigated and responded to by a senior member from the relevant service area and will be reviewed by the Customer Resolution Lead.

We will provide a response to stage two complaints within 20 working days if possible. There may be times when we cannot respond within this timeframe, in these circumstances we will inform the customer why this is and will not extend beyond a further 10 working days without good reason. Where we do have to extend a response beyond 10 working days, this must be agreed with the customer. Where an agreement cannot be reached we will provide the Housing Ombudsman’s contact details so the resident can challenge our plan for responding and/or the proposed timeliness of our response.

The stage two response represents our final response to a complaint. If a customer remains dissatisfied with our response after this stage, they will be referred to the Housing Ombudsman Service.

Closing a complaint

We will close a complaint when:

  • A resolution plan has been provided with clear, reasonable timescales for actions. Outstanding actions will be tracked and actioned expeditiously, and regular updates provided.
  • The complainant specifically states that they do not wish to take the matter further
  • We require additional information from the customer to proceed with the complaint but have been unable to contact them. This will only be done once three reasonable attempts have been made using all contact information available
  • A legal hearing has taken place and a judge has made a relevant ruling
  • The complainant acts in an unreasonable or offensive manner and/or refuses to cooperate with our staff (see section 2.5)

We will notify the customer in writing that their complaint has been closed the reasons for this. We will also explain how to appeal the decision to close the complaint if the customer is not happy with the closure.

Members enquiries

A customer can contact their local Councillor or MP at any point throughout the complaint process. We will treat such contacts as a complaint and confirm that we will treat it as such.

Responses to these complaints will be provided directly to the relevant local Councillor or MP as quickly as possible to allow them to keep their constituent informed. This will usually be within 10 working days.

Housing Ombudsman Service

We are members of the Housing Ombudsman Service and will provide information to customers and the Service as required. The Housing Ombudsman will usually only review complaints from customers that have a legal relationship with us. The Housing Ombudsman decision is final, and we will comply with any order made.

The Housing Ombudsman can be contacted at: Housing Ombudsman Service, PO Box 152, Liverpool, L33 7WQ

Telephone: 0300 111 3000

Email: info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk

Online: www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/residents/make-a-complaint/

2.3         Investigation and communication

Complaint investigations will be conducted in an impartial manner and will seek sufficient reliable information from all parties concerned to ensure that any findings and recommendations are fair and appropriate.

The complaint investigator will clarify what resolution the customer is requesting as part of their investigation and will inform the customer if the request is unreasonable or unrealistic.

Complaint investigators will be expected to:

  • Deal with complaints on their merits
  • Act independently and have an open mind
  • Take measures to address any actual or perceived conflict of interest
  • Consider all information and evidence clearly
  • Keep the complaint confidential as far as possible, with information only disclosed, if necessary, to investigate the matter
  • Communicate with the customer throughout their investigation and keep them informed of any relevant information

We will communicate with customers clearly and will adhere to any arrangements agreed with them in terms of frequency and method of communication if possible.

2.4         Privacy

Any information shared in a complaint response will comply with our Data Protection Policy and privacy statement. Complaint responses may not always identify individual members of staff or contractors or confirm whether disciplinary actions have or will be taken against members of staff or contractors acting on our behalf.

We will manage complaints about our handling of personal data like any other complaint, while making sure to consider our data protection policy and privacy statement as well as all relevant data protection legislation. We will notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) of any reportable data breaches identified through our investigations.

2.5         Unacceptable behaviour

We expect staff, contractors and customers to behave in an appropriate, respectful and fair manner at all times. Our Excessive Use and Unacceptable Behaviour Policy sets out the type of behaviour we consider to be unacceptable. This includes the inappropriate or disproportionate use of our complaints process where the nature or frequency of contact hinders our ability to resolve the concerns raised by that customer or other customers.

When a customer’s behaviour is unreasonable or excessive, we may vary our usual process and put specific arrangement in place as required by the circumstances. If this happens, we will follow the process for appeal and review set out in our Excessive Use and Behaviour Policy to ensure all customers are treated fairly.

Examples of behaviour we will not accept include:

  • Refusing to specify reasons for a complaint or escalation of a complaint
  • Refusing to cooperate with our investigation process
  • Refusing to accept when issues are outside the scope of the complaint process
  • Insisting on the complaint being handled in a way that is incompatible with our process or good practice
  • Raising many detailed, inconsequential queries and insisting that they are all answered individually
  • Making excessive demands on staff time through frequent, lengthy, repetitive phone calls, emails, online contacts, letters, or any other form of contact
  • Contacting members of staff via their personal communication channels including social media, email, or telephone
  • Excessive attendance at our office or insisting on a meeting without making an appointment.

3.0     Resolution and compensation

3.1         Acknowledging service failures

There will be times when things have gone wrong and if we find that this is the case during our complaint investigation, we will acknowledge this in our response. We will provide an explanation of why any failures occurred and what steps we will take or have already taken to put things right and prevent reoccurrence. We will apologise for any upset, inconvenience or distress caused as a result.

