Complaints and Compliments Policy.
- Keelman Homes is committed to providing excellent homes and housing services to the people of Gateshead, and we work hard to make sure that we meet the high standards we set ourselves wherever possible.
- Compliments from our customers tell us what we are doing well. When something goes wrong, feedback from complaints allows us to put things right and improve how we do things in future.
- Encouraging and welcoming positive and negative feedback from our customers is key to our values:
- To be fair
- To be customer focused
- To be open and honest
- To be accountable
- To be inclusive, valuing diversity
- To be innovative
- To be passionate about what we do
- As well as recording and learning internally from feedback it is also important to let our customers know what we have done as a result.
- This policy is intended to provide guidance for employees and customers on what we would class as a complaint; how we manage the complaints process; what we can do to put things right, and what customers can do if they are not happy with the outcome of the complaints process.
- The policy also sets out how we learn from customer feedback, and how we publish this to our customers.
- Complaint – 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.
- Compliment – An expression of satisfaction where the customer feels that we have delivered a service particularly well or exceeded their expectation in some way.
- Investigating Officer – a designated person and point of contact for a tenant. The officer is responsible for overseeing the complaint through all stages of a complaint.
- KH – Keelman Homes (also known as ‘the Landlord’)
- Managing Agent – Gateshead Council
- Designated Person – The role of ‘designated person’ was introduced by the Localism Act 2011 to help resolve complaints at a local level. The designated person can be any MP, a local Councillor, or a recognised Tenant Panel.
- This policy does not cover complaints which are subject to legal action or which are being dealt with as insurance claims.
- Complaints about tenants or nuisance behaviour are not covered by this policy and should be referred to the Managing Agent’s Neighbourhood Housing Officer or Neighbourhood Relations Officer, unless the complaint relates to a policy and procedures, or to how the case is being managed by the officers involved.
- In line with guidance from the Housing Ombudsman, Keelman Homes also reserves the right to not investigate a complaint which has not been reported in a timely fashion.
- Under normal circumstances we therefore expect customers to register their complaint no later than six months after the event.
- Complaints about employees where serious misconduct is alleged are not covered by this policy and will be investigated outside of the corporate complaints process and in conjunction with HR.
- In the course of investigating a complaint it may be necessary to share customer information with other organisations or a third party.
- It is also possible that a customer may ask someone (a family member, councillor or other advocate) to complain on their behalf.
- It is essential that we get permission, either verbally or in writing, from the customer before releasing any personal information to another party. This permission should be recorded on the system in the case notes for the complaint.
- Do not assume that permission granted on one occasion constitutes a blanket permission to share the customer’s details. Permission should be sought from the customer and recorded against each new complaint to ensure that their data is protected.
- The customer should always be at the centre of the complaints procedure, and where something has gone wrong our focus should be on putting things right, not justifying our actions or being defensive.
- Complaints will be accepted verbally or in writing, and by all our recognised communication channels including website and social media.
- All employees have access to the complaints system, and every employee is responsible for ensuring that they record all complaints that they receive. Employees should also aim to solve the complaint at the first point of contact wherever possible.
- Keelman Homes operates a three stage complaints procedure:
- Stage 1 – Problem Solving – Where a complaint can be resolved informally, without an investigation. The customer requires no further action.
- Stage 2 – Investigation – Where the customer requires a formal response, or an investigation is needed in order to determine a solution. We aim to provide a final response within 10 working days.
- Stage 3 – Review – Where the customer is unhappy with the response from the Investigation and wants it to be reviewed by a more senior officer. We aim to provide a final response within 20 working days.
Stage 1 – Problem Solving
- A customer complaint/enquiry is received and logged. The issue is resolved at this first point of contact. No further action is needed.
Stage 2 – Investigation
- Where an Investigation is required, the complainant will be contacted within 3 days to acknowledge their complaint. The Managing Agent will appoint an Investigating Officer responsible for the complaint and the officers name will be given to the complainant.
- Where a customer is unhappy with the outcome of the Investigation, they can request a review. We ask them to make this request within 10 working days of receiving our initial decision
Stage 3 – Review
- The Review will be undertaken either by a Managing Agent Service Manager or Head of Service dependent on who undertook the initial investigation. The role of the Reviewer is not to reinvestigate the complaint itself, but to ensure that the initial investigation was thorough and followed our published policy and procedures. They should also consider whether the decision is consistent with previous complaint responses.
- KH is to be notified when a complaint which relates to KH is under review and who is acting as a Reviewer.
- If the Reviewer is satisfied that the complaint has been handled in accordance with the published policy and procedure, the original decision will be upheld, and the complaint process considered complete.
- Where the Reviewer considers this not to be the case, they can refer the complaint back to any Investigating Officer who should rectify any oversights and reconsider the initial decision based on the new information. This decision should then be authorised by the Reviewer, and the process will then be considered complete.
- When the complaint is concluded a formal response will be coordinated by the Reviewer and issued by the Managing Agent to the complainant. KH must be notified of the review conclusion.
