The SOFA Project is committed to providing excellent customer service to everyone who is affected by its operation. We do not look at complaints as unwanted and we are firmly committed to a process of continuous improvement of which the complaints procedure is just one element.
Recognising that sometimes things go wrong, or mistakes are made, this policy outlines the procedures to follow to make a complaint and the internal procedures we follow to manage the process.
This procedure will be available on our web site and will form part of the induction process for staff and trustees. A copy will be sent to anyone making a complaint. Regular statistical reports will be provided to the Board of Trustees.
The objectives of this complaints procedure are to ensure that:
Any complaints that are received are investigated at the appropriate level in the organisation.
All complaints are actioned in the most expeditious way.
Persons making complaints know how their complaint will be dealt with and wherever possible, lessons are learned.
Definition of Customer
For the purposes of this procedure, customers are defined as anyone who has any dealing with the organisation; excluding staff who are asked to raise issues either with their line manager or under the internal grievance procedure. Trustees are also excluded from this procedure: any specific issues should be raised with the Chair of Trustees.
Even if customers do not regard a particular concern as a ‘complaint’, we would still like to know about it as it may help us deal with something we would otherwise overlook. These smaller things that go wrong or small misunderstandings can often be put right very quickly. We want to know about these; we want customers to get an acceptable solution very quickly but we also need to learn from the process.
In striving for excellent customer service, we realise that this is a high standard and in order to meet it, we need to be made aware of even the most minor failing. In order to avoid customers feeling that a minor issue is not worth raising as a complaint, we will take steps to encourage comment and constructive criticism at every level.
Training will be provided to all staff in dealing with all reported issues and misunderstandings. This training will include an empowerment to immediately resolve any issue where our service level has not met our customer’s expectations, if this is possible. Members of staff will record all issues dealt with in this way. The customers name will not be included and the staff member will make an objective judgement on the cause of the problem and these will be analysed on a regular basis as part of our process of continuous improvement.
Definition of a Complaint
A complaint is defined, for the purpose of this procedure, as a written record compiled by any customer of The SOFA Project that is sent to the appropriate person to be registered and where the originator has received an acknowledgement.
To clarify, the definition “complaint” does not include a comment provided by individuals asking for a simple remedy to a minor problem.
During the process of dealing with a complaint we will be as open and transparent as possible. People raising complaints will be given full information about the progress of their complaint except in the cases mentioned below.
If the complaint involves questions about the actions or competencies of individual members of staff or trustees, other processes may subsume the complaints procedure and The SOFA Project may not be able to provide the person raising the complaint with all the relevant information. (For instance, employment legislation may prevent publication of the results of disciplinary processes)
The legal requirements of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (Whistleblowers) may restrict the information that can be provided to persons raising complaints.
If either of these situations occurs the Chief Executive will provide an explanation without disclosing any restricted information.
To ensure confidentiality, information about the progress of a complaint will only be provided to the person making the complaint.
Customers making formal complaints are asked to write or email an explanation of the issue that has caused them to be dissatisfied. A complaint should also contain an explanation of what the person making the complaint requires to be done to resolve the issue.
Complaints should be sent to the Support Manager in order to register them within the procedure.
The Support Manager will send an acknowledgement by return giving a complaint registration number. Including this number with any further correspondence will assist The SOFA Project in resolving the complaint.
The Support Manager will refer each complaint to an appropriate line Manager for the first review, unless such a person is specifically mentioned in the complaint, in which case it will be referred to the Chief Executive or a Trustee of the organisation.
All correspondence about complaints will be treated as confidential.
When the first reviewer has considered the detail of the complaint, the person raising the complaint will receive a written response detailing any proposed remedial action. This will be done within 28 days of the receipt of the original complaint. If this is not possible, the Support Manager will explain this in writing within the 28 days.
The person raising the complaint will also be told in this response that they can request a second review.
If a second review is requested, the matter will be referred to a more senior person within The SOFA Project. This may be the Chair of the Trustees, a Trustee or the Chief Executive as appropriate.
Following the second review, the person raising the complaint will be provided with a written response detailing any changes to the previously proposed remedial action. In the majority of cases the second review will be the final position of The SOFA Project. However, this final response will also indicate if, and how, the complaint can be progressed beyond this second stage.
Further progressing of a complaint beyond the second review will depend on the nature of the matter. The Charity Commission has a list of the types of issues it would be willing to investigate; similarly The SOFA Project has an investigation procedure in some circumstances. Other alternative routes include the police, trading standards or health and safety within a local authority and a funding body if the service being complained about was funded directly by such a body. The response from the second review will explain all relevant options.
If an accusation is made that this procedure has not been followed, the matter can be raised with the Chief Executive.
If at any stage the customer making the complaint wants to stop a complaint from being progressed, the customer can do so in writing or email to the Support Manager. The SOFA Project reserves the right to continue to investigate serious complaints in these circumstances.
Results of Complaints
The Executive Committee will receive a report at least once a year showing how many complaints have been received, the general nature of the problem and a list of remedial actions that have been taken. The Executive Committee may, at their discretion, require more frequent reports.
The SOFA Project strives to be a learning organisation and will further develop quality improvement procedures, which will include information received from this process. The SOFA Project would appreciate feedback from complainants about their experience of The SOFA Projects complaints procedure and may use this to improve the way complaints are managed in the future.