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Complaints Policy - Guidance for Staff

 

We are a responsive and modern Council and as such we welcome complaints. Our aim is to handle complaints quickly, effectively and in a fair and transparent way.

We aim to provide an impartial, fair and structured process for dealing with complaints and any information provided to us will be treated seriously and in confidence.
 

What is covered in this guidance

The definition of a complaint
Who can make a complaint
Anonymous complaints
How a complaint can be made
The complaints process
Confidentiality
Unreasonable Complaints
How complaints are handled that cover more than one service area
Complaints about contractors
Equalities statement
The role of officers
Matters which are outside of the policy

The definition of a complaint

A complaint is generally defined as any expression of dissatisfaction specifically relating to a council service, or body acting on behalf of the council, about the actions the service has taken, or a lack of action that has occurred.

A complaint is not an initial request for service.
 

Who can make a complaint

Any member of the public or their representative, businesses, public and voluntary bodies can make a complaint about the council.
All complaints should be initially directed to the Complaints & Customer Care Team who will acknowledge the complaint, record it on the case management system and then allocate the complaint to the appropriate service area to respond to.
 

Anonymous complaints

The Council understands that people may find it difficult to make a complaint so we offer assurances that all complaints are treated in the strictest confidence. Any person has a right to complain and we would always offer assistance to ensure that any issue highlighted to us is suitably investigated.

Anonymous complaints will be acted upon as appropriate, however if a person does not provide us with their name, address or contact details, it will not be possible for us to respond to them with information about the outcome of the complaint investigation. It is advisable to try to obtain the complainants contact details in order that they can be informed of the outcome. Where appropriate any concerns will still be directed to the relevant service for consideration.
 

How a complaint can be made

A complaint can be made in the following ways: -

 

The Complaints Process

Stage One: All complaints received are acknowledged and allocated to the relevant Service Area within 5 working days.  In the first instance concerns are considered by the Head of Service with responsibility for that service.

We always aim to issue a response as quickly as possible within 20 working days of the date the complaint was made.

In order to investigate a complaint, the Head of Service should look at the issues raised and gather any available evidence in order to establish what happened in the case. This will enable them to make an assessment as to whether the correct process has been followed, if there is the need for any subsequent action, and if there are any recommendations that need to be considered going forward.  The Head of Service will write a response to the complainant, which will reflect their assessment of the case and will also summarise the findings of the complaint investigation.

If it is not possible to respond within the timescale provided due to any complexities the case may present, we will need to write to the complainant to let them know why there is a delay and the estimated time it will take to provide a full response, so it is important to keep the Complaints & Customer Care Team informed of any potential delays.
               
At this stage, it is hoped that we will have been able to address the issues raised, dealt with the concerns and reached a satisfactory outcome to the complaint.

If however the complainant still feels dissatisfied with the response provided, or with the time we took to respond, or with the way they were kept informed, or the manner in which their complaint was dealt with, they progress can their complaint to Stage Two

Stage Two: All complaints received are acknowledged and allocated to the relevant Service Area within 5 working days. Any matters progressed to this stage are investigated by the relevant Assistant Director. They will review the investigation and findings at Stage One and decide whether the outcome was correct or whether the Council needs to take any further action to resolve the complaint.

To further investigate the matter at Stage Two 2 of the process, we need to know:
 

  • what part of the complaint they felt was not handled well at Stage One, or;
  • what they disagree with in the complaint response, and;
  • what further action they would like to be taken as a result of progressing their complaint.


We will aim to provide a complainant with a further response within 20 working days from the date their Stage Two request was received.

If it is not possible to respond within the required timescale due to any complexities the case may present, we will need to write to the complainant to let them know why there is a delay and the estimated time it will take to provide a full response. It is important to keep the Complaints & Customer Care Team informed of any potential delays.

If at the end of the Stage Two process a complainant does not feel that suitable resolution has been found and they remain dissatisfied by the Council's final response, they can contact the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman  for further advice. Further information about the LGSCO can be found here.

Stage Two is the final stage of the Councils Corporate Complaint Process.

Any Complaints received from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman will go direct to the Borough Solicitor who will inform the Head of Service and the relevant Assistant Director.


Children Social Care Statutory Complaints

Complaints that relate to the provision of services to a child or young person may be eligible for consideration under the statutory complaints procedure. The Statutory Complaints Procedure is a three stage process. Eligibility will usually depend on whether the child is a looked after child, or a Child in Need, and will be determined by who is making the complaint, and the nature of the complaint.  Complaints that are eligible will be investigated under the Children Act 1989 Complaints and Representations Procedure.

Click here to find out more information on the Statutory Complaints Procedure
 

Confidentiality

All complaints are treated with confidentiality in mind. Only officers dealing with complaints in each service area will be aware that a complaint has been received and is being dealt with. Anonymous requests will be acted upon, however, it is advisable to try to obtain the complainants contact details in order that the complainant can be informed of the outcome.
 

