Brighton Housing Trust welcomes complaints and expressions of dissatisfaction as one way of helping to learn, improve and develop our services and practice. Brighton Housing Trust and BHT includes Sussex Oakleaf which has merged with BHT from 1st April 2020.
Complaints will be responded to promptly and objectively with an aim of fair resolution. All complaints will be treated with respect and understanding.
In line with this policy, each project will have an easily accessible Complaints procedure, to enable an efficient, thorough, fair and appropriate response to complaints.
A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction where an initial response to their problem or dissatisfaction has not been satisfactory.
Each Project will have a Complaints Procedure which will:
- Be committed to early resolution
- Be easily accessible and well publicised
- Ensure a swift response, with established time limits for action and complainants being informed of progress
- Ensure a full and fair investigation
- Ensure that the BHT Confidentiality Policy is adhered to
- Address all points raised and provide an effective response and appropriate redress to these
- Ask the complainant how they would like the complaint to be resolved, and what they would ideally like the outcome to be
- Provide information so that services can be improved.
BHT will not normally investigate or respond to complaints made by parties against whom BHT’s Legal and Advice Services are acting.
The Complaints Policy and Procedure is publicised on the BHT and Sussex Oakleaf websites, in handbooks, information leaflets and elsewhere. A complaints form which should be used in all but exceptional circumstances is available on both websites.
All members of staff should be mindful that not all those with whom we work have the literacy skills to make a written complaint. Except where staff have definite knowledge that the individual has adequate literacy skills, all complainants should be asked if they would like assistance in submitting their complaint. Such assistance can be provided, if appropriate, by BHT staff or they should be sign-posted to other agencies, such as the CAB.
How to make a Complaint
Complaints should normally be made using the BHT Complaints form on paper or online, although complaints can also be made verbally, by telephone, email, social media or other means. Complainants may be asked to complete the complaints form to ensure that there is absolute clarity regarding the nature of the complaint.
Where the complaint is not in writing, the member of staff receiving the complaint will need to complete the Complaint Form with details of the complaint, how to contact the complainant etc, and wherever possible, this should be signed by the complainant. Members of staff should be sensitive to literacy or other communication/support needs and offer to assist, if appropriate.
Lines of Delegation and Responsibility
There are two stages of the BHT Complaints Procedure, and both contain indicative response times. While these time scales should, ideally, be adhered to, unavoidable circumstances might result in the need for them to be extended; if that is the case, the reasons must be recorded, for example, difficulty in locating the client, difficulty in engaging with the client, the inability to gather evidence due to the absence of key people, etc.
Within these time scales:
- All Complaints will be dealt with as speedily as possible, whilst ensuring a full and fair investigation addressing all the points raised and providing an effective response and appropriate redress.
- The complainant will be informed at the earliest opportunity about how their complaint will be processed
If the complainant is not satisfied with the initial response to an expression of dissatisfaction, the complaint will be dealt with by the manager (or where appropriate, deputy manager) or senior manager of that project. They will endeavour to resolve the matter promptly and will aim to respond to the tenant, client or member of the public within 20 working days.
A report of the complaint will be kept on Inform or an alternate system where Inform is not used so that a summary of all complaints can be produced when required.
The Chief Executive and the Director of Services should be alerted at the earliest opportunity to any complaints that are particularly serious in nature (for example, abuse, neglect or serious injury or complaints reported to the press or from elected politicians, to ensure that any implications for public relations and organisational reputation can be considered).
Should Stage One prove unsatisfactory, the complainant can appeal against the decision, which will involve a review of the original complaint and paperwork related to this. There will not normally be a re-investigation. An appeal would be successful if the correct procedure had not been followed, the decision was not in line with the facts of the case, or that the action to be taken did not match the seriousness of the issue complained about. No new matters may form part of the appeal.
The appeal will normally be considered by a member of staff who has not previously been involved in the case and is a senior manager, Director or the Chief Executive, although in very rare circumstances it might be referred to a Board member of the Operations and Personnel Committee. The person considering the appeal will normally speak with the complainant and will review the complaint file.
Appeals should be made in writing, addressed to the Chief Executive, BHT, 144 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4PH.
The conclusions reached by the person dealing with the appeal, if not the Chief Executive, will be reported to the Chief Executive and communicated in writing to the complainant by the Chief Executive, normally within eight weeks of the appeal being lodged.
The Appeal stage is the final stage in BHT’s own procedures. Where appropriate, tenants, clients and others will be given information on referring complaints to relevant external bodies such as the local authority, the Housing Ombudsman Service, the Legal Aid Agency, the Care Quality Commission or other relevant bodies.
Should the published timescales be unachievable, a revised timetable will be agreed. Circumstances such as the absence of key personnel on annual leave or sickness may result in the timescale having to be revised. Timescales can be altered through mutual consent of all parties or, in the absence of mutual consent, with the agreement of the Chief Executive.
Complaints against the Chief Executive
The exception to the above procedure relates to complaints against the Chief Executive. Such complaints should be made in writing and addressed to the Chair of the Operations and Personnel Committee, BHT, 144 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4PH. They will acknowledge within 10 days the receipt of the complaint and will identify a person who will be investigating the complaint (the Investigating Officer).
On conclusion of the investigation, which will normally include an interview with the complainant, the Chief Executive, and other relevant witnesses, the Investigating Officer will report back to a panel of at least two Board members appointed by the Chair of the Operations and Personnel Committee. The panel will make a decision which will be communicated in writing to both the complainant and the Chief Executive. Complaints against the Chief Executive will normally be dealt with within 8 weeks of receipt.
Appeals against the decision of the panel can be made by writing to the Chair of the Board, BHT, 144 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4PH. They will acknowledge within 10 days the receipt of the complaint. The Chair will review the complaint file and will normally speak to the complainant. There will not normally be a re-investigation. An appeal would be successful if the correct procedure had not been followed, the decision was not in line with the facts of the case, or that the action to be taken did not match the seriousness of the issue complained about. No new matters may form part of the appeal. The Chair will make a final ruling and communicate this to the complainant and the Chief Executive, usually within eight weeks of receipt of the appeal.