DETAILED REPORT

SUBJECT: Corporate Complaints & Compliments - 2006 / 2007 Annual Report

Policy & Resources Scrutiny Committee

1st February 2008

1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1 Complaints are out there. All organisations, whether public or private, have them. It can be said that a certain level of complaints shows that an organisation is open and healthy. The better organisations, however, find ways to get their customers to tell them when they are not happy. Carmarthenshire County Council has developed a procedure, which it is hoped enables people to do exactly this in an easy and fair way.

1.2 Our complaints procedure allows us to:

1.3 The procedure seeks to:

2.0. DEFINITIONS

2.1 A complaint is:

A complaint is not:

2.2 The Complaints and Compliments procedure is entirely separate from that of the Member Enquiry Procedure which principally deals with requests for action or for a service.

2.3 Compliments are expressions of satisfaction. They are particularly appreciated as they provide confirmation that the Authority and its employees provide services that meet or exceed expectations and have a very positive effect on employee morale.

3.0. COMPLAINTS MATTERS THAT FALL OUTSIDE OF THIS PROCEDURE

4.0. ACCESS TO THE COMPLAINTS & COMPLIMENTS PROCEDURE

5.0. THE CORPORATE COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE

5.1 The procedure for dealing with complaints specifically consists of 3 key stages. The stages are designed to provide the customer with a thorough and fair means of redress and to provide a framework for officers to work within.

5.2 Please note: Different time targets apply to complaints dealt with under the statutory provisions for social services complaints.

6.0. ROLES / RESPONSIBILITIES WITHIN THE PROCEDURE

6.1 Each department has an appointed officer to take responsibility for the co-ordination and implementation of the procedure within their department:

6.2. On a quarterly basis, the Departmental Complaints Officers meet with officers who have a corporate responsibility for the Complaints & Compliments Procedure:

6.3 The meeting, chaired by the Consultation Co-ordinator (Customer Focus and Policy Division), continually reviews the procedure and the manner in which it operates with a view to obtaining continuous service improvement.

7.0 MONITORING

7.1 The operation of the Corporate Complaints & Compliments procedure on a departmental basis is monitored quarterly by individual Scrutiny Committees. The operation of the complaints & compliments procedure on a corporate basis is monitored quarterly by the Policy & Resources Scrutiny Committee.

8.0 COMPLAINTS & COMPLIMENTS RECORDED 2006 / 2007

8.1 Before detailing the number of complaints and compliments recorded during 2006 / 2007, it is important to stress that it is how complaints are dealt with and how promptly they are responded to, and the lessons that are learnt from them, that are really crucial to our performance in complaints handling.

8.2 The total number of complaints received under the Council's Corporate Procedure increased by 205 (26.5%) from 772 in 2005 / 2006 to 977 in 2006 / 2007. It is hoped that this was a reflection of improved complaints recording, the promotion of the culture of welcoming customer feedback and increasing confidence of service users in the Council's procedures. An example of such a culture in operation is that of Wandsworth Borough Council who in 2006 / 2007 recorded 16,253 complaints. Their complaints procedure is seen as a positive mechanism for engaging with customers and they actively use information from complaints and the investigations they trigger to identify problems and improve services.

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

DEPARTMENT

Number of

Complaints received (1)

Number of Complaints resolved

Number receiving a response within 10 working days (2)

Number of compliments received

Policy & Resources

Chief Executives

48

48 (100%)

44 (91.7%)

71

Resources

84

79 (94.0%)

73 (86.9%)

52

Complaints relating to more than one department

10

10 (100%)

8 (80.0%)

1

Stage 3 referrals to chief executive

33

33(100%)

27 (81.8%)

0

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

DEPARTMENT

Number of

Complaints received (1)

Number of Complaints resolved

Number receiving a response within 10 working days (2)

Number of compliments received

Environment

Technical Services

337

312 (92.6%)

216 (64.1%)

124

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

DEPARTMENT

Number of

Complaints received (1)

Number of Complaints resolved

Number receiving a response within 20 working days (2)

