Complaints Policy

PurposeThis policy sets out how Mount Green manages complaints claims
Applies toThis policy applies to all residents of Mount Green and all tenancies managed by Mount Green.
Date first implementedApril 2023
AuthorCustomer Experience Manager
Date approved by Exec TeamApril 2023
Date approved by Resident Committee GroupApril 2023
Review FrequencyEvery 3 years or as required by the Housing Ombudsman
Service AreaHousing Services

Document Status: This is a controlled document. Any printed copies of this document are not controlled. As a controlled document, this document should not be saved onto local drives but always accessed from the Policy Library.

Consequential Amendments
(made prior to full policy revision)

Amendment DateNature of AmendmentRevised by
September 2023Minor changes to the wording made in line with Complaints Handling CodeCustomer Experience Manager
January 2024Minor changes made to align with code to allow for a compliant joint self assessment with Stonewater:
3.1 – state 2 stage mandatory process
Sec 7 – remove reference to informal resolution
7.1 – remove the words ‘expression of dissatisfaction’
7.3 – include the word ‘optional’ to Stage 3
Sec 8 – amend to show that complaints can be escalated to the Ombudsman after stage 2
Addition of 6.11 in line with complaint handling code
Additional bullet point at sec 7
ADHS
March 2024Transitional changes to comply with new complaint handling code while waiting for new Stonewater policy to be approved and adopted:
6.8 extend from 6 to 12 months; 7.2 extend response time to 20 working days and remove the option to escalate to stage 3.
7.3 Removal of optional stage 3.

ADHS

Version History

Revision DateVersion No.Revised byApproved by
April 20231.0Customer Experience ManagerSenior Leadership Team
September 2023 1.1 Customer Experience Manager Senior Leadership Team
January 2024 1.2 AD of Housing Services Senior Leadership Team
March 20241.3AD of Housing ServicesSenior Leadership Team

Current Policy Revision

Date revisedApril 2023
Revised byCustomer Experience Manager
Executive approval dateApril 2023
Next revision dueMarch 2026

1. Policy Statement

1.1 Mount Green Housing Association aims to provide an excellent service to all our customers, ensuring that everyone feels both valued and respected. We acknowledge that sometimes things go wrong and when they do our aim is to put things right as soon as possible. We want to know when we get things wrong, or when customers are unhappy with the service they have received from us, so that we can learn from this and improve the way we work as a result. We believe that complaints are an excellent opportunity to listen and
respond to our residents and other customers in a proactive way.

1.2 The Housing Ombudsman defines a complaint as “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.”

2. Policy Principles

2.1 Whilst our principal customers are our residents, there are others who may receive a service from us. This policy applies to all residents and anyone else who receives a service from Mount Green, referred to as our ‘customers’ in this policy.

2.2 The aim of this policy is to set out how we will listen, respond, and learn from problems and mistakes so that we can improve the services we deliver.

This policy aims to:

  • Set out a definition of a complaint that can be clearly understood by both customers and staff
  • Take a proactive approach to managing complaints
  • Enable and empower our staff to deal with complaints effectively at the earliest stage in the process
  • Be responsive to the needs of our customers
  • Be open, transparent, and easy to understand
  • Reflect current best practice
  • Help us to learn from complaints and shape our services as a result
  • Set out a process for dealing with unreasonable complaints
  • Provide guidance of what customers should do if Mount Green are unable to resolve their complaint

2.3 The policy reflects the requirements of the Equalities Act 2010. We will make reasonable adjustments to our complaints handling policy to avoid or correct the disadvantage to a person with a disability.

3. Implementation

3.1. When we receive a complaint, we welcome it as an opportunity to improve our relationship with our customers and improve our service through our 2-stage mandatory complaints process. We will demonstrate openness, transparency and accountability to our customers. We welcome the opportunity to hear where customers feel we have got things wrong and
where they feel we need to improve as this helps us improve our service delivery.

