Contact us Complaints about POhWER POhWER wishes for everyone to have a good experience of our charity, but we recognise that from time to time things might not meet beneficiary expectations. The following is POhWER's complaints policy. You can make a complaint to POhWER by contacting our Help Hub on 0300 456 2370, emailing on [email protected] or by completing an online form. POhWER's complaint policy in EasyRead (pdf) POhWER's complaint policy in Large Print (pdf) POhWER's complaint handling promises (pdf) POhWER’s Complaints Policy 1. Key Principle POhWER wishes for everyone to have a good experience of our charity, but we recognise that from time to time things might not meet beneficiary expectations. Dignity and mutual respect are core and fundamental to the work we do as a Charity. Everyone who works for, or comes into contact with POhWER should have an experience which is professional and free from abuse, harm, discrimination, and oppression.We recognise many people coming to us for support are often socially excluded, marginalised, experiencing crisis and sometimes frustrated with cases requiring support. We work very hard to treat the people we support with professionalism, dignity, and respect. Those of us working at the Charity are human beings who have the right to be treated with that same respect. We will not accept any form of verbal or physical abuse from anyone including our colleagues, partners, funders, professionals, clients, service users, beneficiaries, or any other members of the general public. POhWER has a clear formal procedure for responding to any complaints about our services, or our workforce. Complaints are treated seriously and dealt with fairly. Our complaints policy and procedure is there to help to aid understanding of what has occurred, identify actions and next steps to resolve, and to learn from the complaint cases themselves to inform continuous improvement. POhWER will handle complaints in an open and transparent way, and provide accessibility support for anyone requiring it who wishes to raise concerns about their experience with POhWER. Sometimes concerns can be informally resolved by speaking to a colleague, but it may not always be possible to resolve concerns through these channels. This is when a formal complaint is required. See section 7. POhWER’s Complaints Procedure is used to set out what needs to be done to make a formal complaint, and to have your complaint investigated and responded to. See section 8. 2. What do we mean by ‘complaint’? A complaint can be raised by beneficiaries or others who have been directly affected by POhWER’s services through the course of the charity’s work. If a beneficiary is unable to make a complaint themselves, a representative can make a complaint on their behalf (see section 3). A beneficiary is anyone who comes into contact with the Charity including clients, service users, or other member of the general public. Staff and volunteer complaints are not handled under this process, these cases are managed through POhWER’s grievance policy and procedure. Where a staff or volunteer is also a beneficiary, there will be a step required to clarify the nature of complaint and which policy would apply. If there is reasonable belief and supporting information that a complaint may be vexatious, groundless or malicious, then it will not be progressed. A complaint is vexatious or malicious if it is possible to demonstrate it is without basis, unreasonable and without foundation and is intended to or is being made with an intention to cause worry, upset, annoyance or embarrassment. A complaint that is groundless or without basis is one where there is no detail or evidence to support the complaint or to show that the situation being complained about has actually occurred, even if the situation has been perceived as so by the complainant. See section 10. 3. Support and Adjustments Any investigation under this procedure will be undertaken with appropriate discretion, care, and consideration. All steps in the process will remain fair and in line with POhWER’s equal opportunities and dignity at work policies. Reasonable adjustments to the procedure will be considered on request to accommodate those who identify as disabled under the Equality Act 2010. 4. Confidentiality and Consent We are committed to dealing with complaints discreetly, protecting the confidentiality of those involved. No POhWER staff member, volunteer or Trustee should comment publicly on any incident that is being dealt with under this procedure. Where a complaint involving a beneficiary is made by someone other than the beneficiary, then the beneficiary’s permission must be obtained before any further action is taken. In cases involving people who lack issue-specific mental capacity on this issue, the complainant must provide documentation to demonstrate that they have the legal right to the personal information of the person on whose behalf they are complaining. POhWER will consider this information, to discharge our responsibilities under the Data Protection Act, and notify the complainant as to whether it is possible to respond to the complaint. 5. Conflicts of Interest In the event of a complaint involving POhWER staff, volunteers or Trustees, we will ensure that the incidents are investigated, and actions identified to remain open and transparent. We value hearing both sides of a situation, and are committed to dealing with all complaints in a fair and balanced manner. All efforts will be made, where possible, to ensure that no person involved with, or closely connected to the complaint has a decision-making role in this procedure. All participants in the process will be offered the opportunity to contribute information and all submissions will be considered as part of the complaint investigation. 6. Recording Complaints We will keep records of: The matter of complaint Any incident report Investigation finding and outcome with identified improvement measures Whether an appeal was lodged and its outcome. These records are to be kept confidential and retained in line with the above Complaints Procedures and the General Data Protection Regulations. Where a beneficiary needs one to one support to make their complaint, the Deputy Chief Executive (DCE) must be advised. Where appropriate, the DCE will arrange for support to be sourced from a different team to the one being complained about to support the complainant to make their complaint. 