Ara Complaints Procedures

1. Introduction

Addiction Recovery Agency (Ara) is committed to providing an excellent service and to ensure that professional standards of service provision are adhered to. We continually strive to improve our services through training, policy and service reviews with the aim of developing best practice.

We believe that service user satisfaction and feedback are key to delivery of excellent services. However there are times when people feel a valid complaint needs to be made and it is our intent to hear feedback or criticism, whether it is an offer for improvement or a case where there is a grievance. In all circumstances Ara will endeavour to respond to the person complaining in an honest, open and fair manner.

We treat all complaints and other feedback seriously. Where our services fall short of our high standards and what you expect, we will investigate and put it right. We will learn from complaints and use this learning to improve our services for the future.

Ara will ensure that we never treat any service user who makes a complaint in a negative or adverse way, because of making a complaint.

Ara welcomes complaints and see them as a useful way to help improve what we do.

2. Purpose of our complaints policy

Ara views complaints as a significant source of learning and provide us with opportunities to improve:

 outcomes for service users
 the quality of services
 the service user experience

This policy and procedure will enable us to:

 Respond to complaints fairly and objectively
 Reflect our aim of providing an excellent service
 Empower staff through training to view complaints in a positive way
 Use feedback from service users, stakeholders and any other person making a complaint to improve services and business planning
 Respond to complaints appropriately taking into account the needs of the person making the complaint, whether they are a service user, stakeholder or member of the public

3. What is a complaint?

A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction by a service user, stakeholder or member of the public, about our service, or action that we have or have not taken.
A request for action is not a complaint and will be dealt with by the relevant staff member. An example of this may be a request for a repair to a property, or a report from a neighbour about Anti Social Behaviour.
An enquiry is when we are contacted for information, for example a request by a service user for a balance on their rent account. Or another agency wanting to refer a potential service user.
An ‘informal concern’ and a ‘formal complaint’, for the purposes of this policy may both be defined as ‘any expression of discontent that requires a response’. There are however some differences in the manner in which ‘informal concerns’ and ‘formal complaints’ are managed, these are outlined within this policy.

4. How we will deal with a complaint

4.1 Confidentiality and Consent
The information about Informal Concerns and Formal Complaints, and about all the people involved, is strictly confidential. Any information is only disclosed to those with a demonstrable need to know in line with the Data Protection Act (1998) and the Freedom of Information Act (2000). All this is superseded by the Data Protection Act 2018 which sets out the General Data Protection Regulations. See appendix 1 below

4.2 Informal concerns
If a service user has a concern or complaint we would encourage an initial discussion with their support worker. If a service user was unwilling or unable to do this, perhaps because the complaint is against a member of staff, they should ask for a meeting with a more senior member of staff.

The aim of this informal discussion would be to see if we could solve the problem quickly, simply and fairly. It is hoped that the great majority of issues can be settled to the satisfaction of the person raising the concern /complaint at this initial stage

The raising of Informal Concerns and other feedback including constructive criticism, made though client surveys or in discussion with staff, is always welcome as help towards raising service standards

4.3 Formal complaints
If the matter cannot be resolved satisfactorily informally the complainant will be advised to formalise the complaint, by detailing the problems and issues they are facing in writing, for the attention of the Service Manager of the service concerned.

All complaints and subsequent reviews will be recorded in writing. Each separate review or appeal as it progresses will be carried out by a new senior member of staff to ensure that at each stage there is a new unbiased view on the detail and process.

At the start of any complaint staff will ensure that any specific needs or preferences of those making a complaint are identified, for example in relation:

 disability and any adjustments required
 gender of the investigating manager
 providing information in appropriate formats.

4.4 What happens next?
The Service Manager is responsible for making sure we deal with the complaint and will acknowledge it within 5 working days of receipt.

The Service Manager or delegated representative will look into the complaint. A full written response will be made within a further 10 working days, informing of the outcome of the complaint and any action Ara may be taking.

Following receipt of the response, if the person making the complaint is not satisfied with the outcome and action taken, they have 10 working days to request the complaint be reviewed, this should be done in writing.

This request for a review will be acknowledged by the relevant Senior Manager within 5 working days of receipt.

The Senior Manager will look into your review request. A full written response regarding the outcome will be made within 10 working days of receipt of the review request.

Should the person making the complaint still not be satisfied with the outcome of the review, they will be informed of the process to bring the matter forward to the Chief Executive and/or the Board of Ara.

If the person making the complaint is still not satisfied, we will advise them of any relevant bodies which can independently hear the complaint, for example the Housing Ombudsman, or funder of the service.

