Make a complaint - Formal complaints policy and procedure

Contents

Introduction

Bassetlaw District Council aims to provide the best possible quality services its resources will allow. If a customer is dissatisfied with the way in which a service has been provided by the Council (or by contractors providing a public service on behalf of Bassetlaw District Council) we want to know about it. This can include the way in which someone has been treated or if unreasonable delays have been experienced. We will look into the issue, provide an explanation and an apology (where it is appropriate to do so) with a view to improving our services. We will aim to resolve the situation quickly and proportionately.

The definition of a complaint is:

An expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions or lack of action by the organisation, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf, affecting an individual resident or group of residents.

Organisations contracted to provide services on behalf of the Council will be required to comply with this policy. This includes recording and responding to complaints, providing Council officers with information as requested and providing assistance in connection with further investigations as appropriate. It will be the responsibility of each Head of Service/Service Manager to ensure that this is agreed as part of contractual arrangements and included within the contract.

The Procedure

The Council operates a 2-stage internal process, which enables escalation between each stage should remain complainants remain dissatisfied, prior to referral to the Ombudsman.

Stage 1 Complaint – Formal response by the Head of Service or Service Manager

The complaint will be acknowledged within 5 working days of receipt.

A response will be provided by the relevant Head of Service or Service Manager (as appropriate) within 15 working days of receipt of the complaint. Urgent matters will be dealt with as a matter of priority. The reply will include the contact details of the author of the letter with an offer to further clarify any points made within the reply with the offer of a discussion. The response will conclude by offering stage 2 of the Complaints Procedure for those complainants that remain dissatisfied with the reply they have received under stage 1 of the process.

Stage 2 Complaint - Review and response by the Council’s Chief Executive

The acknowledgement of the request for the stage 2 complaint review will be provided within 5 working days.

For those complainants who are dissatisfied with the stage 1 complaint response they received, a stage 2 review by the Council’s Chief Executive will take place with a response being provided within 15 working days of the request being received. If it is not possible to provide the response within 15 working days, a ‘holding’ reply will be sent. The stage 2 reply will conclude by offering the contact details of the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) or Housing Ombudsman (HO) for those complainants that remain dissatisfied with the outcome of the stage 2 review.

Stage 3 – Ombudsman

Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman:

For those complainants that remain dissatisfied following the stage 2 review by the Chief Executive, complainants may exercise their right to seek further advice from the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO). It should be noted that the LGSCO will not normally consider a complaint unless the Local Authority has first had a chance to address the matter within the Council’s own complaints procedure, however this is at the Ombudsman’s discretion.

The LGSCO details are: telephone 0300 061 0614, postal address: The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman, PO Box 4771, COVENTRY, CV4 OEH.

Housing Ombudsman:

Complaints about the Council’s Housing Service are handled by the Housing Ombudsman. The Housing Ombudsman is keen to encourage local settlement wherever possible and has set up a scheme where a Designated Person can act on behalf of a complainant. The role of the Designated Person is to mediate, negotiate and if necessary refer the complaint to the Housing Ombudsman for investigation.

Designated Persons can be:

  • A Bassetlaw District Councillor
  • A Member of Parliament
  • A Member of a Tenant Panel (Please note: Bassetlaw District Council does not have a Tenant Panel that considers complaints)

A complainant can contact any of the approved Designated Persons and request that they look into the Housing complaint. After a Designated Person has investigated the complaint, if a complainant wishes to proceed to the Housing Ombudsman the complainant can request that the Designated Person refer it on their behalf. However, the Designated Person does not have to do this if they feel there are insufficient grounds to do so. In this case a complainant can refer the complaint themselves after eight weeks. If a complainant prefers not to involve a Designated Person the complaint can also be referred to the Housing Ombudsman after eight weeks has passed since the receipt of the final written response.

The Housing Ombudsman details are: telephone 0300 111 3000, e-mail: info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk postal address: PO Box 152, Liverpool, L33 7WQ.

How do I make a complaint?

As part of the digital drive, the Council embarked upon a ‘Digital First’ Programme which enables greater accessibility for customers to report complaints quickly and easily. Fill in our online formal complaints form.

The on-line process allows customers to choose whether they wish to receive a reply to their complaint by e-mail or by post ensuring that customers’ preferred options for communicating are considered.

To facilitate as many customers as possible to access our services through digital channels, those requiring help with the digital process can contact the Council’s Customer Services team by email at: www.customer.services@bassetlaw.gov.uk by telephone: 01909 533533 or in person at the Council Offices.

