This Policy sets out Fife Council’s approach to the relatively few customers whose actions or behaviour we consider unacceptable. The policy is based on the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman’s approach for dealing with unacceptable actions by complainants.
Please note this Policy also covers customers contacting Fife Council with any issue, whose behaviour may become unacceptable in terms of being unreasonably persistent. There are separate policies which deal with other unacceptable customer behaviours such as violence and aggression.
- To deal fairly, honestly, consistently and appropriately with all customers, including those whose actions we consider unacceptable. We believe that all customers have the right to be heard, understood and respected. We also consider that Fife Council staff have the same rights.
- To provide services that are accessible to all customers. However, we retain the right, where we consider a customer’s actions to be unacceptable, to restrict or change access to our services (where it is appropriate to do so).
- To ensure that other customers and Fife Council staff do not suffer any disadvantage from customers who act in an unacceptable manner.
- To ensure that the Council’s effectiveness is not compromised by customers who act in a manner which makes excessive and unacceptable demands on Council resources.
Defining Unacceptable Actions
People may act out of character in times of trouble or distress. We do not view behaviour as unacceptable just because a customer is forceful or determined. However, the actions of customers who are angry, demanding or persistent may result in unreasonable demands or unacceptable behaviour towards Fife Council staff. It is these actions that we consider unacceptable and aim to manage under this Policy.
Fife Council has grouped these actions under three broad headings.
Managing Unacceptable Actions
There are relatively few customers whose actions we consider unacceptable. How we aim to manage these actions depends on their nature and extent. If it adversely affects our ability to do our work and provide a service to others, we may need to restrict contact with the Council in order to manage the unacceptable action. We may restrict contact:
- in person
- by telephone
- fax, letter or electronically
- or by any combination of these
We try to maintain at least one form of contact. In extreme situations, we tell the customer in writing that their name is on a ‘no personal contact’ list. This means that they must restrict contact with the Council to either written communication or through a third party.
We do not deal with correspondence (letter, fax or electronic) that is abusive to staff or contains allegations that lack substantive evidence. When this happens we tell the customer that we consider their language offensive, unnecessary and unhelpful. We ask them to stop using such language and state that we will not respond to their correspondence if they do not stop. We may require future contact to be through a third party.
Fife Council staff will end conversations and telephone calls if the caller is considered aggressive, abusive or offensive. The staff member conversing has the right to make this decision, tell the customer that their behaviour is unacceptable and end the conversation if the behaviour does not stop.
Where a customer repeatedly phones, visits a Council office, sends irrelevant documents or raises the same issues, we may decide to:
- Only take telephone calls from the customer at set times on set days or put an arrangement in place for only one member of staff to deal with calls or correspondence from the customer in the future.
- Require the customer to make an appointment to see a named member of staff before visiting a Council office or to contact the Council in writing only.
- Return the documents to the customer or, in extreme cases, advise them that further irrelevant documents will be destroyed.
- Take other action that we consider appropriate.
We will, however, always tell the customer what action we are taking and why.
We also view the use of social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to be covered by this policy (list is not exhaustive).
Where a customer continues to correspond on a wide range of issues, and this action is considered excessive, then they are told that only a certain number of issues will be considered in a given period and asked to limit or focus their requests accordingly.
Customer action may be considered unreasonably persistent if all internal review mechanisms have been exhausted and they continue to dispute the Council’s decision. The customer is told that no future phone calls will be taken, nor interviews granted concerning their issue. Any related future contact must be in writing. Future correspondence is read and filed, but only acknowledged or responded to if the customer provides significant new information relating to their issue.