Report of the Strategic Director, Corporate Services and Governance
The Committee received a report referred by Cabinet as part of the performance management process, in order to ensure that the Corporate Complaints Process is operating satisfactorily.
The corporate complaints procedure has three steps, the first of which ‘problem solving’, relies on the quick resolution of complaints by employees and their managers and does not require the complaint to be recorded. The second stage the complaint is recorded, there is a formal investigation into the complaint and a written response is sent to the complainant usually within twenty working days. The final step enables those complainants who remain dissatisfied to request the Chief Executive (or Managing Director of the Gateshead Housing Company) to carry out an independent review of the matter.
In the year 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019:
· 191 complaints were recorded
· 593 compliments were recorded
· 31 complaints were the subject of an independent review by the Chief Executive of the Council and the Managing Director of the Gateshead Housing Company undertook 17 reviews
The following points for note have arisen from the statistics for 2018/19:
· 191 complaints were recorded in 2018/19 compared with 258 in 2017/18 a decrease of 67.
· 593 compliments were recorded for the year 2018/19 compared to 466 in 2017/18 – an increase of 127.
· The number of complainants requesting a review of their complaint by the
Chief Executive increased by 4 to 31 in 2018/19. The Managing Director of the Gateshead Housing Company carried out 17 reviews in 2018/19 compared to 14 in 2017/18.
· There were 129 complaints regarding quality of service. This is the largest of the six categories although a complaint can fall into more than one category.
· The proportion of complaints found to be fully justified decreased from 36.6% in 2017/18 to 24.2% in 2018/19.
· In addition, the proportion of complaints found to be partially justified decreased from 24.7% in 2017/18 to 17.6% in 2018/19.
· Most importantly, the Council’s managers used the information gained through the monitoring of complaints to improve the provision of services.
· The computerised recording system made it easier to track and respond to complaints. However, this system now requires an upgrade that reflects the new structure of the Council and provides improved statistical interrogation and analysis. A new corporate complaints system is currently being developed using the case management features of the Council’s Digital Platform to handle corporate complaints.
· There has been a decrease in the number of complaints recorded by the Council during 2018/19. Additionally, there has been a decrease in performance of the percentage of complaints resolved within target timescales for the both the Council and the Gateshead Housing Company from 75.2% in 2017/18 to 64.9% in 2018/19.
During the course of 2018/19, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigated 28 complaints. Of these 16 were closed after initial enquiries, 6 were not upheld and 6 were upheld partially or fully. Each case has provided learning opportunities in terms of review policy, maintenance of records, the operation of systems and the provision of guidance and training to staff. The Council maintains a good working relationship with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and all cases have now been settled to their satisfaction.
Throughout the year the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has produced a number of focus reports. These highlight particular subjects or systemic issues coming from casework. They draw on lessons learned from complaints and have included recommendations on good practice. These reports may be used to inform reviews and case studies undertaken by the Council’s overview and scrutiny committees. The Ombudsman also has an Advisory Forum comprising members of the public who have used their service, representatives from Local Authorities and those who act as advocates for the public. The Ombudsman has also, in consultation with the Local Government Association, produced a workbook for Councillors that can be access via the Local Government Association’s website.
From 1 April 2013 the Localism Act 2011 extended the jurisdiction of the Housing Ombudsman to cover all social landlords, including Councils. The Housing Ombudsman is able to consider complaints in so far as they related to the provision or management of housing. The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman continues to investigate complaints about allocations and the lettings policy. During 2018/19 the Council has been contacted by the Housing Ombudsman in respect of 7 cases as presented to the Cabinet.
RESOLVED - (i) That the information in the Annual Report be endorsed by the Committee.
(ii) That the Committee is satisfied that the Corporate Complaints and Compliments Procedure is operating satisfactorily.