For those customers who do not have access to digital technology at home or at work, in order to ensure they are not disadvantaged we can provide help through our Outreach Programme, please enquire with the Council’s Customer Services Team for more information.

You can also send your complaint in writing either by e-mail to: customer.services@bassetlaw.gov.uk or by post to Bassetlaw District Council, Queen’s Buildings, Potter Street, Worksop S80 2AH.

‘My Account’ is Bassetlaw District Council’s App that can be downloaded to help with all your service requirements and queries including complaints. Please contact Customer Services if you would like more information or help with this.

Help is available

Some complainants may require help in preparing their complaint and the Council may be able to help you to do this where appropriate to do so. Please contact the Council’s Customer Services team for further information. Alternatively, complainants may prefer a family member, friend or other responsible person to act on their behalf. We would ask that written consent is provided in this case. The Citizens Advice Bureau can also provide free independent advice.

Equality Statement: Bassetlaw District Council values and respects the diversity of all people living and working in Bassetlaw and is committed to equality of opportunity in service delivery. We will not treat you any differently because of your gender, race, disability, religion or belief, sexuality or age.

We recognise our responsibilities to provide equal opportunities for all our customers, we will:

  • Ensure all areas of our One Stop Shops are easily accessible to all customers including wheelchair users and customers with prams or buggies
  • Provide access to interpretation services if needed
  • Provide facilities for customers with sight or hearing difficulties
  • Make ‘Reasonable adjustments’ where appropriate to do so in line with the Council’s Equality Strategy

Types of Complaints

It is recognised that certain types of complaints fall outside the scope of this policy and should therefore be dealt with through other mechanisms, these are:

  • Grievances received from existing, or former, employees about their employment. These need to be referred to Human Resources (HR) and considered in line with the Council’s HR policies and procedures.
  • Issues for which statutory appeal bodies or tribunals have been established, for example, The Appeals Service (for Benefit appeals), The Planning Inspectorate (for planning appeals).
  • Complaints which amount to a disagreement with the Council about its decision rather than the way the decision has been administered (e.g. the level of Council Tax).
  • Complaints regarding a decision made by the Council when exercising its regulatory powers (e.g. licensing, serving notices) or undertaking its statutory duties (e.g. making a decision on a homelessness claim or a planning application decision) unless the complaint relates to the way in which the matter has been administered.
  • Matters, which are or could reasonably be expected to be the subject of court or tribunal proceedings. Complaints which amount to a disagreement with or refusal to accept a rule of law which the Council is applying.
  • Complaints about Elected Members’ conduct or decisions/outcomes relating to code of conduct complaints. These are dealt with by the Council’s Monitoring Officer through the Code of Conduct complaints procedure.
  • Complaints which amount to a request for service (e.g. noise nuisance) unless it relates to the way in which the Council has administered the request for service.
  • Complaints which constitute an allegation of fraud and/or corruption, these will need to be dealt with under the provisions made by the Council’s Whistle Blowing Policy.
  • Complaints which constitute a racist incident which will need to be dealt with under the procedures covering the reporting of racial incidents.
  • Complaints which constitute an allegation relating to a safeguarding matter which will be dealt with under the Council’s Safeguarding Policy.
  • Complaints naming individual officers need to be reviewed by an appropriate line manager. Whilst the officer concerned will need to provide information, it is not appropriate for the individual to sign off the service response. Where, as part of the review of a customer complaint, it becomes apparent that an employee’s standard of performance or conduct fails to meet the Council’s expectations, the matter should be referred to the relevant Head of Service/Service Manager/Director to enable an Investigating Officer to be appointed in accordance with the Council’s Disciplinary Procedure. If the poor standard of performance or conduct relates to a Head of Service, the matter should be referred to the relevant Director.

Anonymous complaints

Some customers may elect to remain anonymous when reporting complaints. For verbal complaint reporting, the employee dealing with the anonymous telephone call or face-to-face contact needs to explain that whilst respecting the customer’s decision to remain anonymous, this may create restrictions in when trying to resolve the matter, for example, we will be unable to provide feedback or request further information at a later date.

It will be the responsibility of each Head of Service to decide how far investigations can proceed into complaints received anonymously. This will be dependent on the content and nature of the complaint and any legislative requirements to investigate the matter.

Some individuals may have valid reasons for choosing to remain anonymous, for example, fear of reprisal. It is therefore important that each anonymous complaint is considered on its own merits.