Number of compliments received

Health and Social Care

Social Care, Health & Housing

136

134 (98.5%)

115 (84.6%)

49

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

DEPARTMENT

Number of

Complaints received (1)

Number of Complaints resolved

Number receiving a response within 10 working days (2)

Number of compliments received

Housing

Social Care, Health & Housing

151

146 (96.7%)

84 (55.6%)

53

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

DEPARTMENT

Number of

Complaints received (1)

Number of Complaints resolved

Number receiving a response within 10 working days for corporate procedure and 28 days for Social Services statutory procedure (2)

Number of compliments received

Education & Children's Services

Education & Children's Services

32

32 (100%)

31 (96.9%)

67

Social Care, Health & Housing

32

32 (100%)

27 (84.4%)

16

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

DEPARTMENT

Number of

Complaints received (1)

Number of Complaints resolved

Number receiving a response within 10 working days (2)

Number of compliments received

Regeneration and Leisure

Regeneration & Leisure

98

96 (98.0%)

92 (93.9%)

150

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

DEPARTMENT

Number of

Complaints received (1)

Number of Complaints resolved

Number receiving a response within 10 working days (2)

Number of compliments received

Social Justice

Social Care, Health & Housing

16

16 (100%)

10 (44.0%)

2

AUTHORITY TOTAL

 

977

938 (96.0%)

727 (74.4%)

585

8.3 Previously, Standards Committee members have suggested that consideration should be given to enhancing the statistical element of the information provided within the Annual Report. Presently, each department receives, collates, records and responds to complaints and compliments within departmental resources (both staff and systems). Departmental statistics are forwarded on a quarterly basis to the Consultation Co-ordinator for collation into a corporate report.

9.0 COMPLAINTS AND COMPLIMENTS RECORDED 2006 / 2007 - ANALYSIS BY DEPARTMENT / SERVICE AREA

9.1 See Appendix 1 for a Departmental / Service Area breakdown of complaints and compliments.

10.0 TARGET TIME - PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS

10.1 The time targets for replies to complaints is 10 working days at all 3 stages. Inevitably, some complaints will always take longer than the target time to deal with, in these circumstances, we undertake to explain the reasons for the delay and let the complainant know when they can expect a full reply. The proportion of complaints receiving a response within the time limit is detailed in the table under paragraph 8.

10.2 Please note: Different time targets apply to complaints dealt with under the statutory provisions for social services complaints.

11.0 COMPARISON WITH OTHER LOCAL AUTHORITIES

11.1 Previously, Standards Committee members have requested comparative complaints figures for Welsh Local Authorities. In order to provide this information, an all-Wales complaints officer database has been established. Contact has been made with all the Welsh Local Authorities (either by phone or by e-mail), however, the exercise has proved to be challenging as many Welsh Local Authorities don't have a comprehensive framework for collecting or analysing complaints statistics / information on a corporate basis.

11.2 See Appendix 2 for the comparative complaints figures for other Local Authorities.

12.0 CUSTOMER FEEDBACK

12.1 Previously, Standards Committee members have questioned whether the Authority had put in place a system to ascertain whether complainants were satisfied with the method by which their complaint had been managed. Until 2004, paper based surveys were issued to all complainants whose complaint file had been closed. This process has now been discontinued because the response rate proved to be very low meaning that the base number of surveys was small. Additionally, analysis of the surveys indicated that many complainants found it difficult to separate satisfaction with the outcome of their complaint with how the complaint was handled.

12.2 The Social Care, Health & Housing Department currently operates a telephone based monitoring exercise, whereby a proportion of complainants are contacted by telephone and asked a series of questions relating to the way their complaint was handled. In this instance, telephone interviewing has a number of advantages over paper based surveys in that it generally produces reasonable response rates, complainants can be guided back to the subject matter if they stray away, and the exercise can be completed relatively quickly. Information gleaned from the exercise is used to inform service development and the training / support provided to staff within the department. During 2007 / 2008, consideration will be given to extending this project to other departments within the authority.