Unreasonable complaints

The Council wants to deal fairly and honestly with complainants and ensure that other Service Users, Officers or the Council as a whole do not suffer detriment from people making unreasonable complaints.

Complaints can be deemed unreasonable if the person making the complaint;

  • is repeated and obsessive in their pursuit of complaints, and/or
  • seeks unrealistic outcomes to their complaint.

 
Repeated and obsessive pursuit of complaints
From time to time some complainants feel it is necessary to make repeated complaints to the Council, and/or pursue unrealistic outcomes. It is important that such complainants are given the opportunity to pursue their complaint via the complaints process. If the matter(s) has been investigated and a full and thorough response given to the complainant, yet they continue to pursue the complaint, the Complaints and Customer Care Team should be informed of the complainant’s continued pursuit of a complaint.

The Complaints and Customer Care Team will inform the complainant that repeated complaints on the same or related matters that have already been addressed through the corporate complaints process, will not be considered again within a time period that has been decided and agreed between the Complaints and Customer Care Team and the service.  They will also inform the complainant that no further correspondence and/or communication will be entered into until the expiration of the agreed time period.
 
 

Unreasonable behaviour

The Council expects its customers to treat staff with respect however, there are occasions when staff are (or feel) threatened, intimidated or bullied by a complainant’s aggressive behaviour, whether verbal or physical.    This includes verbal abuse, shouting, foul language, or threat of implied or actual physical violence to people or property.

Abusive telephone calls
Staff are entitled to inform abusive callers that the telephone call will be terminated if the abuse continues. If the complainant continues to be abusive then the Officer should provide a clear request to the complainant to refrain from being abusive or the call will be terminated. If the abusive behaviour continues, the call should be terminated by the member of staff and their manager informed.

Please advise the Complaints & Customer Care Team of any instances where someone has been aggressive or abusive.

Aggressive or abusive complainants in person
If a complainant is aggressive or abusive in person, then staff should inform the complainant that a manager will be called.  If the unacceptable behaviour continues, the complainant can be asked to leave the premises.

Please advise the Complaints & Customer Care Team of any instances where someone has been aggressive or abusive.

In severe cases, the complainant will receive in writing a statement from the Borough Solicitor. The statement will outline the unreasonable complaints policy, a request that there is no repetition of the behaviour and if appropriate, impose conditions and restrictions for further contact with staff in the service area concerned

Depending on the severity of abuse, the manager may wish to consider the corporate Violence and Aggression Policy and/or report the incident to the Health and Safety Unit.  The manager may also wish to report the matter to the Police or consider counselling for the staff member(s) affected.

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Complaints covering more than one service area

Where a complaint is received and covers more than one service area then the will decide which service area is to take the lead role.

In such cases the ‘lead officer’ will send an acknowledgement to the complainant, as it is possible that the response will exceed the appropriate time-scale. It is the responsibility of the ‘lead officer’ to co-ordinate a response after drawing on information from officers in the relevant service areas.
 

Complaints about contractors and trusts

The Council recognises complaints regarding the Council’s contractors, and any organisation contracted to work for the Council, and will seek to resolve such complaints. These complaints are useful to guide learning in future service delivery and contractual arrangements. The Council will forward complaints received in respect of other organisations including local Primary Care Trusts, Utility Companies and New Charter Housing Trust to the appropriate bodies.
 

Equalities statement

The Council aims to handle all complaints fairly and honestly regardless of who made the complaint. The Council treats all members of the community equitably and will not show bias to any particular individual or group. More information on equality and diversity can be found  here.
 

The role of officers

It is the responsibility of all staff to ensure that complaints received directly to them or their service area are forwarded on to the Complaints & Customer Care Team as soon as they are received.

The Complaints & Customer Care Team will send an acknowledgement to the complainant and allocate the complaint on to the relevant officer. Upon allocation of a complaint, it is the officers responsibility to investigate and respond to the complainant (or, if appropriate, delegate this responsibility to another manager), within the prescribed timescales.

Officers must inform the Complaints & Customer Care Team if a complaint has been incorrectly allocated.

The Complaints & Customer Care Team can offer help and advice concerning any complaint related matters.

 

Matters that are outside the policy

There are some matters that the Council cannot deal with under this complaints policy. Click here to find more information on this.
 

Help, advice and training

The Complaints & Customer Care Team can offer help and advice concerning any complaint related matters on a day to day basis.

Training on customer care and complaints handling is available to staff. In addition, tailored and focused training sessions can also be provided to individual teams. If you would like more information on either of these facilities please contact either Elainna Sayers or Rachel Taylor.
 

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