The Ventilator

Incorporating The Ranger's Blog

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Suffering from a nasty complaint

Matthew Chatfield
Latest posts by Matthew Chatfield (see all)

What? Now charities are being urged to adopt complaints procedures. For some reason, most of them don’t have such a thing. The Charity Commission says:

“This is a key way for charities to make sure their services are truly responsive to user needs.”

The Ranger says: fiddlesticks. Why on earth do charities need to be responsive to user needs? Some obviously do, but plenty don’t. And shouldn’t. If your charity exists to conserve dormice, why should it expend resources handling complaints from people who think it should be conserving squirrels? Reading between the lines of the Charity Commission’s report it seems that they are fed up with being pestered by persistant complainants with complaints of dubious merit, and think the charities should be sorting them out themselves. Well maybe so, but we’re all in a similar boat – there are some complainants who just won’t go away. Giving them ‘procedures’ or ‘policies’ won’t make any difference in the end – it just takes up more time before the organisation can bring itself to say to them “Sorry, but you’re wrong, now leave us alone to get on with our work”. Perhaps it’s time we acknowledged that it might sometimes be better to say this at an early stage, and just move on. In the public sector the Ranger must grudgingly allow that some kind of complaints procedure is a necessary evil. After all, if your bins are not picked up, you have no other council to go to, nor will anyone else do it. If your doctor cuts your leg off by mistake, you can’t really expect market forces to provide adequate retribution. So you have to be able to complain about statutory things like that. But charities? Don’t be silly. The whole point of charities is that they are independent, on the fringe, and doing things that others simply won’t do. They don’t need to be deterred by complaints, nor should they have to take account of what people complain about unless they want to. A good charity deals with complaints anyway if they are relevant, hopefully long before any procedure is invoked. All a ‘procedure’ does is to ensure that those who enjoy a bit of administrative sparring and time-wasting are able to take up more of a charity’s time and money. So the Ranger’s advice to charities is that they should avoid a complaints procedure like the plague. Just try to make sure you don’t get any complaints.

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

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