- If the customer is still not satisfied at the end of our complaints procedure, they can ask a designated person to refer their complaint to the Housing Ombudsman. If this occurs Keelman Homes must be informed by the Managing Agent and a comprehensive file on the complaint handling which has occurred must be issued to KH.
The Ombudsman Service
- On 1 April 2013 the new Housing Ombudsman Service was launched with an extended jurisdiction covering all housing associations and local authorities. A new Housing Ombudsman Scheme (setting out the Ombudsman’s terms of reference) also came into effect on 1 April.
- The Housing Ombudsman will investigate complaints relating to the housing services we provide, such as rent, repairs and estate management.
- If a customer wants the Housing Ombudsman to consider their complaint, they must first complete our internal complaints process. Once this is concluded they can either ask a designated person to refer the complaint to the Housing Ombudsman or wait 8 weeks and then contact the Housing Ombudsman themselves.
- In Gateshead a designated person can be any MP, or any local Councillor.
- The Local Government Ombudsman will still investigate complaints about the wider activities of the Local Authority, including allocations policy, housing options advice and housing benefit claims. You can approach the Local Government Ombudsman directly once you have completed our internal complaints process.
Vexatious complaints and complainants
- Keelman Homes is committed to dealing with all complaints fairly and impartially and to providing a high-quality service to those who make them.
- However, a small minority of customers make complaints that are time wasting, in that they persist unreasonably with their complaints, or make complaints in order to make life difficult for staff rather than to genuinely resolve a grievance. This may involve those making serial complaints about different matters or continuing to raise the same or similar matters over and over again. The frequency of contact can hinder the consideration of their complaints and the ability of staff to provide a quality service to other customers.
- We refer to these as complaints and complainants as “vexatious”.
- Even where a complaint or complainant is deemed to be vexatious, it is still important to ensure that they are able to access our services, including the complaints service.
- To achieve this, there are a number of options available to employees to enable them to manage vexatious complaints and complainants fairly but effectively. These are set out in the Managing Agent’s Vexatious Contacts Guide.
- Keelman Homes is committed to ensuring that disabled people are not disadvantaged in accessing its services. This policy does not seek to explain how we will approach every situation, it is intended as a general statement of our policy.
- Under the Equality Act 2010 the legal duty to make reasonable adjustments arises in three circumstances:
- Where there is a provision, criterion or practice which puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled
- Where a physical feature puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled
- Where a disabled person would, but for the provision of an auxiliary aid, be put at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled.
- To make an adjustment means to make a physical change to premises or to change work practices to avoid or correct the disadvantage to a person with a disability Examples of this include:
- Allowing more time than we would usually for someone to provide information that we needed or
- Providing specialist equipment or additional support such as a sign language interpreter for a workshop or event.
- The Managing Agent, acting on behalf of KH, will let people know the reasonable adjustments which are available and in place. These will be contained within the Managing Agents Complaints and Compliments Policy.
Redress and remedies
- Any remedy should put right the failure and restore the customer to the position they were in before the failure occurred. Redress should be proportionate to the damage, loss or distress caused.
- Remedies that can be offered include work in kind, replacement of damaged or lost items, or financial redress where it is not possible to put the problem right in any other way.
- Where a customer wishes to make a claim to have damaged goods replaced or repaired, they must keep the damaged items for inspection. The claim must be made within 28 days of the damage or loss occurring.
- Where we offer to replace a specific item, we will take into consideration the condition and age of the item being replaced – we will not provide replacement items on a “new for old” basis.
- In deciding whether to award financial redress, the Investigating Officer will consider whether action (or lack of action) by the customer has contributed to the loss or damage being claimed for.
- Keelman Homes expects tenants and leaseholders to have appropriate insurance cover for their homes and belongings. The Investigating Officer will only consider claims for loss or damage which have been directly caused by negligence of a Managing Agent employee or other party acting on behalf of KH.
- Where the tenant or leaseholder owes an outstanding debt to KH, any redress payment will first be used to offset this debt.
Learning from complaints and compliments
- It is expected that the Managing Agent will constantly review its Complaints and Compliments received and its processes to continually improve the service it offers to our tenants.
- A report must be produced by the Managing Agent annually summarising any complaints and compliments received from KH tenants or in relation to KH properties and issued annually.
- KH will present the findings to KH Board annually and findings will be published on the KH website.
- Keelman Homes is committed to meeting the needs of its current and potential customers and expects the managing agent to ensure everyone is able to access the services they require.
- To ensure that all customers are able to report complaints it is expected that the Managing Agent accepts complaints verbally and in writing, including by email and text.
- Support systems should be offered by the Managing Agent which may include:
- Language Line (telephone interpreting)
- Other language interpreting service (including face-to-face interpreting, British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreters and Lip Speakers)
- Other language translating services
- Hearing Induction Loop Systems (available at all offices and for home visits)
- Home visits where customers are unable to access our offices.
Monitoring and review
- Keelman Homes monitors performance of its Managing Agent using internal performance indicators and service standards, and external benchmarking with HouseMark.
- Performance data is collected quarterly, with an annual report presented to the KH Board and published to customers on the KH website.
- This policy will be reviewed every two years by Keelman Homes and amendments will be approved by the Keelman Homes Board.