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Policy statement

Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) is committed to ensuring the highest possible standards of ethical and moral conduct in all our work, in line with our values and standards.

We work with people all over the world to deliver our charitable objectives. We endeavour to ensure that our work is delivered in line with our mission statement and meets the needs of the population we serve, our partners and our donors; and we are committed to ensuring the people we engage with are treated fairly and with dignity and respect.

We will not always get things right. Sometimes we may make mistakes, or a misunderstanding may arise. This complaints policy and procedure outlines the process for lodging a complaint with MLDI, and how that complaint will be dealt with.

MLDI welcomes feedback and complaints as they are one of many ways by which problems may be
identified and they can lead to improvements.

Policy Aims

• To provide an avenue for expression of dissatisfaction (a complaint) if you are not satisfied with the way you have been treated or the service you have received

• To set out the procedure to be adopted by staff, volunteers and trustees in the event of anyone making a complaint (whether informal or formal).

• To provide a process for a complaint received by MLDI to be heard and investigated.

Scope

This policy applies to anyone accessing or attempting to access a service from or partner with MLDI, or anyone who is engaged as a consultant by MLDI.

This procedure does not cover complaints made by employees, volunteers or trustees who need to follow MLDIs grievance, disciplinary, volunteer policy or other internal procedures.

In some cases, a person may wish to complain on behalf of someone else (a third-party complaint). Careful consideration will be given in these cases to ascertain that the person does wish to complain or that there is a valid reason the person is unable to make the complaint. Consideration will also be given to issues of confidentiality. In all cases of third-party complaints, MLDI may choose not to accept them as valid.

The Procedure

How the complaint is dealt with depends on the nature of the complainant.

The procedure has 3 stages:

Stage 1 Informal Complaint
Stage 2 Formal Complaint (including investigation)
Stage 3 Appeal
Stage 1: Informal Complaints.

It is anticipated that the majority of complaints can be addressed at this stage. Any MLDI employee may be able to respond to straightforward or simple complaints, while more specific or detailed complaints may be better addressed by the relevant staff member of manager. Informal complaints can largely be made verbally and with an immediate response. However, this does not preclude the person placing this in writing, or the response being made after time to consider it has elapsed.

Unless there is good reason, all informal complaints will be responded to within 10 working days.

Stage 2: Formal Complaint

Any complaint that cannot be resolved informally can be addressed by a formal investigation if the complainant wishes to pursue this route. The process of the formal complaint will be completed within 15 working days unless there is good reason for the delay.

This has eight stages to it:

1. Receipt of the Complaint
It is preferable but not essential that the complaint is made in writing and assistance should be offered to do so by someone not directly involved in the matter. If the complaint is made verbally this should be a brief description of the matter and should not preclude stage 3 for a more thorough discussion.

2. Acknowledging Receipt of the Complaint

This will be made in writing and detail the following:

• The name and contact details of the complaints investigator. This will usually be the line
manager unless he/she is also the subject of the complaint in which case the contact details for a senior manager or a member of the board if the complaint is against the CEO) will be
provided.
• A request to make contact to arrange a meeting (physical or via telephone).
• An explanation of the stages of the formal complaints process. This may be a copy of this
document.
• An inquiry as to if they have any particular support needs such as an interpreter.

3. Meeting the Complainant

The main aim of this is to gain a better understanding of the nature and circumstances surrounding the complaint. Notes will be made by the investigator and these must be agreed by both parties to say they are a true reflection of the meeting. This should be done within 3 working days of the meeting. It may be possible to resolve the matter at this stage. If so, this should be put in writing to the complainant and any other individuals concerned. The letter should also make it clear that no further action needs to be taken.

If it is not possible to resolve the matter then the investigation moves onto the next stage. The complainant should be informed in writing that this will require their initial complaint and subsequent minutes of meetings about the complaint being shared with others involved in the matter.

4. Investigation.
Anyone involved in the complaint and any relevant witnesses will be given a copy of the complaint and subsequent minutes and to then provide a written statement responding to this. Support will be offered where necessary. The investigator may then choose to make a decision based on this information or to follow these up by interviewing some or all of those who have made statements. Notes will be kept of such meetings and signed and dated by the investigator.

5. Decision on the Outcome of the Investigation
The investigator will then make a decision as to whether or not there are grounds for the complaint and what, if any, recommended. This may be aided by a discussion with the CEO or a member of the board as necessary.

6. Letter to the Complainant.

A letter will be sent to the complainant and will address the following items:

• A historical summary of what the investigation entailed.
• A response to each and every item of complaint, indicating whether or not the complaint was
upheld and the reasons for this.
• A summary of any action or change of practice that will arise from the investigation.
• Where appropriate, an apology.
• An explanation of what steps the complainant should take if they are still dissatisfied and wish to take the matter further (The Appeal).

7. Informing relevant workers and Board Members

All workers (paid or unpaid) and Board Members involved in the complaint should be informed of the outcome of the investigation. The complaint and its outcome should also be tabled on the agenda for the next Board Meeting.

8. Follow up Action

Where any action or change of practice has been identified this should be allocated to a specific person and a deadline set.

Stage 3: The Appeal Process.

If the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome of the investigation then they have the right to appeal to the board of Trustees. The Board will convene a panel led by the Chairperson or another named Board member. This person will take the lead in the appeal and also hold the casting vote if this is necessary. Membership of the panel will be restricted to people who have had no previous involvement in the investigation of the complaint.

The panel may review the evidence gathered so far and may also, if they choose, conduct further enquires in a similar manner to the initial investigation. The process should be completed within 21 working days. This time scale reflects the fact that many Board members also have full time employment. A letter should then go out to the complainant set out in a similar way to the letter following the first investigation and in particular, highlighting where the appeal agrees or differs to the first investigation. It should also explain that the internal complaints procedure is now exhausted and no further correspondence will be entered into.

Time Limits

In circumstances where time limits cannot be met due to unforeseen circumstances, complainants will be notified in writing. The reasons for the delay with adjusted timescales will be supplied by the person responsible for handling the complaint.

Recording and Monitoring Complaints

Each manager within the organisation will be responsible for ensuring a record of all complaints relevant to their department is maintained in a format agreed by the CEO. These will be reviewed as part of the policy cycle on an on-going basis. The CEO will be responsible for collating information about complaints and furnishing the Board of Trustees on an annual basis with details of the totality of complaints received, main reasons for complaints, outcomes and how any underlying problems have been resolved. The organisation will also use this information as part of our grant monitoring activities.

Complaints Procedure

This is the Complaints Procedure of Media Legal Defence initiative.

Very often issues may arise as a result of misunderstandings and can be easily resolved informally by our staff. However, we recognise that there may be occasions when you feel that our actions have not met your expectations and you wish to raise this as a formal complaint.

In this case, please, contact our Operations Team, either by email, in writing or by telephone.

Media Legal Defence Initiative
17 Oval Way, London, SE11 5RR
Tel: +44 203 752 5550
Email: info@mediadefence.org