Our responses will contain a response to all points raised in the complaint, with clear reasons for any of the decisions we’ve made, these should reference the relevant policy, law or good practice where required.

We will also confirming in writing, upon the completion of a complaint the following:

  • The complaint stage
  • The complaint definition
  • The decision on the complaint
  • The reasons for the decisions made
  • The details of any remedy offered to put things right
  • Details of any outstanding actions
  • (Stage one) Details of how to escalate the matter to stage two if the customer is not satisfied with the response
  • (Stage two) details of how to escalate the matter to the Housing Ombudsman Service if the customer remains dissatisfied. Or details of how to contact a designation person, such as a Member of Parliament or Tenant panel

3.2         Putting things right

Resolution

Where things go wrong, it is important as a landlord we have acknowledged this and set out the actions we have already taken, or intend to take, to put things right.

These can include:

  • Acknowledging where things have gone wrong
  • Providing and explanation, assistance, or reasons
  • Apologising
  • Taking action where there has been delay
  • Undertaking works of repair in respect of a claim of disrepair
  • Reconsidering or changing a decision
  • Amending a record
  • Providing financial remedy
  • Changing policies, procedures, or practice. 

Any response we make to a complaint will clearly set out what will happen and when it will happen, where necessary this will be in agreement with the customer.

Any resolution offered must reflect the extent of any service failures and the level of distress and specific financial loss and /or loss of amenity in respect of claim of disrepair that has been caused to our customer(s).  We will ensure that we are carefully managing the expectations of our customers to ensure we are not promising anything we cannot deliver or would be unfair to other residents.

When considering a remedy, we will consider the following, though this list is not exhaustive:

  • Length of time the situation has been ongoing
  • Frequency with which something has occurred
  • Severity of any service failure or omission
  • Number of different failures
  • Cumulative impact on the customer
  • Customers particular circumstances or vulnerabilities
  • Specific financial loss and /or loss of amenity in respect of claim of disrepair

Compensation

Complaint resolutions will reflect the extent of any service failures and the impact of these on the customer. We may consider it appropriate to offer discretionary compensation to a customer following a complaint. Factors considered when deciding to offer compensation will include:

  • Specific financial loss and /or loss of amenity in respect of claim of disrepair
  • The duration of the service failure or situation leading to complaint
  • How often the customer was affected by the situation
  • The severity of the situation
  • Whether there were multiple service failures
  • The cumulative impact on the customer
  • A customer’s particular circumstances or vulnerabilities
  • Statutory obligations are applicable under Right to Repair obligations (see Responsive Repairs Policy for details)

Our discretionary compensation payments are intended to rebuild trust and goodwill between Wandle and our customers, they are not admissions of liability.

If a customer is in arrears, we will usually credit any compensation to the rent account unless the reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses is required to prevent hardship.

3.3         Exclusions

In the following circumstances remedial action or compensation will not usually be provided unless there is a health and safety risk present:

  • The issue occurred due to the customer’s action or inaction
  • We took reasonable steps to cancel an appointment up to 24 hours in advance
  • The service failure was the fault of a third party not acting on our behalf
  • The issue arose from circumstances beyond our control (e.g. extreme weather)
  • The matter requires investigation by our insurer (e.g. personal injury claims)
  • The issue should be covered by the customer’s contents insurance

We will consider customer vulnerability and will use our discretion when assessing the need for action or compensation.

4.0     Roles and Responsibilities

Policy owner

This policy is owned by the Customer Experience Manager who is responsible for ensuring the consistent application of it throughout Wandle.

Complaints officer

The Customer Resolution Lead has been identified to fulfil the role of “complaints officer” as outlined in the Housing Ombudsman Complaint Handling Code.

All staff

All staff are expected to follow the guidance outlined in this policy. Dependant on the nature of their role, staff may be expected to open, investigate, respond, or review a complaint case.

Customer

Customers are expected to notify Wandle promptly of any service failures to allow for prompt resolution. Customers will also be required to communicate with Wandle staff as necessary throughout the process and provide relevant evidence to support their complaint.

Board and Executive Team

The Board and Executive Team members are responsible for ensuring compliance with this policy and any other relevant regulatory and compliance guidance.

5.0     Related Documents

5.1         Internal

StrategiesTarget Operating Model
PoliciesExcessive Use and Unreasonable Behaviour Policy Data Protection Policy Service Charge Policy Responsive Repairs Policy Anti-Social Behaviour Policy Homeownership Policy Tenancy Management Policy
ProceduresComplaints Procedure Service Charge Dispute Procedure Tenant Panel Recognition Procedure
Other internal documentsCompensation Guideline

 

5.2         External

The Housing Ombudsman Scheme (housing-ombudsman.org.uk)

The Housing Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code (housing-ombudsman.org.uk)

Tenancy Involvement and Empowerment Standard

A New Deal for Social Housing – Green Paper

Governance and Financial Viability Standard

New guidance for landlords on disrepair claims – Housing Ombudsman (housing-ombudsman.org.uk)