7. Informal Concerns To raise an informal concern a complainant can contact our POhWER Help Hub on 0300 456 2370, email [email protected] or fill in an online form. Our aim is to try and resolve any issues you have as quickly as possible and this may be achievable through having a discussion with the local manager. If the complainant chooses this option, the local manager will call the complainant within three working days of receipt of the informal concern and try to resolve the issue there and then. They will write to the complainant summarising their discussion and any actions to be taken. If they are not able to resolve the complaint locally, the complaint can be escalated in line with the formal complaint process in section 8 below. 8. Formal Proceedings Stage 1: Report of Complaint A complaint is sent to [email protected] or by the complainant calling the Help Hub on 0300 456 2370 and giving the details to a Hub staff member. A complainant can also make a complaint by completing an online form. A complaint will be considered a formal complaint if it is about a matter which falls within POhWER’s control or remit, and requires a formal response or redress and is not determined to be malicious or vexatious A complaint should include: details of the concern, the date(s) and time when this occurred, name and contact details for the complainant as well as the preferred method of contact (email, telephone, letter). The complaint should, where possible, be submitted within 28 working days of the incident in question. It is recognised in some cases, a complaint may not be submitted within 28 days. All complaints will be reviewed, and reasons for delays fairly considered. The complaint is recorded in the Complaints Log and reviewed by the Associate Director of Safeguarding, Quality and Risk (ADSQR) along with any relevant initial evidence, who decides if: The complaint should be dismissed as there is no merit or the information is factually incorrect The complaint can be quickly and simply resolved, and a resolution offered The complaint needs to be investigated. The complainant does not have the right to state or request who receives and reviews their complaint. This includes requesting an individual investigates their complaint by name, job title or other identifying characteristic. The complainant will be informed of this decision, in writing, within 5 working days of receiving the complaint. This communication must include: Details of the complaint A copy of this Complaints Procedure Information about what will happen next. Stage 2: Investigation Stage A complaints investigator will be appointed by the Associate Director of Safeguarding Quality and Risk. The investigator will be a POhWER manager not previously directly involved in the case who has undergone complaints investigation training. If the complaint is about the Chief Executive (CE), it will be referred to the Chair of the Board of Trustees, via the Deputy Chief Executive, Governance & Support Officer or Associate Director of Safeguarding, Quality & Risk. If the complaint is about the Deputy Chief Executive, it will be referred to the Chief Executive. The complainant, and any person who may be subject to a complaint (including POhWER staff or managers) will be informed, in writing, of the investigation, confirming: The details of the complaint The name and contact details of the complaint investigator A minimum of 2 working days’ notice will be given for any meetings. The complaints investigator will review all submitted evidence, and may request additional evidence as required to determine the details of the complaint. Additionally, a complaint will always be investigated via a formal route if: it involves beneficiary or other safeguarding concerns; it involves allegations of serious misconduct, such as a significant breach of the Codes of Conduct and/or Practice; an Executive Director or Trustee of POhWER directs that an investigation should take place; it involves a breach or potential breach of the law; or In situations 1-4 above, the appropriate escalation policies and procedures will be followed: Safeguarding Policies and Procedures; Operational Risk Assurance and Escalation Policy and Procedure. The investigating manager will contact the complainant within 5 working days of being allocated the formal investigation. The complaints investigator will present the complaint, evidence, findings and recommendations to the Associate Director of Safeguarding Quality and Risk. The Associate Director of Safeguarding Quality and Risk will review the findings and documents and decide one of the following: The complaint has been found not justified and no further action will be taken The complaint has been partly or fully justified, and make recommendations to seek resolution. The investigating manager will send the complainant the response to the complaint within 20 working days from initial contact with the complainant, unless otherwise agreed with the complainant. If a complainant refuses to participate in their own complaints process, is unable to provide written submissions and/or even with additional advocacy support does not consent to participation it is not possible to pursue or investigate a complaint. In cases such as these, the Charity will write to the complainant explaining their options as part of the policy and procedure. If a complainant has a medical reason or long-term condition which does not allow them to participate in our complaints process, POhWER will always seek to safeguard the complainant to avoid undue stress and/or trauma. In cases such as these the complaint will be placed on pause until such a time when the complainant is well enough to engage in the process. We can only investigate complaints raised about POhWER – and unable to investigate complaints about other organisations. As part of our investigation, POhWER reserves the right to appoint the investigator of their own choice based on independence and skills. A complainant cannot request that a specific named individual handles their complaint. However, they can request that a specific named individual does not handle their complaint if they are the subject of that complaint. Stage 3: Appeal Stage An appeal against the decision of the complaints investigation can be considered on one or more of the following grounds: There is evidence of