Where it is not possible to resolve all of the issues of a formal complaint within the timescales outlined above, and where exceptional circumstances apply, Ara will liaise with the person making the complaint with the intention of negotiating and agreeing an extension timeframe.

A flowchart outlining the complaint journey can be requested from ARA

5. Support and advice with complaints
Throughout the entire process the person making the complaint will be given contact details on any organizations that may be able to assist them and advocate on their behalf.

Service users who make a complaint have the right to be accompanied at meetings at any stage of a complaint, by a friend, relative or advocate.

We will make every effort to ensure that meetings in relation to complaints are arranged at a time that is mutually convenient for all in relation to time and venue, and at venues that are accessible for those attending.

6. Making a complaint if you are an external stakeholder or other interested party
If you have a complaint you should contact a Service Manager by phone or formally in writing. Ara will deal with any complaint within the same timescales and processes listed above.

7. When we cannot deal with a complaint.
Ara are dedicated to ensure that everyone who comes into contact with our organisation and services are satisfied with their experience. However there are some situations that are beyond our control and where the complaints procedure may not be able to provide a resolution.

Examples may include:

 Persons or bodies over which we have no control
 The general law, e.g. appeals against court rulings such as possession orders
 Against a refusal to allocate a service where a person is not eligible

Where this is the case and there is another organisation involved, we will pass the complaint to the relevant organisation and inform the person making the complaint of our action.

8. Service user Care and Access
We will make sure that our complaints policy and procedure are easy to access and well publicised.
Service Users will be informed that Ara welcomes complaints and comments as part of it’s
Quality Procedures. A Service User Complaints Guide is available in the Ara PPF folders.

We will ensure that we never treat any service user who makes a complaint in a negative or adverse way, because of making a complaint.

9. Implementation, Monitoring and Review
We will monitor who is using this policy and compare this to the current community of our service users so that we can further improve our services. Any monitoring information will be used to improve our services to and ensure that all of our service users can access our complaints policy and procedure. This information will in no way be used to influence individual complaints.

Ara will review complaints as part of the Quality procedures, identifying trends, improve services and inform service and staff developments.

A Complaints Log will be maintained and include the date and time of complaint, name and address of service user; name and address of complainant (if different), nature of the complaint, action taken, and the date action was taken and remedy completed.

The Senior Management Team will monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of this policy, taking into account service user and staff feedback, with a particular focus on client satisfaction with the complaints policy and the outcome of complaints.

The Board received regular quarterly updates on complaints and compliments as part of Service Performance Reports

The policy will be regularly reviewed to look at ways in which it can be improved

If you have any concerns on the effectiveness of this policy, please report this to a Service Manager.

Seven Principles of Data Protection
Having looked at the changes from the DPA 1998 to the 2018 legislation, it’s worth noting that these following seven principles are designed to be the foundation upon which organisation should build all their data protection practices. Now in 2020, it is vital that all organisations dealing with personal data, understand and abide by these increasingly universal data protection principles.

Lawfulness, fairness and transparency
As well as continuing the Data Protection standard/principle of lawfulness and fairness, this new standard also seeks to ensure that users can understand what it is there are signing up to when they hand over personal data. This principle requires that organisations use language that is ‘clear, plain and accurate’ as to what a data subject is consenting to, thus helping to ensure the data rights and legal protections.
Purpose limitation
This principle stipulates that personal data, which is collected for a specific, previously stated and understood purpose, must not then be used for other applications. Though the GDPR states that this principle of purpose limitation is not incompatible with processing under grounds of public interest, scientific or statistical purposes or for historical research, it limits the extent to which organisations can ‘multi-purpose’ personal data.
Data minimisation
Ensuring that the extent or amount of data collected and/or processed is adequate, relevant and limited to the intended purpose, the principle of data minimisation is to curtail any organisation seeking to effectively hoard data without a clear rationale.
Not exactly representing a significant step forward in data protection, and present within the DPA 1998, this principle makes organisation responsible for either updating inaccurate information or getting rid of it.
Storage limitation
Like the preceding ‘retention’ principle, storage limitation restricts organisations from keeping hold of data for indefinite periods of time, or beyond that of its intended purpose. Again, purposes of public interest, archiving, scientific or historical research or statistics may act as reasons for an organisation retaining personal data, but these reasons must be justifiable and documented.
Integrity and confidentiality
Previously known as the ‘security’ principle, integrity and confidentiality of personal data must be upheld with the appropriate security measures. As with many of the other principles, there is an inherent responsibility to implement both physical and technological controls to ensure compliance.

With no previous principle within the DPA 1998, the accountability principle requires organisations to take responsibility for the personal data being handled and their compliance with the other six principles. Appropriate measures and records are also required to be in place as to demonstrate compliance. 15.9.22