Complaints, Data Protection & Equal Opportunity

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Introduction

Newington HA exists to provide an effective and impartial housing service to their tenants and members of the public. Occasions may arise which leave individuals feeling unhappy with aspects of the service we are providing.

If you are unhappy about the service you have received, you may wish to make a complaint. Newington HA respects and accepts the principles of dealing with complaints and has established a formal system to deal with complaints. All matters are dealt with in the strictest confidence.

Complaints Procedure

An individual may wish to complain verbally on a service matter to any officer. On such occasions the officer will act diligently and professionally in investigating and answering such. The Association is aware that many such instances are quickly clarified or resolved, but where they are not the formal complaints procedure may be adopted.

Formal Complaints Process
Where an individual wishes to make a formal complaint they will be advised to do so in writing or an officer will facilitate a written signed statement from the individual.

The complaint will normally be investigated by the Chief Executive or by the most senior officer in his absence.

Where the Chief Executive is directly involved, a member of the Management Committee will be appointed. The individual dealing with the complaint will be known as the Investigating Officer (IO).

Where a member of staff, a committee member, a contractor or any other agent of the Association is directly involved, they will be interviewed by the IO, and may further be asked to give a written account of their involvement.

The IO may need to interview the complainant, and it is expected that they co-operate and make themselves available for interview throughout the course of the investigation.

The IO may choose to avail of legal advice during the course of his investigation. Such advice will be acted upon accordingly.

Once the investigation has been completed, the Investigating Officer will report to the Management Committee, or the Chairman, should a meeting not be immediately scheduled, if the Association has been guilty of unreasonable delay, bias, failure to follow proper procedures or a decision badly made.

Where a complaint is not upheld, a report will not normally be made to the Management Committee. The Association will maintain a Complaints register of all complaints made in relation to the service.

The complainant will receive a written response, ideally not more than 10 working days after the original complaint was made, unless there were extenuating circumstances. Where a delay is experienced, an appropriate holding letter should be sent to the complainant.

The IO will not make a final decision in terms of compensation or rectification until the Management Committee has been informed of the investigation’s conclusions. The Management Committee will normally follow the recommendations of the IO unless there is sound reason to differ from these.

Where the complainant is not satisfied with the Association’s response, an appeal to the full Management Committee may be facilitated. Their decision at any such appeal will be the Association’s final word on the matter.

The Commissioner for Complaints (The Ombudsman)

At this stage, the complainant will be advised to make a formal complaint to the

Commissioner for Complaints for Northern Ireland (The Ombudsman) should they wish to pursue the matter further.

His office can be contacted for advice on Freephone 0800 34 34 24, by writing to the Ombudsman, Freepost BEL 1478 Belfast BT1 6BR or email ombudsman@niombudsman.org.uk.

It should be noted that the Ombudsman normally expects that a complainant will have used the Association’s internal complaints procedure before bringing a complaint to him.

The Data Protection Act 1998

The Data Protection Act 1998 allows the tenant certain rights to access information held about them by the Association. The Act established rules for processing personal information and now applies to most paper records as well as those held on computer.

Disclosure of Information

Newington HA is obliged to comply with the Act and must ensure the handling of all personal information is processed in accordance with Data Protection principles. The

Association is registered on the Data Protection register. There will be circumstances when Newington HA is required to share personal data with others. Such disclosers of information are in strict compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998.

In circumstances were it may be useful to share information outside the statutory provisions of the Data Protection Act we will do so only with your consent.

Be assured that the Association only holds fair and reasonable information on our tenants but if you would like more information on this subject or you may be dissatisfied with the Association’s handling of your personal information please write to:

Newington Housing Association
300-302 Limestone Road
Belfast BT15 3AR

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