DRAFT COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE

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DRAFT COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE Powered By Docstoc
					     CRAVEN DISTRICT     CONTACTING THE COUNCIL
            COUNCIL
                         The Complaints Manager,
                         Legal and Democratic Services Unit,
                         Council Offices,
                         Granville Street
                         Skipton
                         BD23 1PS
                         Telephone      : (01756) 706231
                         Fax            : (01756) 706257
                         Email          : contactus@cravendc.gov.uk


COMPLAINTS               COUNCIL OFFICES

                         Granville Street, Skipton           The Town Hall, Skipton

 PROCEDURE               BD23 1PS
                         Telephone
                         Fax
                                       : (01756) 700600
                                       : (01756) 706258
                                                             BD23 1AH
                                                             Telephone : (01756) 700600
                                                             Fax       : (01756) 700657


- A Guide
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                                                                    CRAVEN
                                                          DISTRICT COUNCIL
CONTENTS                                                              CRAVEN DISTRICT COUNCIL : COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE
                                                           Page No.   WHY HAVE WE GOT A COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE ?
WHY HAVE WE GOT A COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE ?                     1
                                                                      Craven District Council aims to provide the best possible services to
WHAT IS A COMPLAINT ?                                        1        meet the needs of all local people. When this does not happen, the
                                                                      Complaints Procedure aims to make sure we “put things right” and
WHAT IS NOT A COMPLAINT                                      2        continually improve our services. The Procedure ensures:-

 Complaints NOT dealt with by the Complaints Procedure      2           Making a complaint is as easy as possible.
                                                                         Complaints are treated seriously, however they are received.
WHO CAN MAKE A COMPLAINT ?                                   3           Complaints are dealt with promptly and efficiently.
                                                                         Every effort is made to resolve complaints.
WHO TO CONTACT                                               3           Fairness and opportunity for all through accessible services.
                                                                         The Council learns from complaints, taking appropriate steps to
TIME LIMITS                                                  3
                                                                          improve service provision.
HOW COMPLAINTS CAN BE MADE                                   3        The aim of the procedure is not to apportion blame amongst employees,
                                                                      but to provide an early, satisfactory solution. Individuals or groups making
RECORDING COMPLAINTS                                         4        a complaint will in no way suffer as a result of making their complaint.
                                                                      It is important to remember that everyone who complains feels that they
THE THREE STAGES OF THE COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE                 4        have grounds to do so. When dealing with a complaint, imagine yourself
                                                                      in their position and deal with each person in the way that you would like
   Stage 1: Initial Assessment and Local Resolution         4        to be dealt with.
   Stage 2: Service Unit Manager                            5
   Stage 3: Appeal                                          6        WHAT IS A COMPLAINT ?
   The Standards Committee                                  7
                                                                      A complaint is :-
   The Local Government Ombudsman                           7
                                                                      “An expression of dissatisfaction, however made, from a member of the
TIME LIMITS                                                  7        public claiming to have suffered injustice as a result of action taken, (or not
                                                                      taken), by or on behalf of the Council in delivering its services or exercising
MONITORING, REVIEW AND FEEDBACK                              8        its administrative functions, and for which a remedy is claimed”.
                                                                      In practice, complaints should be dealt with under the Procedure when
DEALING WITH CONFIDENTIAL COMPLAINTS                         8        we are notified that the Council has:-
                                                                         Done something in the wrong way.
DEALING WITH PERSISTENT COMPLAINANTS                         9
                                                                         Done something we should not have done.
COMPLAINTS ABOUT SERVICES NOT CONTROLLED BY CRAVEN                       Failed to do something we should have done.
DISTRICT COUNCIL                                   9                     Treated a member of the public, or group, unfairly or discourteously.
                                                                         Acted contrary to the Council’s policies and procedures.
REFUSING TO ACCEPT COMPLAINTS                          9
                                                                      The Chief Executive has the final right to say whether or not a complaint
                                                                      comes under the Council’s definition of a complaint.
WHAT IS NOT A COMPLAINT                                                               WHO CAN MAKE A COMPLAINT ?
Most of the contact we have with members of the public are enquiries                   Anyone who is not satisfied with any service provided by the Council
rather than complaints. The Complaints Procedure does not cover:-                       and has been affected by any error or omission in service provision.
 Requests for a service.                                                              Anyone who claims to have suffered an injustice as a result of action
 Requests for information.                                                             taken, or not taken, by or on behalf of the Council.
 Requests for an explanation of a decision made in line with Council                  Complaints can be made on behalf of a relative or friend, providing
    policy.                                                                             their written consent has been provided.
