Complaints policy and procedure
Our Complaints Process
9.1. Our priority is to resolve concerns and complaints as soon as they come to our attention. We therefore expect customers to first approach the team or person responsible for delivering the service they are unhappy with so that the matter can be addressed.
9.2. Where attempts for resolution with the relevant person or team have been unsuccessful, then the complaint will be handled under the two-stage process.
9.3. There are two stages to our formal complaints process:
Stage 1 - Investigation
Stage 2 - Review
9.4. To ensure compliance with the Housing Ombudsman's Complaint Handling Code, we will manage complaints about our housing service as per the normal complaint process, but with slight variations. The differences to the complaint process are set out clearly through this policy and procedure.
9.5. The complaints policy should be read in conjunction with the procedure set out at Appendix 1.
9.6. Refer to Appendix 2 for the flow chart showing the council's corporate complaint handling process.
9.7. Refer to Appendix 3 for flow chart showing the council's housing services related complaint handling process.
Stage 1 Complaints (Investigation)
9.8. A new complaint will be recorded as a formal complaint at Stage 1 of the council's complaints procedure. The council will acknowledge the complaint within 3 working days of receipt advising the customer who is dealing with the complaint.
9.9. The complaint will be investigated and responded to by an appropriate officer from the service concerned. This would usually be the person who has direct responsibility for the staff involved or the issue complained about. At this point, we may seek to clarify details about the complaint (if appropriate), together with what outcome the complainant is hoping for.
9.10. We will send a detailed response within 10 working days from the date the complaint was allocated to the investigating officer.
9.11. For housing services related complaints only, the complainant will be given fair opportunity to discuss the stage 1 complaint investigation (if they wish) before a final decision or outcome is issued.
9.12. If the complaint requires more than 10 working days, we will respond to the complainant and let them know, providing details of when they can expect a full response.
9.13. For complex cases, the 10-day timeframe mentioned may be extended for up to a further 10 working days. Where further information is required from the complainant, we will put on hold the response timeframe until such information has been received. In the absence of such information, after a reasonable period of time has elapsed the council may decide to close the case. This will only be done after prior notification to the complainant.
9.14. If a complainant remains unhappy with the outcome or the way the complaint has been handled, they have the right to request a review of their complaint under the final stage of the procedure.
9.15. To escalate their complaint to the final stage the complainant should notify the council within two months of the date of the first stage final response, providing details of why they remain dissatisfied and what further remedy they are seeking.
9.16. Request to escalate can be made online, by telephone or face-to-face, by visiting any council office (during office hours), by email or by post. See section 22 for details of how to contact the council.
9.17. If the complainant wishes to request an extension to the two-month deadline they should write to the council and each request will be considered on a case by case basis.
9.18. If a complainant continues to express dissatisfaction but does not provide specific reasons as to why they are not satisfied with the council's first stage response, we will try and agree these reasons with them. Additionally, if there are follow up actions which the council could take to resolve the matter without a final stage review, we will set a timescale for completion and inform the complainant.
Stage 2 Complaints (Review)
9.19. If a complainant is not satisfied with the Stage 1 response, they can request that the complaint is reviewed at Stage 2 of the complaint procedure.
9.20. The aim of the second stage of the process is to review the handling and outcome of the first stage complaint. As a general rule, the final stage should not reinvestigate the complaint, nor should it consider new complaints or matters that have not been considered at the first stage. Any new complaint will be opened as a new enquiry or stage 1 complaint.
9.21. Any complaint proceeding to the second stage will be reviewed by an officer/manager more senior to the person who investigated the first stage complaint or an equivalent level from an independent service to the officer who investigated the complaint.
9.22. The council will acknowledge the request to escalate the complaint to the second stage within 3 working days of receipt, advising the customer who will be dealing with the complaint.
9.23. The stage 1 complaint investigation will be reviewed, and we will send a detailed response within 10 working days from the date the complaint was allocated to the reviewing officer. For housing services related complaints only, the complainant will be given fair opportunity to discuss the stage 2 complaint review (if they wish) before a final decision or outcome is issued.
9.24. If the response will not be completed within the 10 days, the officer will contact the complainant to let them know the reasons why and advise when we aim to respond by.
9.25. This response period may be extended up to a further 10 working days and we will give full reasons why. Further extension beyond this will be agreed with the complainant. Where further information is required from the complainant, we will put on hold the response timeframe until such information has been received. In the absence of such information, after a reasonable period of time has elapsed (no less than 10 working days) the council may decide to close the case. This will only be done after prior notification to the complainant.
9.26. The stage 2 response will represent the council's final response and we will advise the complainant of their right to escalate matters to the relevant Ombudsman should they remain dissatisfied.