Some customers may elect to remain anonymous when reporting complaints. For verbal complaint reporting, the employee dealing with the anonymous telephone call or face-to-face contact needs to explain that whilst respecting the customer’s decision to remain anonymous, this may create restrictions in when trying to resolve the matter, for example, we will be unable to provide feedback or request further information at a later date.

It will be the responsibility of each Head of Service to decide how far investigations can proceed into complaints received anonymously. This will be dependent on the content and nature of the complaint and any legislative requirements to investigate the matter.
Some individuals may have valid reasons for choosing to remain anonymous, for example, fear of reprisal. It is therefore important that each anonymous complaint is considered on its own merits.

Policy statement – Unacceptable Customer Behaviour

The Council has standards in place in order to maintain a high quality of customer care.

We expect every customer to receive excellent customer service and a key promise in our Customer Standards is that we will be helpful to customers, serving them at all times with dignity, courtesy and respect, and responding to their individual needs.

At the same time we expect our employees to be treated with respect and courtesy. Whilst we understand that people sometimes act out of character in times of anxiety or distress and can become angry and/or frustrated, we will not accept behaviour from customers that is threatening, abusive or unreasonably persistent.

What is Unacceptable Behaviour?

Aggressive or Abusive behaviour which could include:

  • Threatening or abusive language
  • Derogatory, offensive or rude comments which humiliate, intimidate, frighten or demean employees or other customers
  • Unsubstantiated allegations
  • Violence or threats of violence

Unreasonable demands which could include:

  • Requests for excessive amounts of information
  • Setting unreasonable timescales
  • Continual insistence on seeing a particular employee
  • Continual contact
  • Changing the substance of a complaint or introducing unrelated concerns

Unreasonable persistence which could include:

  • Refusal to accept a decision
  • Refusal to accept explanations of what a service area can and cannot do

Dealing with Persistent or Vexatious Complainants

The following options can be used singularly or as a combination depending on the circumstances of the case and whether the complaint process is ongoing or concluded.

A letter to the complainant setting out responsibilities for the parties involved if the Council is to continue processing the complaint. If terms are contravened, consideration will then be given to implementing other action as indicated below.

Decline contact with the complainant, either in person, by telephone, by letter or by e-mail or any combination of these, provided that one form of contact is maintained.

This may also mean that only one named officer or e-mail address will be nominated to maintain contact. The complainant will be notified of this person or e-mail address.

Notify the complainant in writing that the Council has responded fully to the points raised and has tried to resolve the complaint and there is nothing further to add and continuing contact on the matter will serve no useful purpose. The complainant will also be notified that the correspondence is at an end, advising the complainant that they are being treated as a persistent or vexatious complainant and as such the Council does not intend to engage in further correspondence in respect of the complaint.

Inform the complainant that in extreme circumstances the Council will seek legal advice in respect of persistent or vexatious complaints.

Temporarily suspend all contact with the complainant in connection with the issues relating to the complaint that are viewed as persistent and/or vexatious, while seeking advice or guidance from the Council Solicitor or other agencies, such as the Ombudsman.

Remedies to complaints and Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman and Housing Ombudsman

The Council will aim to put things right if they go wrong and look to implement service improvements where appropriate to do so.

The Council will be guided by the case studies, best practice principles and guidance of the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman and Housing Ombudsman in order to provide the best possible quality services our resources will allow.

Under General Data Protection Regulations 2018 (GDPR), any personal details or information obtained in order to appropriately process your formal complaint in line with procedure will be stored securely and will only be used for the purposes as intended in conjunction with the GDPR principles.

Contact Information

Bassetlaw District Council:

Website - Complaints page
Email: customer.services@bassetlaw.gov.uk
Telephone: Customer Services 01909 533 533

Write to us at our Postal Address:

Bassetlaw District Council
Formal Complaints
Queen’s Buildings
Potter Street
Worksop
S80 2AH

Visit us at:

Worksop Office
Queen’s Buildings
Potter Street
Worksop
S80 2AH

Retford Office
17B The Square
Retford
DN22 6DB

Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman:

LGO website 
Tel: 0300 061 0614

Postal Address:
PO Box 4771
Coventry
CV4 0EH

Housing Ombudsman:

Housing Ombudsman website
email: info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk
Tel: 0300 111 3000

Postal Address:
PO Box 152
Liverpool
L33 7WQ

August 2020

 

 


Last Updated on Monday, August 24, 2020