To consider a report by the Director for Digital, Sustainability and Resources, copy attached as item 8
The Committee had a report before it attached as item 8, this had been circulated to all Members and a copy of which is attached to a signed copy of these minutes.
This report provided an overview of compliments and complaints received by the councils for the financial year 2021/22. It included trend analysis for the previous two financial years.
It set out progress on improvements to the feedback process and policy and the steps that were planned for the next financial year to embed a feedback driven culture.
A Member asked “On page 11 paragraph 4.16 there are figures given for stage 1 complaints that take longer than the target of 10 days for a response. Whilst I appreciate that some complaints are more complex than others and thus need more time I am also aware that making a complaint can be stressful for the customer. What can be done to reduce the delayed response times and also to reassure the customers?”
Members were told that customers had shared with the council, that they valued clear communication and clarity around how and why decisions were made. When responding to complaints the council needed to ensure they provided clear and comprehensive responses. If this took longer than 10 working days, officers should contact customers and advise them when they were likely to get a detailed response. Acknowledging complaints in a timely manner and setting realistic response time-scales would help reassure customers as well as provide meaningful responses.
The new feedback system allowed for improved reporting on complaints, facilitating scrutiny on individual services and enabling managers to review performance more constructively.
A Member asked “In Paragraph 4.25 we see that housing has the highest number of complaints (9 of 13) being upheld or partially upheld at stage 2. What can be done to better support the staff managing stage one complaints to more accurately evaluate the complaints, providing a satisfactory resolution and response at stage one?”
Members were told the Housing Team was actively reviewing how it managed complaints and how performance could be improved.
The number of complaints escalated to stage 2 across the councils was relatively low. Despite that, they should have been looking at why some escalated complaints were fully or partially upheld at this late stage rather than being upheld at stage 1.
Sometimes complaints were upheld at stage 2 because the customer had provided additional information or evidence. Other times it was due to the senior reviewer taking a different view to the original officer who responded. Managers responding to stage 2 complaints should have been sharing their decisions with the officers who responded at stage 1 to facilitate learning.
They were continuing to train staff on complaints handling, including mandatory training, to help improve the quality of responses.
Finally, as had been referenced before, the new system would provide more accessible data (including reasons why complaints were or were not upheld) to be used to improve performance across the organisation.
A Member asked “Paragraph 4.22 states that '19.2% of stage two complaints have not been shown as responded to. This is likely to be due to responses being sent outside of the system'. This seems an awfully vague and uncertain response to a large number of mismanaged cases. Can we have some clarity please?”
Members were told the council needed to track and have visibility of complaints and responses for monitoring and training purposes.
The statistics referred to here related to the old system, which had less robust tracking mechanisms in place. The new system provided much better tracking and reporting to prevent situations like this arising in future.
A Member asked “Future Reporting - Paragraph 4.40 - New functionality also gives people the option of submitting equalities data. Can you explain more about how this function works, how staff identify the equalities data and what training has been provided in order to do this?”
Members were told the equalities questions were optional questions that they asked people submitting a complaint to complete, to provide them with better understanding of the communities who had reason to raise a complaint. The data was anonymised and not linked to specific complaint cases, but it was grouped on a service basis. The complaints team were at the time, the only ones who were able to analyse this data, and they had had training through the Equalities Champions.
A Member asked “(Annual report Paragraph 4.12) - The number of cases where the outcome of complaints is not logged is worrying, and particularly problematic in housing. I see that the council has introduced a new system which makes outcome logging compulsory. What about the complaints with no outcome - outlined in both reports - both stage 1 and 2, what process is being applied to ensure these customers are - or have been - properly responded to?”
Members were told the data provided a snapshot of performance at any one time, and did include complaints which were in the process of being responded to.
It was crucial that residents had confidence in the response to complaints. The updated system provided greater visibility of performance (speed of response, and whether or not complaints had been responded to). It included compulsory fields that must be completed before a complaint is closed down, including whether a complaint was upheld or not, and if it was upheld what the reason was.
The data now being produced was being used by services, including housing, to improve performance. Live complaints were now being reviewed proactively and checks were being put in place to ensure that all managers had the necessary training. A complaints policy and procedure had been drafted to guide this work.
A Member asked “(Half year report Paragraph 4.11) - Having read both reports in detail, you can understand why I have lost all confidence in how Adur Homes in particular deal with complaints. What is being done to ensure that complaints coming into the system at various points are actually being diligently captured and logged onto the new system now? What’s being done differently?”
Members were told as detailed in the previous response, the data from the new system which had informed the half yearly report had triggered an urgent review of how complaints were handled within the service.
This work included reviewing the data, updating training and implementing a policy and procedure specific to the service.
Members also asked about incentive schemes to encourage officers to go above and beyond to satisfy complaints and were told that such schemes had been trialled before but were difficult to get right.
Members noted the contents of the report.