Wealden District Council
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Managed Contact Policy

This policy sets out our approach to the relatively few customers whose actions or behaviour
we consider to be unacceptable or unreasonably persistent.

We aim to deal fairly, impartially and in an appropriate manner with all of our customers but,
we retain the right to restrict or change access to our services where we consider their
actions and/or behaviour to be unacceptable or unreasonable.

We also have a duty to protect the safety and welfare of our staff and to ensure that our resources and public money are not spent on dealing with unacceptable customer conduct.  Our aim in doing this is to ensure that customers, service users and our staff do not suffer any disadvantage from customers who act in an unacceptable manner.

Whilst customers who exhibit unacceptable conduct are rare, dealing with them can take up a
lot of time. The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) defines
unreasonable and unreasonably persistent complainants as complainants who, because of
the nature or frequency of their contacts with an organisation, hinder the organisation’s
consideration of their, or other people’s, complaints. Implementing a formal policy to manage
behaviour ensures that we are being fair to all our customers by prioritising our resources
effectively, so that the time we spend with our customers is appropriate and proportionate.

The Council considers unacceptable customer conduct to include behaviours or language
whether face-to-face, by telephone, social media or written contact that may cause staff
distress or harm, for example by feeling intimidated, threatened or abused. Examples of
such behaviours may include:
•   threats
•   verbal abuse
•   offensive language, e.g. comments that are deemed to be hurtful, derogatory or obscene
•   derogatory remarks
•   rudeness
•   making inflammatory statements
•   raising unsubstantiated allegations
•   shouting

The Council considers unreasonably persistent customer conduct as contact that:
•   does not have any serious value or purpose
•   is designed to cause disruption or annoyance
•   has the effect of harassing the Council/its officers
•   can be categorised as obsessive or vexatious
•   fails to accept the Council’s position, either as a service level agreement (e.g. grass
cutting frequency), a policy (e.g. Council Tax rates), a decision on a request for service,
or a complaint outcome

The behaviours considered unacceptable include, but are not limited to:
•   sending high volumes of letters, emails and/or phone calls
•   Posting comments on social media or public-facing sites
•   demanding responses within unreasonable timescales
•   insisting on speaking with certain members of staff (usually senior managers)
•   adopting a scatter-gun approach by contacting many members of staff
•   continually contacting the Council while we are in the process of looking at a matter
•   making many complaints about different issues or continually adding issues to the same

Raising legitimate queries or criticisms of a Council action and/or a complaint as it progresses
(e.g. if agreed timescales are not met) will not, in itself, lead to a customer being identified as
displaying unacceptable conduct. Similarly, the fact that a customer is unhappy with the
outcome of a complaint and seeks to challenge it once, or more than once, will not
necessarily cause them to be labelled vexatious or unreasonably persistent. Each decision
for a managed contact arrangement will be taken on a case by case basis. 

All officers dealing with customers receive guidance about the Council’s managed contact
policy. They are also reminded of the channels of communication available to customers and
are instructed to encourage customers to use these wherever possible rather than enter into
individual dialogue with an officer. This ensures that reports, service requests and complaints
are dealt with appropriately. 

The Council’s Information Governance Team manages the policy and provides advice,
guidance and support to officers or services dealing with a customer displaying unacceptable
conduct. Being independent of the service that the customer is in touch with enables them to
challenge the service on the customer’s behalf. The service is first given advice on how to
resolve the customer’s outstanding concerns or issues e.g. by managing their expectations
and explaining the Council position or policies clearly, providing a deadline by when they
expect to resolve the customer’s service request or complaint

Customers statutory rights to Council services and/or information will not be affected by the
implementation of the managed contact policy. They are still free to access Council services,
raise new complaints and/or exercise their statutory rights, but how they do so may be
managed or restricted. They will, where appropriate, be advised of how to request these
services in their letter (or email) advising them of the managed contact arrangements.
If the service is unable to resolve the customer’s concerns and/or the customer continues to
demonstrate unacceptable conduct then the Team Manager will liaise with Information
Governance to write to the customer to inform them that they will be dealing with their contact
under the Managed Contact Policy. 

If the customer is displaying unacceptable conduct Council-wide or across several services,
or for any other reason where it is inappropriate for the service in question to issue it, the
Information Governance Team will issue the letter/email to the customer. 

The managed Contact Policy has a two-stage process, however, if a customer’s conduct is
considered extreme, the Council can move straight to its final stage if it considers it is
appropriate to do so. 

The decision to manage contact will normally only be taken in exceptional circumstances and
after we have considered possible adjustments to our service to help the customer alter their

In all cases we will write to tell the customer why we believe their behaviour is unacceptable,
what action we are taking, and the duration of that action. Approval for managed contact
arrangements at stage 1 will, as a minimum, be taken at manager level and approval for
stage 2 will be taken at Head of Service level (or above) and any managed contact
arrangements will be appropriate, proportionate and reviewed on a quarterly basis unless
advised otherwise. The Information Governance Team must be notified of all managed
contact arrangements to maintain an up-to-date record and, if necessary, to challenge the
service or make recommendations to resolve the matter first. 