3.2 Because we see complaints as an opportunity rather than a threat, staff are encouraged to actively identify issues. A customer will not have to use the word “complaint” or to ask to “make a complaint”.

3.3 Changes to this policy will be communicated to all staff. All staff will be required to read this policy, and to confirm that they have read and understood it.

4. Other Policies

4.1 This policy should be used in conjunction with the following policies:

  • ASB Policy
  • Compensation Policy
  • Decant Policy
  • Repairs & Maintenance Policy
  • Unacceptable Behaviour Policy
  • Vulnerable Residents Policy

5. Responsibility

5.1 The Assistant Director of Business Operations on behalf of the Board carries overall responsibility for ensuring that Mount Green has the appropriate processes in place to deal with complaints adequately.

5.2 The Director of Business Operations will provide the Board and the Resident Committee Group with an overview of complaints management on a quarterly basis.

5.3 The Customer Experience Manager is responsible for overseeing the management of the complaints process, collating complaints data and identifying and sharing service improvements with the Assistant Directors.

5.4 The Assistant Directors are responsibility for implementing service improvements identified through ‘lessons learnt’ from the complaints process.

5.5 The Customer Experience Coordinator is responsible for tracking, record keeping and regular meetings to ensure staff are keeping on top of the day to-day admin involved in efficiently managing complaints.

5.6 All staff are responsible for recognising an expression of dissatisfaction and flagging these to the Customer Experience Coordinator. Staff may receive these in person, over the telephone, in writing or by email.

5.7 All staff are responsible for investigating complaints and will undertake training to ensure complaints are handled sensitively and staff have the autonomy to act to resolve issues quickly and fairly.

6. Policy Detail

6.1 Our aim is to provide the best standard of service for all our customers, and we welcome suggestions, comments and views on how to improve the services we offer. We recognise that from time-to-time things go wrong but we believe that most problems can be easily resolved; our aim is to achieve early resolution and every effort will be made to resolve matters before a complaint is made

What is a complaint?

6.2 A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction any customer feels about an aspect of our service, policies, actions and decisions. If a customer requests us to log a complaint, it must be logged unless there is a valid reason not to do so.

A complaint could be when a customer feels:

  • We have failed to adequately respond to their initial request
  • We have been unhelpful or rude
  • We have failed to meet our stated standards or promises
  • We have given unclear, misleading or unsuitable advice
  • We have not complied with our policies or procedures
  • Further enquiries are needed to resolve a matter

6.3 A complaint is not a first attempt to request for a service or an enquiry.

6.4 We have special procedures for reporting anti-social behaviour and neighbour nuisance and these will not be dealt with under this complaints policy unless we have failed to deliver to agreed service standards.

6.5 If you disagree with the level of rent or service charge you are paying, or the amount of a rent or service charge increase, you should apply to the First-Tier Tribunal – Property Chamber (Residential Property) or the Leaseholder Advisory Service (for leaseholders). We can investigate your complaint if it is about the collection of rents or service charges, their calculation or how this information was communicated, rather than the level of charge itself. Examples of the types of issues covered by this complaints policy include accounting errors, communication, and application of refunds.

6.6 We will not be able to deal with the following via the complaints process:

  • Matters where legal proceedings have started. This is defined as details of the claim, such as the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim, having been filed at court.
  • Matters where an insurance claim is outstanding
  • Complaints that have already been through the process or which, in Mount Green’s opinion, are being pursued in an unreasonable manner
  • Complaints that fall outside our jurisdiction (e.g. complaints about utilities)
  • Survey feedback will not be treated as a complaint, although, where possible, the person completing the survey will be made aware of how they can pursue their dissatisfaction as a complaint

6.7 If we are unable to investigate a complaint regarding a service that we do not provide i.e., utilities, we will signpost customers to other agencies that will be able to help.