 Provision of information about an issue or problem.                                 The Council will not usually deal with anonymous complaints. A request
 Appeals against Council decisions using established procedures.                     can be made for a complaint to be dealt with in confidence where this is
 Investigating matters of employee discipline.                                       appropriate. (Please refer to Page 8 for more information).
 Complaints which need to be referred to the Council’s insurers (e.g.
                                                                                      WHO TO CONTACT
    where the complaint seeks payment of compensation for personal
    injury, or for loss of or physical damage to property.                            In the first instance, complainants should contact the service unit with which
                                                                                      they have a complaint. Alternatively written complaints can be addressed to
COMPLAINTS NOT          DEALT WITH BY THE         COMPLAINTS P ROCEDURE               The Complaints Manager, Council Offices, Granville Street.
Procedures for dealing with some types of complaints are already in                   TIME LIMITS FOR MAKING A COMPLAINT
place. This includes complaints which:-
                                                                                      Encourage people to complain on the spot, or as soon as possible after the
   Are about an environmental health matter, which are dealt with by the             complaint arises. Where this is not possible, or has not happened, ALL
    Environmental Health Service Unit.                                                complaints must be made within twelve months of the event, or within 12
   Are about Council Tax, housing benefit, car parks and car parking, which are      months of becoming aware of the need to complain.
    dealt with by the Finance Unit.
                                                                                      This could be waived in exceptional circumstances, with the agreement of
 Are appeals about a decision made on a planning application, which should be        the Chief Executive.
    referred to the Planning Inspectorate.
   Refer to, or include an appeal about, decisions made by the Council, a            HOW COMPLAINTS CAN BE MADE
    committee, sub committee or an employee, where an appeal process is in place      Complaints must be accepted however they are received. This can be in
    or a remedy is available by appealing to a committee, tribunal, Minister of the   person, by telephone or in writing.
    Crown, or by proceedings in a court of law.
 Are about issues affecting all, or most, of the people in an area.                   In Person – Either at the time of the event complained of, or after
                                                                                        making an appointment to see an employee.
   Refer to personnel issues or to the conduct of an individual officer. These
    complaints must be referred to Human Resources for clarification on whether the    By Telephone – Inform the caller who they are talking to and the
    issues raised would be most appropriately dealt with under the terms of the         Service Unit they have been connected to.
    Discipline and Grievance Procedure.
                                                                                       In Writing, by letter fax, or email. All written complaints must be
   Refer to the conduct of a Councillor. These should be sent to the Council’s         responded to in writing. All formal complaints must be in writing, with
    monitoring Officer who will refer them to the National Standards Board.             every encouragement given for completion of the Complaint Form.
Where a complaint cannot be dealt with under the Complaints Procedure the               This could be completed with the aid of a member of staff, or on
complainant must be informed of any alternative procedures to use.                      behalf of the complainant by an employee either over the telephone
                                                                                        or by a personal visit.
If, on investigation, there appears to have been an error or omission on the
part of the Council, or where financial compensation is requested, the matter          Via a Councillor or other local representative.
must be referred to Legal Services and, if appropriate, the Insurance                  Referred from another organisation who has received a complaint
Section, for comment. No admission of liability must be made.                           about a service provided by the Council.
RECORDING COMPLAINTS                                                          Some problems cannot be sorted out immediately and/or more detailed
                                                                              investigations will have to be made using the second stage of the
Recording complaints is an essential part of the Procedure. Each Unit is      Complaints Procedure. In such cases a letter should be sent to the
responsible for maintaining a Complaints Data-base. Information from          person who made the complaint advising them that this will be dealt with
this will be analysed and presented to Corporate Management Team on           under the terms of Stage Two of the Complaints Procedure.
a quarterly basis to ensure that where a complaint is justified action is
taken to prevent the same situation recurring.
                                                                              STAGE TWO: INVESTIGATION BY SERVICE UNIT MANAGER
However the complaint is made, make sure that some basic details are          The second stage provides for complaints which cannot be dealt with
recorded including:-                                                          immediately or require more detailed investigations, including:-
   The date the complaint was made.                                           Complaints which the receiving employee feels unable to deal with
   The service unit the complaint refers to.                                   without the involvement of a more senior officer.
   The name of the person making a complaint.
   Their address and a contact telephone number where possible.               Complaints which refer to, and require a response from more than
   Details of what the person feels went wrong and what he or she feels        one Service Unit.
    the Council can do to put things right.                                    A written complaint about a serious or complex matter, or in which the
                                                                                complainant requests the complaint be dealt with in writing.
