This policy sets out the Council’s approach to managing housing customers who present unacceptable behaviour. It informs our customers of what the Council considers unacceptable and of the actions that can be taken.
We understand that in times of trouble or distress people may act out of character. We do not view behaviour as unacceptable just because an individual is assertive or determined in their approach to us. Behaviour may become unacceptable if it causes distress to Council Officers or becomes so demanding or persistent that it places unreasonable demands on the Council and impacts on the level of service that can be offered to other customers. It is these actions that we aim to manage under this Policy.
Unacceptable behaviour can take one of three forms:
1. Aggressive or abusive behaviour
We understand that customers contact us for help and advice or to access our services when they maybe dealing with stressful and upsetting situations. We also understand how frustrating and disappointing it can be when something has gone wrong with the service/s that we provide.
However, officers and housing contractors have the right not to suffer abusive, offensive or threatening behaviour, even when a customer is under stress. We will take proportionate action to protect the wellbeing of our officers, contractors and other customers from unreasonable behaviour in whatever form it takes.
2. Unreasonable demands
Demands become unreasonable when they start to have a negative impact on the work of the Council. This may be due to a variety of reasons but examples include: the amount of information that is asked for or the nature and scale of service expected. Unreasonable demands may become unreasonably persistent and/or repeated contacts if they continue, for example as a result of the number of approaches a customer makes in relation to the same or different issue(s).
3. Unreasonably persistent and/or repeated contact
The Council has a separate policy which specifically deals with unreasonably persistent behaviour and this Policy should be used in conjunction with our Unreasonably Persistent and Repeated Contact Policy1, as well as our Complaints Policy. As a result customers may be dealt with by one, or both policies as appropriate.
The Council considers demands to be unreasonable when they impact substantially on the work of officers, for example by taking up an excessive amount of time which is disproportionate to the issue or by repeated contact on the same or similar issue.
This is regarded as being to the disadvantage of other customers or residents as it can impact on the service that can be provided to them.
It is not necessarily the manner in which a customer communicates with the Council, but the unreasonable persistent and repeated contact in doing so that goes beyond them being reasonably forceful or demanding.
Each case of unacceptable behaviour will be considered on an individual basis. The Council recognises that in some cases such behaviour may be unintentional and what amounts to unacceptable demands will depend on the circumstances surrounding the particular issue(s) and the behaviour exhibited by the customer.
There are a variety of options that the Council might consider using depending on the circumstances of the case. Officers will advise the customer(s) that their behaviour is considered unacceptable together with the reasons why, so that they have the opportunity to reflect and amend their behaviour. Should the negative behaviour continue, officers will determine the course of action that is considered appropriate for the circumstance which may include putting in place restrictions. In implementing this course of action, the customer will be advised in writing of what course of action we have determined as necessary, how long any restrictions may last for and how to appeal our decision.
A decision to exercise any sanction under this policy will usually be taken by the Head of Housing. Actions that may be taken include, but are not limited to:
- restricting times when we will accept telephone calls from a customer to particular days and/or times;
- limiting communication to one type of contact (e.g. email);
- limiting contact to one particular member of staff;
- replying on a scheduled basis, for example responding once every 20 working days to any legitimate issues raised;
- entering into an agreement regarding the customer’s future behaviour before continuing with their enquiry/complaint or to provide services to them;
- placing the customer on the Council’s ‘Risk to Staff’ database;
- applying a “warning flag” on the service user’s electronic record to classify them as using unacceptable behaviour;
- maintaining contact through someone who is independent of both the Council and the customer;
- banning or restricting the customer from entering the Council offices for a defined period;
- closing communication with the customer on a specific issue where a complaint has been closed or unreasonable demands or persistence on a specific matter continues;
- reading and filing correspondence which will only be acknowledged or responded to if appropriate to do so (e.g. where new legitimate issues arise);
- use of legal remedies to tackle anti-social, threatening or abusive behaviour towards staff or Council property.
The customer will be advised of how long any action will remain in place. The length will depend upon the particular circumstances of the case but will be anywhere from three to twelve months, which may be extended should the situation continue.
Should the behaviour threaten the personal safety of staff, our contractors or our customers or the individual we are trying to interact with, prior warning will not be provided. Should the behaviour become extreme, we may consider it necessary to report the matter to the Police or other relevant authorities.
If we take any action to manage the unacceptable behaviour as listed, a customer may appeal against this decision using the Formal Complaints Procedure.
At the end of the time period placed on any actions to manage the unacceptable behaviour, the decision will be reviewed.
The decision to lift any actions taken may be appropriate where a customer subsequently demonstrates a more reasonable approach or following a successful appeal via the Complaints Policy.
If a decision is made to remove, reduce or extend any restrictions the customer will be notified in writing. If the decision is made to keep in place any actions/restrictions the customer will be provided with an explanation as to why this decision has been made and when the next review will take place.
We understand that some of our customers may have disabilities which may make it difficult for them to express themselves or communicate clearly, especially when they are anxious or upset. We also recognise that some disabilities can make it difficult for customers to assess the impact that their behaviour might have on other people.
We will always consider making reasonable adjustments for a disabled customer, based on evidence of the disability and will seek further advice from professionals involved in the customer’s care, if we are asked to do so. For example, we could consider using different methods of communication, or agree to give clear warnings when we feel that a customer’s behaviour is unacceptable so that they have the opportunity to change it.
However, we would not consider it to be reasonable to expect our staff or contractors to accept being subjected to aggressive, offensive or abusive actions, language or behaviour. Even if a customer has a disability, we may still use the policy if there are actions or behaviours which are having a negative effect on our staff or our work.
Where a customer needs to be represented by a third party (for example a family member or support worker), such provisions will be accepted with written consent from the customer. The same provisions contained within this policy relating to acceptable behaviour will also apply to the advocate.
Information regarding customers will comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) with regard to the collection, storage, access to, provision and disclosure of data.
This policy will be reviewed every 5 years or sooner if required by best practice and/or legislation to ensure it is consistent with changes in legislation and updated as necessary.