In any organisation, complaints will occur from time to time and it is important members know where to turn for help, advice and support, so that whatever the issue it can be dealt with quickly, objectively and appropriately. In the first instance, complaints should be directed towards to WPVu3a Committee. This may include complaints from members about an issue that has arisen or complaints from an external organisation or individual. Depending on the nature and source of the complaint, the Committee will decide how best to approach reaching a resolution.
In dealing with complaints the u3a Committee will ensure:
- All actions will be documented.
- Complaints will be dealt with quickly and fairly.
- The u3a Committee will try to de-escalate the situation and settle issues without having to resort to formal action, where possible.
- Confidentiality will be maintained. For more serious complaints the Committee may need to consult with and share information with the Third Age Trust. This will not constitute a data breach due to the u3a’s membership of and affiliation with the Trust.
- Decisions made will be based on the facts and evidence gathered.
In most cases, it is hoped that complaints can be dealt with informally as detailed below:
- A decision should be taken as to who is the best person to lead and attempt to mediate to try to find a solution to the complaint informally. If an issue has arisen between two members in a group then the Group Convenor may be the best person supported by the Groups’ Coordinator. For complaints involving committee members another committee member should be the lead.
- The initial stage requires checking with the party raising the complaint as to whether they are willing to accept an informal outcome.
- The parties may decide to put their concerns or complaints in writing and, for the sake of clarity, this is often helpful.
- The informal meeting will seek to summarise the situation; understand the issue and hear each party’s view. The aim being to reach a mutually satisfactory outcome and agree changes to avoid a recurrence of the problem.
- If there are several people involved with the complaint – it may be deemed appropriate to speak with others mentioned so that as full a picture as possible is obtained.
- If it is felt that there is a case to answer but that nevertheless it is a minor issue and all parties are willing to accept the agreed outcome then it should be made clear that there should be no repeat of the actions/behaviour and that no further action is necessary.
- If, however, it is felt by the lead, the situation warrants a more formal approach or a specific course of action, for example, exclusion from an interest group; or if the person raising the complaint wishes to lodge a formal complaint, the matter should be referred, in writing by the lead, to the Chair of the WPVu3a Committee stating that this is a formal complaint. This will include a summary of the complaint, any steps already taken to deal with the issue and any action that the parties involved consider necessary to resolve it.
Where someone wishes to raise a formal complaint, she/he will be asked to put the complaint in writing providing as much information as is relevant and giving specific dates and times – where possible. The complainant should also be asked as to what outcome they are hoping to achieve by making the complaint, for example, whether they would be prepared to accept an apology. Explain to the complainant that whilst their desired outcome forms part of their complaint, they need to be aware that there are no guarantees as to what the likely outcome will be.
The committee will appoint a Trustee who acts as the designated Trustee for managing complaints. The committee may also contact the Third Age Trust and request support from the Regional Trustee, a Trust volunteer and/or National Office staff. The committee will inform the complainant that additional support has been requested and the reasons why.
A letter or email will be sent to the complainant confirming receipt of the complaint.
The Chair will appoint either one or two people to lead the investigation. This will include gathering information and conducting interviews related to the complaint. The person(s) against whom the complaint has been made will be informed about the basis of the complaint This will include the letter of complaint and any supporting documentation or other member statements. The result of these investigations must not be disclosed to any other trustees at this stage, to not bias any appeal.
The Chair will appoint a subcommittee of three committee members to hear the complaint. The timetable for the date of the meeting to hear the complaint will be short, within 14 days. The subcommittee will then consider the matter, taking into account any mitigating circumstances and agree what action to take. This could include, for example, a change of procedures, a change of venue for monthly meetings or whatever outcome is deemed the most appropriate as a solution.
The subcommittee decision will be communicated in writing to both the member or Trustee who raised the complaint and the member or Trustee against who the complaint has been made. Both parties will be informed as to the outcome of the investigation in respect of whether the complaint has been upheld or not upheld.
If the complaint has been upheld, the letter will also specify what action will be taken as a result.
Right of appeal
A right of appeal should be offered providing it is lodged within seven days of the date of the subcommittee decision being provided to the complainant and the member or Trustee against whom the complaint has been made. The appeal needs to be lodged in the form of a written representation for the Committee to consider. An appeal can be lodged either by the person who made the complaint or by the person against whom the complaint has been made.
The appeal can include a request for a right of reply as well as written representations.
For the appeal, the Chair will convene a meeting of three trustees (including him/herself). This should not include those involved in the initial investigation.
The person raising the appeal will be offered a verbal right of reply, if she/he wishes to take this up then s/he will be asked to attend a meeting with the appeal panel. Where the verbal right of reply involves the member or trustee against whom the complaint has been made, she/he will be offered the option to attend with a companion who may also speak in a personal capacity.
The whole issue will be summarised and the person making the appeal will be given the opportunity to speak. The appeal panel will review the decision based only on the facts included in the original hearing, considering any mitigating circumstances, and then make a final decision, which must be communicated in writing to both parties.
This procedure was adopted on 22 November 2022
Signed Chair of West Pennine Villages u3a
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