13.0 WORK COMPLETED DURING 2006 / 2007

During 2006 / 2007 the following actions were undertaken:

14.0 FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS

15.0 REFERRAL FROM THE REGENERATION & LEISURE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

CONCLUSION

The Authority remains very committed to improving services and the information returned via complaints & compliments is one of the key mechanisms for doing this.

The report highlights the Authority's performance achieved under the corporate complaints & compliments procedure and the proactive approach adopted to complaints management.

An ambitious work programme has been set for the coming year to further improve the efficiency of the complaints & compliments procedure, processes, handling and monitoring systems.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1) The Policy & Resources Scrutiny Committee are asked to consider the contents of this report and whether any further specific actions are required.

2) In light of the assurance of confidentiality given to customers within the current procedure, it is considered that members cannot be consulted when written complaints relating to an issue in their area are dealt with through the complaints procedure.

REASONS

1) To bring the authority's complaints & compliments figures for 2006 / 2007 to the attention of the Policy & Resources Scrutiny Committee. To bring the `work completed' and `future developments' in relation to the customer complaints & compliments procedure to the attention of the Policy & Resources Scrutiny Committee.

2) Sharing the personal details of complainants with Councillors will breach the complainants' confidentiality and could undermine customers' confidence in the Complaints / Compliments procedure. A further consequence could be to decrease the number of complaints recorded by customers, thereby reducing the opportunities for the organisation to learn from complaints

APPENDIX 1

Complaints and Compliments Recorded 2006 / 2007 - Analysis by Department / Service Area

(N.B. The Chief Executive's Department provides a dual role, both receiving and dealing with complaints & compliments in relation to services within the Chief Executive's Department and complaints & compliments in relation to other Departments at the Stage 3 level).

DEPARTMENT

DIVISION

COMPLAINTS RECEIVED

COMPLAINTS RESOLVED

COMPLIMENTS RECEIVED

Chief Executive's

Customer Focus & Policy

42

42

38

People Management & Performance

1

1

0

Administration & Law

3

3

19

Chief Executive

2

2

2

Statutory Services

0

0

12

Complaints relating to more than one department

10

10

1

Stage 3 referrals to chief executive

33

33

0

Department total

 

91

91

72

Resources

Audit, risk & procurement

0

0

13

Corporate property

8

8

7

Finance

60

55

10

Performance & Development

0

0

0

I.T. Services

16

16

22

Department total

 

84

79

52

Technical Services

Street Scene

282

262

86

Transport

47

44

35

Building Services

5

3

2

Consultancy

3

3

0

Policy & Performance

0

0

1

Department total

 

337

312

124

Social Care, Health & Housing

Adult Services

136

134

49

Children's Services

32

32

16

Housing Services

151

146

53

Public Protection

16

16

2

Department total

 

335

328

120

Regeneration & Leisure

Planning

35

33

27

Economic

Development

4

4

10

Leisure and Recreation

54

54

54

Policy

5

5

54

WWEC

0

0

5

Department total

 

98

96

150

Education & Children's Services

Education Standards & Lifelong Learning

14

14

49

Facilities Management

5

5

13

School Organisation & Policy

1

1

1

School Support

4

4

2

Support Unit

8

8

2

Department total

 

32

32

67

APPENDIX 2

Comparative complaints figures for other local authorities:

AUTHORITY

NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS RECORDED

YEAR

POPULATION

COMPLAINTS RECORDED PER THOUSAND POPULATION

Carmarthenshire

977

2006/ 2007

173,700

5.6

City & County of Swansea

1,148

2006/2007

227,100

5.1

Caerphilly

403

2006 / 2007

196,000

2.1

Conwy

23 at Chief Executive level (Carmarthenshire = 33)

2006 / 2007

111,300

-

Wandsworth

16,253

2006 / 2007

134,700

120.7

Brent

4,224

2005 / 2006

271,400

15.6

Bromley

3,997

2005 / 2006

295, 532

13.5

Sedgefield

679

2006 / 2007

87,206

7.8

Haringey

1,573

2005 / 2006

225,700

7.0