significant procedural error in the investigation of the complaint, which significantly contributed to the outcome Significant new evidence has come to light which could not have been made available during the initial investigation. Appeals should be made to the Chief Executive via the Associate Director of Safeguarding Quality and Risk, within 20 working days of notification of the outcome. The scope of the appeal process only includes the original subject of the complaint. Should a new complaint arise, this will need to be submitted separately if not related to original complaint. The Chief Executive, via the ADSQR, will determine the most appropriate method of conducting the review and will appoint a reviewing manager. The reviewing manager will then communicate the result of the appeal in writing, and the reasons for the decisions taken, within 28 working days. Possible outcomes of an appeal are: The appeal is rejected and the original decision is upheld The appeal is upheld and the complaint redress is modified. If a complainant refuses to participate in their own appeals process, is unable to provide written submissions and/or even with additional advocacy support does not consent to participation it is not possible to pursue or investigate an appeal. In cases such as these, the Charity will write to the complainant explaining their options as part of the policy and procedure. If a complainant has a medical reason or long-term condition which does not allow them to participate in our appeals process, POhWER will always seek to safeguard the complainant to avoid undue stress and/or trauma. In cases such as these the appeal will be placed on pause until such a time when the complainant is well enough to engage in the process. We can only investigate an appeal raised about POhWER – and unable to investigate complaints about other organisations. As part of appeal, POhWER reserves the right to appoint the appeal reviewer of their own choice based on independence and skills. A complainant cannot request that a specific named individual handles their appeal. However, they can request that a specific named individual does not handle their appeal if they are the subject of that initial complaint. 9. Persistent or abusive complainants Appropriate action will be taken to manage persistent, malicious or abusive complainants, which may ultimately result in the removal of a service. Only the Chief Executive or Deputy Chief Executive may remove service from a beneficiary and all such cases should be discussed with the Associate Director of Safeguarding Quality and Risk before being referred to the Chief Executive /Deputy Executive. 10. Aggressive or abusive behaviour This is behaviour or language (written or spoken) that could cause our staff to feel afraid, threatened or abused. This includes emails, telephone calls, meetings and comments on social media or elsewhere.For example: Insulting or degrading language, including inappropriate banter, innuendo or malicious allegations Any form of physical violence or threats of physical violence Derogatory racist, sexist, ageist, or homophobic remarks, even if not referring directly to our staff Comments relating to disability, perceived gender, religion, belief, or any other personal characteristic. Should anyone coming into contact with our employees or beneficiaries create or experience an atmosphere which makes anyone feel uncomfortable and less equal we will actively take prompt action to always protect our workforce and beneficiaries. This prompt action may include an awareness raising conversation on behaviours, written letter, contact to local police, safeguarding alert being raised, escalation to statutory body, or regulator, removal of service or ban from contacting the Charity. We recognise that there will be circumstances where a lived experience preference is appropriate, such as specialist support for people who have experienced hate crime, been a victim of domestic or sexual violence, specific spoken language skills, culturally appropriate advocacy and/or NHS complaints which entail intimate medical disclosures. However, we will not accept any discriminatory “preference style” requests from beneficiaries or professionals to work with an advocate who is from a different race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, gender identity, mental health or disability position. This “preference style” request refers to where someone makes a request for an advocate or help hub worker which is derogatory, abusive or discriminatory in its nature. Our front-line advocates and help hub colleagues are fully qualified professionals and their own personal diversity characteristics play no role in the quality of experience of our services. 11. Unreasonable demands and vexatious complaints Beneficiaries might make requests that we cannot reasonably accommodate. This may include but is not limited to: the nature and scale of service they expect the volume of correspondence they generate either written or spoken demanding a remedy or outcome that cannot be achieved. We accept that someone who is persistent is not necessarily guilty of unacceptable behaviour. What is seen as unreasonable demand will depend on the circumstances of each case. We will always consider each complaint on its own merits. However, the behaviour of someone who persistently contacts us about the same issue, when that issue has been dealt with in line with the Charity’s usual processes, can, in some circumstances, amount to unreasonable demand. Such behaviour takes up a disproportionate amount of Charity time and resources and can affect our ability to provide services to others. Examples of behaviour which we consider as unreasonable demands and vexatious complaints include but are not limited to: refusing to follow our complaints procedure persistently pursuing complaint where the charity’s complaints procedure has been fully exhausted contacting us repeatedly and frequently without giving us enough time to respond to previous contact or submitting sufficient information to enable us to progress review insisting on dealing with a particular member of staff when a suitable alternative has been offered in line with our procedures consistently visiting our offices without an appointment focusing disproportionately on a matter in relation to its significance and continuing to focus on this point despite receiving proportionate responses addressing the matter adopting a “scatter gun” approach: pursuing parallel complaints about the same issue with different members of staff and not pursuing formal channels threatening or using actual physical violence towards staff being personally abusive or verbally aggressive towards staff dealing with their issue or about other members of staff recording meetings or conversations (whether face-to-face or on the telephone) without the prior knowledge or consent of other people involved. 