"DRAFT COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE"
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 : firstname.lastname@example.org 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 THIS LEAFLET IS AVAILABLE IN LARGE PRINT ON REQUEST The Council subscribes to “Language Line”, a telephone translation service. Please let us know if you would like this leaflet translating over the telephone. 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.