The Western Front Association sets itself high standards in all its work and that includes aspiring to secure mutual respect between branches, members and other organisations and people with whom we may come into contact. The Executive Committee recognises that as a large organisation, sometimes things may go wrong and we welcome these being brought to our attention so that they can be put right and so that all parties involved can learn from them. Many issues that cause concern arise as a result of misunderstandings or miscommunication and wherever possible, we hope that every effort will be made to resolve matters informally.
The procedures detailed below are intended for those situations where informal resolution has failed or is not considered appropriate. In developing them we have been mindful of the need to balance our desire to be thorough and fair with a recognition that resolving complaints within our organisation draws upon the time, effort, resources and goodwill of unpaid volunteers.
Aim and Commitment
The aim of this document is to define the types of complaints that may be made and the procedure for dealing with them. In relation to complaints, the Executive Committee (EC) of The Western Front Association (WFA) is committed to ensuring that:
- Members and non-members should feel free to make a complaint.
- If a member or non-member makes a complaint, it will be welcomed, acknowledged, treated in confidence and responded to in accordance with the provisions of this procedure.
- Complaints are dealt with as soon as possible and as fairly as possible.
- Unless the outcome of the complaint procedure dictates otherwise, every effort will bemade to ensure that the complainant’s relationship with the association is not adversely affected because they made a complaint.
- A complaint can be defined as an 'expression of dissatisfaction, whether justified or not' (UK government definition). It may also provide the association with an opportunity to learn and improve the service and/or goods it provides for its members and the general public.
- The Complainant is the party making the complaint against an individual or the WFA or WFA branch. They may be a WFA member, branch or member of the general public.
- Days are defined as calendar days including Bank Holidays.
- The Complainee is the party who is the subject of the Complaint.
- Participation in the complaints process is voluntary.
- Participation in the process is taken as an acceptance of the legitimacy of the WFA Complaints Process and an implicit acceptance to abide by the decision of the Panel.
- A Complainant may withdraw a complaint at any time but may not resubmit the same complaint again.
- A Complaints Process may be postponed or halted for exceptional reasons (e.g. ill health). This is to be agreed with the Panel Chair.
- If the Complainee in a complaint chooses not to submit evidence or participate then this will not prevent the process reaching its completion.
Types of Complaints
- Branch against branch.
- Member against member.
- Member against the EC or a member of the EC.
- Member of the EC against another member of the EC.
- The WFA can only consider complaints that fit within its statutory charitable purpose and remit and that concern WFA activities, branches or members.
- The WFA is also unable to consider a complaint if the end result desired by the Complainant cannot be fulfilled by the WFA.
- If, on receipt of a complaint, the EC believes there may be unlawful activity involved, the matter will be immediately reported to the relevant authorities (e.g. police, social services).
- The WFA is unable to consider any complaint that is the subject of civil or criminal legal proceedings.
- A complaint cannot be taken against a policy decision of the EC. Any concerns about policy issues should be raised at the AGM
Making a complaint
- Where an individual or branch feel they have a grievance for a complaint, they must compile a WFA Complaint Form (see Appendix). This form is available from the WFA Honorary Secretary.
- Complaint Forms can be submitted by post or by email.
- All complaints must be forwarded to the Honorary Secretary of the EC.
- If the complaint refers to the Honorary Secretary, the form should be sent to the Chair or Vice Chair.
- If the Secretary, another trustee, a branch chair or a member receives a complaint verbally or by phone they will advise the complainant to submit their complaint to the Secretary on the Complaint Form
- The Complainant should make the Honorary Secretary aware of any access issues they have which may impact on their ability to follow these procedures and the Secretary will consider reasonable adjustments.
- Parties making complaints and those subject to complaints are responsible for providing their own evidence, witnesses and other material to support their case.
- All evidence is submitted in writing and may include letters, statements, emails, etc. No evidence may be submitted in video form, by telephone or in person unless arrangements are made in advance (e.g. if the Complainant has a sight or hearing impairment).
- All complaints and evidence are to be presented in English.
- Unless circumstances dictate otherwise, complaints should be dealt with as soon as possible following the acknowledgment of the complaint. In the event of an unavoidable delay, the Complainant and Complainee will be informed of the new timescale.
- Trustee and panels dealing with complaints will set out a timeline by which evidence and replies should be received, normally a period of ten days for each stage. Unless in exceptional circumstances (eg. illness), any evidence or replies received after that date will not be accepted.
- The Complaints Panel will have ten days to complete their final report once in receipt of all the information provided by Complainant and Complainee.
- The composition of a Complaint Panel will vary based on the nature of the complaint (see below).
- Complaint Panels will be constituted by the EC.
- Panel members should not include individuals who have an association with the Complainant. Any conflicts of interest must be declared. However, given the size of the WFA it may be impossible to avoid appointing Panel Members who have some association with a Complainant/Complainee.