 

6.0 Relevant Legislation

LegislationMain powers and relevance to the policy subject  How we use or comply with legislation
Housing Act 1996   Schedule 2              Requires social landlords to be members of the approved Housing Ombudsman Scheme. As a condition of membership, a member must: a. Agree to be bound by the Scheme, b. Establish and maintain a complaints procedure, c. Inform complainants of their right to bring complaints to the Ombudsman under the Scheme, and d. Publish its complaints procedure and its membership of the Scheme, and make information about them available to those entitled to complain to the OmbudsmanWandle are members of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme.We have agreed to be bound by the Scheme as part of our membershipThis complaint policy establishes our complaints procedure and will be maintained as requiredDetails of the Housing Ombudsman Service are provided to customers via our website, template letters and publicationsThis policy will be published on our website and will be provided to customers when requested in a suitable format  
General Data Protection Act 2018All Wandle policies are required to comply with the General Data Protection Act 2018.  Section 2.4 of this policy explains that we will ensure the privacy of customers, staff and those acting on behalf of Wandle and will adhere to our Data Protection Policy and privacy statement.  
Equality Act 2010Under the Equality Act 2010 Wandle must consider whether our policies adversely affect our customers and/or staff.  An equality impact assessment (EIA) has been completed for this policy and will be revised as needed.

 

7.0     Compliance

The Housing Ombudsman Scheme (housing-ombudsman.org.uk)

Part 1, section 9

As a condition of membership of the Scheme, a member must:

  1. Agree to be bound by the terms of the Scheme
  2. Establish and maintain a complaints procedure in accordance with any good practice recommended by the Ombudsman
  3. As part of that procedure, inform residents of their right to bring complaints to the Ombudsman under the Scheme
  4. Publish its complaints procedure, and where applicable, its membership of the Scheme, and make information about both easily accessible to those entitled to complain on its website and in correspondence with residents
  5. Manage complaints from residents in accordance with its published procedure or where this is not possible within a reasonable timescale

We comply with this through our membership of the Scheme and through the publication of this policy on our website. We provide information about this policy and the Housing Ombudsman Scheme to our customers through our website and relevant publications. Correspondence to customers during complaints include information about their rights under the Scheme.

Part 1, section 10 and 11

S10: The member must provide copies (without charge) of any information requested by the Ombudsman, that is, in the Ombudsman’s opinion, relevant to the complaint. This may include the following records and documents:

  1. The landlord’s policies and procedures
  2. Any internal files, documents, correspondence, records, accounts or minutes of meetings, in hard copy of electronic form. This includes records relating to similar cases where the Ombudsman needs them to establish consistency of practice

S11: The member must provide the requested information within a reasonable timescale or allow access for inspection.

We comply with this by providing information as requested to the Ombudsman with approved timescales.

Part 1, section 12

When the Ombudsman gives reasonable notice, the member must (without charge):

  1. Allow the Ombudsman to interview the member’s staff, board or committee members
  2. Require a representative to attend any meetings convened by the Ombudsman
  3. Use its best and reasonable efforts to help the Ombudsman get information from third parties who may know about the complaint or from the member’s former members of staff
  4. Provide such other reasonable help as the Ombudsman may request

We will comply with this section when requested by the Ombudsman.

The Housing Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code (housing-ombudsman.org.uk)

Part A, section 1

Compliance with the Code forms part of the membership obligations set out in the Housing Ombudsman Scheme. Landlords should comply with the requirements of the Code. The Code should be read in conjunction with the Scheme.

Landlords are encouraged to promote the Code and to share the outcome of their self-assessment with residents

This policy has been written to comply with the guidance of the Code. A self-assessment of our performance against the Code will be completed annually, reviewed by the Board and published on our website for customers to access.

Tenancy Involvement and Empowerment Standard

Section 1.1.1, part (b)

Registered providers shall have an approach to complaints that is clear, simple and accessible that ensures that complaints are resolved promptly, politely and fairly.

This policy is compliant with this standard through specific timescales for complaint resolution and provision of guidance for complaint investigator conduct.

Section 2.1.2

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.

We comply with this by accepting complaints via our online self-service portal or website, by email, post, in person and by any other reasonable method. Complaints from an authorised person acting on behalf of a customer or customers will be accepted.

This policy sets out our service standard for responding to complaints, including complaints about performance against the standards and what customers can do if they are unhappy with the outcome of a complaint.

Section 1.4 of this policy explains how we will inform customers about our complaint performance and how we use complaints to improve services.

Governance and Financial Viability Standard

Section 1.1 part (c)

Registered providers shall ensure effective governance arrangements that deliver their aims, objectives and intended outcomes for tenants and potential tenants in an effective, transparent and accountable manner. Governance arrangements shall ensure registered providers are accountable to tenants, the regulator and relevant stakeholders.

This policy outlines how we will respond to tenant complaints and provide relevant performance information. This policy also clarifies that we are bound by the membership terms of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme and will provide information to them as requested.