Stage 1: Warning & Monitoring Period
Stage 1 provides for an individual team, service or Directorate to take action and write to the
customer about their conduct. The appropriate Manager in consultation with the Senior
Information Governance Officer will write the letter/email to the customer and evidence the
impact their conduct is having on their service delivery. The letter/email will also set out why
the customer’s conduct is unacceptable, the ‘special measures’ that will apply to their conduct
and the monitoring period for that conduct. The default monitoring period is 6 months but the
Council reserves the right to extend this without notice, if it considers appropriate to do so.
Customers will be asked to change their contact or conduct with the Council, setting
reasonable levels of expectations on each side. Wherever possible, the customer will be
informed of the Council’s final position on the issue/s they are raising.

The special measures options that the Council is most likely to consider at this stage are:
• Asking the customer to enter into an agreement about their future contact
• Placing time limits on telephone conversations and personal contacts
• Restricting all or the number of telephone calls that will be taken and/or using a script to
terminate calls
• Limiting the customer to one medium of contact (telephone, letter or email)
• Refusing to acknowledge or respond to any repeated complaints on closed cases
• Requiring the customer to communicate only through a single point of contact (SPOC) 

This is not an exhaustive list and the Council may include other special measures relevant to
the circumstances. 

Stage 2: Managed Contact Business Case
The Council reserves the right to implement managed contact at stage 2 with immediate
effect, and/or without issuing a stage 1 warning, if it considers it to be necessary. This is most
likely to be escalated if the unacceptable customer conduct is persistent or abusive e.g. the
customer is repeatedly telephoning and/or shouting or swearing at staff.

At stage 2, the Head of Service of the service affected is required to complete a business
case to justify the reasons for placing the customer under stage 2 of the managed contact
policy and to have this approach signed off by the Senior Information Governance Officer.
This business case will then be reviewed by an authorised Signatory who will recommend
approval (or rejection) for a final decision. The final decision of the signatory will be recorded
on the managed contact register.

Officers with the authority to sign off on stage 2 decisions for managed contact are any
Director of the Council or the Monitoring Officer with no prior knowledge of the

The special measures options that the Council is most likely to consider at this stage are:
• Requesting our IT department to divert the customer’s emails to a single point of contact
for consistency and monitoring, with the options for responses on a set time frame only,
for example fortnightly or monthly
• Terminating all telephone calls to the Council using a script, and requesting the customer
contact the Council through its online webform or via their designated SPOC.
• Requiring any personal contacts to take place in the presence of a third party
• Restricting any personal contacts to designated Council premises
• Asking the customer to contact us through an advocate 

Again, this is not an exhaustive list and the Council may include other special measures
relevant to the circumstances. 

In cases where behaviour is so extreme that it threatens the safety and welfare of Council
Officers the Council will consider other options, such as reporting the matter to the Police or
taking legal action. The council has a zero-tolerance position on violence and serious threats
against its staff and this behaviour will always be reported to the Police. 

Where the Council has concerns for a customer’s health and wellbeing we may consider it
necessary to make a referral to Adult Social Care who may then contact the customer to offer
support or, if known to the service, contact their social worker or support worker.

There is no right of appeal for the customer at either stage of this policy, but the customer will
be advised of the outcome of a review of their conduct after the monitoring period expires or
following scheduled reviews. Customers will be notified whether the managed contact
arrangements will either continue at stage 1, and if so for how long the monitoring period has
been extended, be escalated to stage 2 or marked ‘Closed’ and moved to ‘Dormant’. Where
the Information Governance Team considers that contact following a review is likely to
encourage further dialogue it reserves the right to take any of the above actions without
further notice.

Reviews of managed contact arrangements will take place quarterly subject to other demands on the service, and no later than every six months from the date of the decision.  They will be conducted by the Senior Information Governance Manager, Team Manager and in consultation with the relevant senior managers/Directors. Where arrangements are closed and moved to dormant, then urgent consideration will be given to the reintroduction of special measures if behaviour re-commences within the retention period. The Information Governance Team will action this on receipt of supporting evidence from the service.

A central register will record the date of the review, details of the consideration made and the
date when the restriction expires or is to be extended until. Dormant cases will usually be
deleted 24 months after moving to this stage, if there is no further activity within that period
requiring consideration of the managed contact policy. The retention policy of 24 months
does not apply to customers who have been in managed contact arrangements prior to the
introduction of this policy and/or there is a repeated history of contact from customers.

As no appeal rights exist the customer may wish to raise their complaint with the Local
Government and Social Care Ombudsman

Further information about the Councils Complaints procedure and Managed Contact Policy is available from the Information Governance Team using the following email address: informationgovernance@wealden.gov.uk