- A Complaints Panel will mainly consider the evidence put forward by the Complainant/s and Complainee.
- The Complaints Panel will nominate one of its members to act as Chair. The Chair of the panel will be responsible for handing all communication relevant to the complaint, drafting its final report and submitting same to the Complainant, Complainee and EC.
In adjudicating a complaint, a Complaints Panel or a Trustee:
- Must reach their judgment based largely on the written evidence submitted ot them.
- May carry out research to investigate the evidence submitted before them where they feel if may be helpful to making a decision but they are under no obligation to do so.
- May consider additional evidence in the public domain.
- May request additional clarification and evidence from Complainants and Complainees where they feel it is helpful (e.g. original copies of emails, letters).
The WFA Legal Trustee will be available for consultation by any Trustee or panel considering a complaint and should review any final report before it is sent to the EC, the Complainant and Complainee.
A Complaints Panel or Trustee considering a complaint may decide to:
- Fully uphold the complaint(s).
- Partially uphold the complaint(s).
- Partially reject the complaint(s).
- Fully reject the complaint(s).
- Make recommendations as to a resolution i.e. an apology.
- Make recommendations to the EC.
If the panel is unable to reach a unanimous decision, the decision may be taken by a majority. A majority decision will be forwarded to the Legal Trustee and EC for review prior to it being sent to the Complainant and Complainee.
The Trustee/panel considering a complaint will ensure the following:
- That the Complainee/s will be provided with a copy of the complaint which will be extracted from the complaint form. A copy of the form will not be sent to the Complainee/s.
- That a timeline is put in place for the Complainant and the Complainee, to submit evidence, respond to communications and also the date by which the Panel will reach its verdict. Both Complainant and Complainee will be asked to indicate if there are circumstances (e.g. Holidays) that will prevent them from adhering to this timeline.
- That the Complainee/s will be given the opportunity to respond to the complaint by email with the understanding that the content of the email will be copied to the complainant.
- If necessary, the Complainant/s will then be given the opportunity to respond by email on the understanding that the content of the email will be copied to the Complainee.
- Finally, if necessary, the Complainee/s will be given one more opportunity to respond to the latest comments of the complainant by email with the understanding that the content of the email will be copied to the complainant.
- Once this process is complete, the Trustee/panel considering the complaint will make its decision and/or recommendations. A written report noting such decision and recommendations will then be forwarded to the WFA Legal Trustee for consideration. Following this, the report will be forwarded the EC for review.
- Once the report has been reviewed by the EC, the Trustee or panel considering the complaint will forward a copy to the Complainant and Complainee.
- Where applicable, if possible and unless exceptional circumstances dictate otherwise, the EC will implement any recommendations made by the panel.
Branch against Branch complaint
This will be considered by the Branch Coordinator. If the Branch Coordinator has a conflict of interest another Trustee will be nominated to deal with the complaint. Upon appointment, the Branch Coordinator or the Trustee acting on their behalf will administer the complaint in accordance with paragraphs 11 to 13 above. In addition, he/she will ensure that the Chair of the Branch being complained will nominate one member of the branch to conduct all communications in relation to the complaint.
Member against Member Complaint
This will be considered by a panel comprised of three members of the EC appointed by the Chair. Upon nomination, the panel will exercise its responsibilities in accordance with paragraphs 10 to 13 above.
Member against the EC or a member of the EC.
This will be considered by a panel comprised of three Branch Chairs. The Honorary Secretary will be responsible for seeking chairs willing to sit on the panel. If the Honorary Secretary is the subject of the complaint, another Trustee will undertake this task. Upon nomination, the panel will exercise its responsibilities in accordance with paragraphs 10 to 13 above.
Member of the EC against another member/s of the EC
This will be considered by a panel comprised of three branch chairs. The Secretary will be responsible for seeking chairs willing to sit on the Panel. If the Secretary is the complainant or subject of the complaint, another Trustee will undertake this task. Upon nomination, the panel will exercise its responsibilities in accordance with paragraphs 10 to 13 above.
- All complaints and documents relevant to complaints must be treated in the strictest confidence and must not be shared with other parties unless the matter is being reported to a statutory authority or the matter is the subject of a criminal investigation.
- Members investigating complaints must at all time observe the relevant GDPR legislation and when sharing email content, they must ensure that addresses are not shared.
- On completion of a complaint process, the Secretary will retain an electronic and hard copy of all the relevant documentation. The electronic copy will be stored on a separate hard drive and the hard copy will be stored in a secure location.
- Statistics on complaints will be collected as part of the WFA’s standard monitoring of its activity.
Other Documents and Policies
This policy should, where relevant, be read in conjunction with the WFA constitution and other polices and documents that may be issued by the EC from time to time.
A copy of the complaints form can be obtained from the WFA Secretary