Wherever possible record these details on a Complaint Form.
                                                                               A Complaint Form is received which outlines dissatisfaction with the
                                                                                local resolution.
THE THREE STAGES OF THE COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE                                  All complaints dealt with under Stage Two, should be in writing, preferably
                                                                              on a Complaint Form. Once the complaint has been received, an
STAGE ONE: INITIAL ASSESSMENT AND QUICK RESOLUTION                            employee will be appointed by the Service Unit Manager to investigate the
The first stage of the Procedure is to make an assessment of each             complaint and provide a written response. The response should:-
complaint.
                                                                                 1. Thank the complainant for raising the issue(s) and provide a
Most complaints will be of a simple nature requiring an assurance of                copy of this booklet.
remedial action either immediately, or within 5 working days, to gain local
resolution between the Service Unit and the person making the                    2. Provide details of who is dealing with the complaint.
complaint. In most cases this will be a customer informing the Council of        3. Explain why the complaint is being dealt with under the terms
a problem. Good practice would be to:-                                              of Stage Two of the Procedure.
1) Provide an apology on behalf of the Council for any inconvenience             4. Address the issue(s) raised.
   caused.
                                                                                 5. Explain how the Council will address these issues and within what
2) Inform the complainant of the action the Council proposes to take at             time-scales. Attempt to base the solution upon what the
   the time of receiving the complaint.                                             complainant wants, and where this is not possible, explain why.
3) If it is not possible within this timescale, the complainant to be kept       6. Explain the next steps if the complainant is not satisfied with the
   informed of progress until remedial action is complete.                          response, including a requirement that any appeal has to be
Every attempt must be made to gain quick resolution. This may include               registered within one month.
telephoning the person making the complaint or arranging a meeting in
an attempt to resolve any outstanding issues.                                 It is the responsibility of the Service Unit Manager to ensure that all
                                                                              complaints are dealt with both fairly and efficiently.
STAGE THREE: CHIEF EXECUTIVE AND APPEAL                                      THE STANDARDS COMMITTEE
                                                                             Due to the complexity, seriousness, or legal implications of some complaints,
The final stage of the procedure gives the right to appeal to the Chief      it may be necessary for the Chief Executive to refer the complaint to the
Executive and/or the Council’s Standards Committee.                          Standards Committee for a final stage hearing. This will be at the discretion
                                                                             of the Chief Executive, in discussion with the Chairman of the Standards
All referrals to the Chief Executive must be made in writing and include a   Committee. Any complaint referred to Committee will be written in report
copy of the completed Complaint Form. The referral to specifically           format and include details of:-
describe the issues which remain outstanding and any action the                 The original complaint.
complainant has requested to resolve the matter. A referral to the Chief        The investigations undertaken.
Executive is accepted from anyone who remains dissatisfied with the             Action taken to address the issues raised.
response following Stage Two.                                                   The remaining outstanding issues.
                                                                                Details of the action requested by the complainant.
Where a complaint is addressed to the Chief Executive in the first              Recommendations for next steps and reasons for this.
instance, this will be referred to the Service Unit concerned to be          It is possible that the Committee will call upon any employee(s) involved to
investigated under the terms of Stage Two of the Procedure.                  attend a meeting to answer questions.
Although complaints will not usually be accepted by the Chief Executive      THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT OMBUDSMAN
where they have not been investigated in accordance with Stage One or
                                                                             A complainant can be referred to the Ombudsman at any time, although it is
Two of the Procedure, this will be at the Chief Executive’s discretion.      normal practice for the Ombudsman not to begin an investigation unless the
                                                                             Council has used its own procedures to resolve the complaint. There is a
Complaints made direct to Councillors should be reported to the Chief        separate leaflet, available from Council Offices which explains how to
Executive. Although the complaint may still be investigated locally, both    complain to the Ombudsman.
the Chief Executive and Councillor concerned must be kept informed of        TIME LIMITS FOR THE COUNCIL’S RESPONSE
progress.                                                                    Responding to complaints within set time limits is important:
                                                                                If the complaint is of a simple nature, an assurance of remedial action, or
Under Stage Three the Chief Executive may carry out any investigation            a response that no action is required, should be made, in person, by
personally, or may nominate a member of Corporate Management Team,               telephone or letter, within 5 working days.