6.8 We will investigate complaints about things that have happened in the last 12 months. Complaints made after this time will be responded to but may not be taken through the formal complaints procedure unless there are clear and fair reasons for the delay in making the complaint, this will be at the discretion of the Customer Experience Manager.

6.9 If we decide not to accept a complaint, a detailed explanation will be provided setting out the reasons why the matter is not suitable for the complaints process, and we will clearly communicate a complainant’s right to take that decision to the Housing Ombudsman Service.

6.10 Complainant’s will be given the opportunity to have a representative deal with their complaint on their behalf, and to be represented or accompanied at any meeting with us where this is reasonable.

6.11 Where a complaint involves a member of staff, the staff member will be interviewed as part of the initial investigation and kept up to date following each stage of the process. Should any action be taken against the member of staff this will be in accordance with the relevant Mount Green policy and procedure.

7. Our Complaints Procedure

We will train and empower our staff to respond positively to issues. At each Stage of our complaints process, the complaint will be allocated to an investigating officer. A complaint handler must:

  • 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 carefully
  • keep the complaint confidential as far as possible, with information only disclosed if necessary to properly investigate the matter.
  • Provide detailed complaint commitments in our complaint response.

7.1 Stage 1

Stage 1 of our complaints process is our first attempt to resolve a concern where the resolution is formally recorded. The record keeping provides an audit trail for us and our customers.

An acknowledgement of a Stage 1 complaint will be sent within two working days to the customer. The complaint will be investigated and responded to within 10 working days by an investigating officer. The investigating officer will be the most appropriate front-line staff member or officer.

If the investigating officer is unable to respond within 10 working days, an extension should be agreed by both parties. Where agreement over an extension period cannot be reached, the investigating officer will provide the Housing Ombudsman’s contact details so the complainant can challenge this request.

Any service improvements will be passed to a Customer Experience Coordinator, so they are recorded for monitoring and follow up purposes.

Compensation, or a gesture of goodwill, may be arranged at any point during the management of the expression of dissatisfaction to achieve early resolution. Any goodwill gesture will be implemented in accordance with Mount Green’s compensation policy.

If all or part of the Stage 1 complaint is not resolved to the resident’s satisfaction at this stage, it will be progressed to Stage 2 of our complaints process.

7.2 Stage 2- Manager Review

Where an issue cannot be resolved at Stage 1 of our complaints process, if further enquiries are needed to resolve the matter, or if the resident requests it within 10 working days, the issue must be logged as a Stage 2 complaint for formal investigation by the relevant service manager.

When a formal complaint is received, an acknowledgement will be sent within two working days and will include a complaints reference number.

Where complainants raise additional complaints during the investigation, these should be incorporated into the Stage 2 response if they are relevant, and the Stage 2 response has not been issued. Where the Stage 2 response has been issued, or it would unreasonably delay the response, the additional complaint should be logged as a new complaint.

All complainants will be contacted by the staff member investigating their complaint to clarify the service failure that has occurred, and the outcome required to put things right. All complaints will be investigated and responded to within 20 working days.

If the investigating manager is unable to respond within 20 working days, an extension should be agreed by both parties. Where agreement over an extension period cannot be reached, the investigating manager will provide the Housing Ombudsman’s contact details so the complainant can challenge this request.

The investigating manager will provide an individual action plan detailing what will be done to put things right with associated timescales.

The investigating manager will be responsible for the completion of any complaint actions, and keeping the complainant informed of progress. The investigating manager will also be responsible for ensuring that any service improvements are reported to the Customer Experience Manager.

Stage two is our final response to the complaint and we will involve all suitable staff members as needed. Once a customer or representative has received their stage two response, they can refer their complaint to the Housing Ombudsman Service if they remain dissatisfied.

Housing Ombudsman

A complainant has the right to access the Housing Ombudsman Service at any time throughout the complaints process. The Housing Ombudsman cannot investigate a complaint whilst it is going through our internal complaints procedure however the Ombudsman may be able to help assist with reaching an early resolution.