12. How we will respond to incidents of unacceptable behaviour We do not expect our employees to tolerate unacceptable behaviour when communicating with our beneficiaries or others. When this happens, our employees have a right to: place callers on hold end the call not reply to an abusive email or letter – we will only review these communications to ensure no new issues have been raised. Before taking such action, we will always warn beneficiaries or others that they are behaving in an unacceptable way to give them a chance to change their behaviour. However a warning will not be given in extreme cases to protect our staff, for example, when a physical threat is made. Where these circumstances arise, we will take the following steps: we will ask people to modify their behaviour and explain why if the behaviour continues to be unacceptable, our employees will remove themselves from the situation. If the communication is by telephone, the caller will be told that the call will be ended the employee will inform their manager who will keep a record of the incident. In all cases a manager will investigate the situation and decide what action to take. This could include limiting a person’s contact with us we will refer the matter to the police where a criminal offence has been threatened or committed. Communication restrictions If a beneficiary continues to behave unacceptably, a manager can put in place a temporary or permanent communication restriction on a person. If we decide to do this, we will tell the beneficiary that we are doing so, setting out: why we consider their behaviour unacceptable what action we are taking and if there is a time limit on the restrictions. If we decide to limit communication, we will make a note of the limitation in our records. Communication might be: limited to being conducted in writing limited to a specific individual removed from Charity’s social media and be blocked from our accounts limited to a specific email address or telephone number placed on file without a further response if the issued raised in the correspondence has previously been considered limited in other ways which we consider appropriate in the circumstances, in line with this policy. In addition, we reserve the right to: limit telephone contact to set times on set days restrict contact to a nominated employee who will deal with all future calls or correspondence restrict the issues on which we will correspond block emails or telephone numbers if the number and length of communications sent is excessive refuse to consider a complaint or any further contact in exceptional circumstances take any other action which we consider necessary or appropriate to make this policy effective. Where circumstances are serious enough to warrant further restrictions, we may contact local police, instigate a removal of service, or ban an individual from contacting the Charity. 13. Roles For the purposes of this document the term colleague refers to any member of POhWER personnel including employees, volunteers, trustees, consultants, contractors, students or others on work placement. All POhWER colleagues are expected to comply with the policy, to make beneficiaries aware of how a complaint can be made, and how it will be dealt with. Failure to comply with the complaints policy and related operating process, or to attempt to conceal a complaint may be treated as a disciplinary matter. The Board of Trustees is responsible for ensuring that POhWER has an appropriate Complaints Policy in place. The Chief Executive is responsible for decisions regarding: Escalations where the process has been exhausted or conflicts of interest in investigation framework identified The Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Executive are responsible for decisions regarding: withdrawal of support from persistent or malicious complainants. The Associate Director of Safeguarding Quality and Risk is responsible for day to day operational complaint handling including: registering complaints at each stage and referring them to appropriate managers for handling (in discussion with the CE or DCE as appropriate), ensuring that the complaint database is updated regularly, monitoring progress and alerting investigating managers of approaching deadlines, informing the Chief Executive /Deputy Chief Executive if deadlines are missed, producing reports for the Executive Team and Board of Trustees ensuring that learning and best practice are shared throughout the organisation, and ensuring support is available for complainants who need help to make a complaint. All Directors, Associate Directors, and Heads of Service are responsible for: monitoring compliance with the policy, providing guidance and taking decisions about the handling of any complaints that meet the criteria in paragraph 8 above, where appropriate, reviewing investigation responses completed by their staff before these are sent to complainants reviewing potential persistent or malicious complaints and deciding whether or not to refer these to the ADSQR in the first instance All line managers are responsible for: ensuring that all their staff act in accordance with the policy, ensuring that they respond to complaints within agreed timescales, and being beneficiary-led in terms of contact preferences, producing a written response to each complainant, even for informal complaints, summarising findings and outcomes engaging with complaints handling, learning and development, and peer review opportunities to ensure a consistent approach to handling and investigating complaints. 14. External reviews At the end of the POhWER complaints process, complainants who remain dissatisfied will be made aware of the Commissioner of the service being complained about and if they offer a facility to review complaints about POhWER. This policy is reviewed on a regular basis. An changes will be posted on this page.