independent of the service unit complained of, to carry out the                 Written complaints, or those which cannot be resolved immediately,
investigation. The response, in the name of the Chief Executive, should:-        should be acknowledged, either by telephone or letter, within 5 working
                                                                                 days. A full response to be provided within 10 working days of first
   1. Thank the complainant for raising the issue(s).                            receiving the complaint.
   2. Address the issue(s) raised.                                              Investigations of complex complaints may take longer. In such cases a
   3. Explain the nature of any further investigation.                           response should be sent within 10 working days, explaining the reason
   4. Explain any further action taken or proposed and within what               for the delay and providing an estimated date for provision of the full
      time-scales. Where this is not necessary, explain why.                     response. Wherever possible, This should not be more than 21 working
   5. Explain the option of referral to the Ombudsman if the                     days of first receiving the complaint.
      complainant is not satisfied with the response, enclosing a leaflet.      We will make every effort to ensure that all complaints receive a full and
                                                                                 final response, within 42 working days.
                                                                                If the person making a complaint is dissatisfied with the response to
 It will be the responsibility of the Chief Executive to ensure that all         either Stage One or Two, a request can be made for an investigation
complaints referred to Stage Three are dealt with fairly and efficiently.        under the terms of next stage. This must be made within one
                                                                                 calendar month of receiving the Council’s response.
MONITORING, REVIEW AND FEEDBACK                                                  If the complainant has exhausted the Complaints Procedure a decision
Recording complaints is an important part of the Procedure and each              will be made by the Service Unit Manager, in discussion with the Chief
Service Unit is responsible for devising and maintaining a complaints data       Executive as necessary, as to whether further contact is warranted.
base. As a minimum this will include details of all complaints that are          In such cases, a letter will be sent to the individual concerned explaining
dealt with under the terms of Stage Two or Three of this Procedure. Best         that the issue has been dealt with and further correspondence on the
practice will be to include all complaints, comments and compliments.            issue will not be entered into. This does not exclude the complainant
                                                                                 raising new issues for which a response will be required.
The data base will be used to generate quarterly, anonymous, reports of
the complaints received for presentation to Corporate Management Team.
The reports will be used to both monitor the implementation of the               COMPLAINTS ABOUT SERVICES NOT CONTROLLED BY
Complaints Procedure and identify trends in complaints over time. It is          CRAVEN DISTRICT COUNCIL
the responsibility of the Corporate Management Team to review and                Where a complaint is made about a service that is not controlled by
where necessary revise, the Council’s policies or practices in response to       Craven District Council the person making the complaint should be
any issues highlighted by complaints.                                            informed that this is the case. Wherever possible, details of the
All of the complaints that are referred to the Chief Executive will be           organisation to contact, including individual contact names where these
reported, six monthly, to the Standards Committee. The reports will              are known, should be provided.
include brief details of the complaints and identify any trends.                 The employee dealing with the referral should make it clear that their role
                                                                                 in the complaint is over at this point. The Council will not act as an
DEALING WITH CONFIDENTIAL COMPLAINTS                                             intermediary, or become involved in following up complaints relating to
The Council may be able to deal with a complaint confidentially, where this is   services for which it is not responsible. If possible, complainants may be
requested, although information relevant to the complaint must be made           referred to other organisations that may be able to provide additional
available to enable investigation. Whether this is possible and appropriate      assistance.
will be considered by the employee investigating the complaint.
Where a complaint cannot be dealt with confidentially, the reasons for           REFUSING COMPLAINTS
this will be explained at the same time as establishing whether the              Where the substance of a complaint is racist, sexist or otherwise abusive,
person making the complaint would like to proceed on this basis.                 the Council is able to refuse to accept the complaint.
Irrespective of the decision, the complaint should be recorded, but              Where the person making a complaint behaves in an abusive or
exclude all personal details.                                                    threatening way, or makes racist or sexist remarks in lodging their
Some complainants may prefer to make their complaint to someone who              complaint, the Council is able to refuse to accept the complaint.
has not been involved with the service to which the complaint refers. In
such cases complaints should be addressed to the Complaints Manager.
                                                                                 DATA PROTECTION ACT 1998
DEALING WITH PERSISTENT COMPLAINANTS
A minority of the complaints made to the Council may become                      Any information supplied in relation to Compliments, comments or
persistent, vexatious or deliberately repetitive. Whilst the vast majority       complaints will be held in a computerised form and will be passed to the
of complainants do not fall into this category, there will be a small number     relevant Service Unit(s). Data may also be passed to your Ward
of complainants who, despite having their complaint investigated, will not       councillor as the elected representative for your area.
accept the matter is concluded. In such cases it is important to
remember that letters seeking information, confirmation or explanation
are NOT complaints and should not be dealt with under the terms of the
Complaints Procedure.