Following Stage 2 and the completion of our internal complaints process, complainants are entitled to refer their complaint to the Housing Ombudsman Service.

Housing Ombudsman Service
Tel: 0300 111 3000
Email: info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk
Website: www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk
Post: Housing Ombudsman Service, PO Box 152, Liverpool, L33 7WQ

Outcomes

At any stage complaints may be upheld, partially upheld or not upheld and this will be clearly communicated in any outcome letter. At all stages our objective is to find a positive resolution, although there will be times when the customer’s desired outcome is simply not possible or reasonable. Where a complaint is upheld then a service improvement may be identified, and this will be discussed at the quarterly management complaints meeting.

Closing Complaints

Complaints will be closed if no request for an escalation to the next stage has been received by the deadline. Further complaints, even if of a similar nature, will be treated as new complaints unless the complaint is due to the fact we have not completed the agreed actions in the outcome letter. Closed complaints will not be re-opened.

Compensation

We recognise that occasionally we may fail to meet acceptable standards of service which may result in loss, damage or inconvenience to our customers and in these circumstances compensation may be appropriate. For more information, please see our Compensation Policy.

Unreasonable Complaints

We reserve the right to refuse to investigate complaints that are repeated or of a frivolous nature. This decision will be taken by the Director of Business Operations. A staff member may identify a habitual complainant by the quantity of unfounded, unreasonable or repetitious complaints submitted. Repeated complaints about the same service will not be investigated formally, however we will always endeavour to resolve any problems our customers encounter from the service we provide and encourage customers to talk to us if they are not happy. We will carry out investigations outside of the complaints process and will not dismiss or ignore these complaints.

We may use our Unacceptable Behaviour Policy when a customer’s actions or behaviours are deemed to be unreasonable. We will always try to find a way to work with customers before reaching this stage, but very occasionally may have to use this policy in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff. The following are examples of when this policy might be used in terms of complaints:

  • The customer is using threatening or offensive language or behaviour.
  • There is nothing further Mount Green Housing Association can reasonably do to assist.
  • The complainant continues to raise the same or a closely related complaint even after the complaint process has been fully exhausted.
  • The resources needed to deal effectively with the complaint are disproportionate to the benefit of the outcome sought.

Legal Action

At any stage the Executive Team or Board may take legal advice and consider the use of injunctions or other legal remedy, if it is assessed that a serial or persistent complainant is causing harassment or is considered to be a threat to staff.

8. Monitoring

8.1 A customer complaint is a fantastic opportunity to learn about what or how we need to improve our service. We therefore want to learn from every complaint and to capture and share the things that we learn so that everyone can improve.

8.2 To do this, we will record and monitor every complaint including details such as what the complaint was about, how it was resolved, how quickly it was resolved and what we learnt. We will produce an annual summary of lessons learnt and service improvements made.

8.3 We will contact customers after they have complained to find out about their experience of the process, and we will seek to learn from this feedback and to change our processes and approach to reflect customer’s views.

8.4 We will carry out quarterly complaint review meetings internally, to continuously look at how we can improve our services as well as monitor actions relating to complaints.

8.5 Performance regarding complaint handling will be reported quarterly to the Board and promoted in resident communications.

8.6 We will carry out annual perception surveys to understand our resident’s satisfaction with our approach to handling complaints.

9. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

9.1 For Mount Green, diversity is about respecting people’s individual differences and ensuring that all people that come into contact with us have access to the same high standards of behaviour and service.

9.2 We are committed to ensuring that no resident will be treated less favourably because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex or sexual orientation.

9.3 We will provide customers with any support they need throughout their complaint, and may adapt our normal policies, procedures, or processes to accommodate an individual’s needs. This could include translating information or providing an interpreter if their first language is not English. We will also communicate with customers in the way that suits them wherever possible. We may allow more time than we would usually for someone to provide information or make decisions