Unreasonably Persistent Complainants Policy
This policy should be used in conjunction with other Council policies (for example; the Compliments, Complaints and Comments Policy and those policies relating to health & safety and equal opportunities) and with consideration to the Council’s obligations under the Human Rights Act, Freedom of Information Act, and the Equalities Act.
Gedling Borough Council is committed to dealing with all complaints fairly and impartially and to provide a high quality service to those who make them. The purpose of this policy is to ensure that the Council deals with complaints in a consistent and fair manner and to help staff understand what is expected of them, what options are available and who can authorise these actions.
However, there are a small number of customers who, because of the frequency or manner of their contact with the Council, hinder our consideration of theirs or other people’s complaints and place an unreasonable amount of time on the Council in dealing with the matter. These ‘unreasonably persistent complainants’ will be dealt with on an exception basis and action will be taken to limit their contact with the Council. This will ensure that Council resources are used effectively and that other service users and/or staff do not suffer any detriment as a result of the complainant behaviour.
Who is a persistent complainant?
A persistent complainant may have a justified complaint or grievance, but may pursue them in inappropriate ways, or they may be intent on pursuing complaints that have no substance or which have already been investigated and determined. Their contact with the council may be amicable but still place heavy demands on staff time.
A persistent complainant may exhibit behaviours outlined in appendix 1. The danger is that their complaint, even if it has merits, is treated without a significant degree of seriousness and consideration, which compounds their complaint and leads to criticism of the Council.
Sometimes the situation moves from being unreasonably persistent to unacceptable behaviour (i.e. abusive, offensive or threatening). If this occurs, action may need to be taken under procedures relating to the Council’s Employee Protection Register.
Deciding whether a person should be classed as a persistent complainant
The decision to designate someone as an unreasonably persistent complainant could have serious consequences for that person. The decision to designate someone as an unreasonably persistent complainant will be made by the Service Manager for the relevant service area, in consultation with the relevant Director. Before deciding whether the policy should be applied we must be satisfied that:
If the Service Manager, in consultation with the relevant Director, is satisfied on these points, they should then consider whether any further action is necessary prior to taking any decision to designate the complainant as unreasonable/unreasonably persistent. Examples might be:
Possible action that could be taken
The actual action that we may take should be appropriate and proportionate to the nature and frequency of the complainant’s contacts with the Council. If it is felt that action should be taken than that could include one or more of the following:
In deciding which options to apply, departments should be particularly careful to balance the rights of the individual with the needs of the Council and decisions should be made by the Service Manager for the service area, in consultation with the relevant Director.
Operating the policy
Deciding whether the policy should be applied to a complainant
Having regard to all the circumstances concerning the case the Service Manager for the department dealing with the complaint should make the decision as to whether the policy should be applied to a complainant, in consultation with the relevant Director.
Informing the complainant
If a decision is made to apply the policy we must write to inform the complainant that:
Record of actions taken
Adequate records must be kept detailing the reason why any decision has been made and all contacts with unreasonable and unreasonable persistent complainants, for example:
Reviewing the decision
When the letter is sent to the complainant telling them that the policy has been applied to them they should be told that if they wish to have the decision reviewed they must write to the Service Manager (Customer Services and Communications) setting out their reasons for the review within 14 days of the date of that letter.
On receipt of any letter requesting a review of the decision the Service Manager (Customer Services and Communications) should refer the matter to the Director of Organisational Development & Democratic Services who will carry out that review.
The complainant should be then informed, in writing, within 10 working days of receipt of the request for review by the Director of the outcome of the review and, if restrictions are to continue to be applied, when these will be reviewed.
A review of the restriction should be taken when the restrictions imposed expire. If the complainant has complied with the restrictions, they will usually be lifted and relationships returned to normal unless there are good grounds to extend them. Where the complainant fails to comply with the restrictions or continues to behave unreasonably, the matter will be reviewed by the Director of Organisational Development & Democratic Services to determine whether additional restrictions should be imposed.
When unreasonable and unreasonably persistent complainants make complaints about new issues these should be treated on their merits, and decisions will need to be taken on whether any current restrictions are still appropriate and necessary.
Recording, monitoring and reporting
The Service Manager (Customer Services and Communications) should be notified when this policy is applied to any complainant.
Examples of behaviour – either one or more can constitute unreasonable behaviour