Compliance with the Complaint Handling Code
1. Definition of a complaint
Does the complaints process use the following definition of a complaint?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.
The answer is: Yes
Does the policy have exclusions where a complaint will not be considered?The answer is: Yes
Are these exclusions reasonable and fair to residents?The answer is: Yes
Evidence relied upon (extract from the complaints policy):
There are some issues that the Council cannot investigate under its Housing Management Complaints policy, which include:
- complaints about potential data breaches.
- a matter that has already been heard by a Court or tribunal or any Council review panel.
- a matter where the customer or the Council has started legal proceedings or has taken court action.
- complaints that involve insurance claims against the Council, although there may be some aspects that do fall within this policy such as an allegation that the Council delayed in sending information about how to make an insurance claim.
- serious complaints about a Council officer that would more properly be dealt with through the Council’s disciplinary code, staff management or performance procedures i.e. allegations of serious misconduct such as fraud.
- complaints from members of staff relating to personnel matters.
- allegations of fraud or corruption that would more properly be dealt with under the Council’s anti-fraud or whistleblowing procedures.
- complaints about councillors, as these are dealt with under separate procedures.
- complaints about a Council policy.
- criminal actions.
- complaints about the behaviour of another Council tenant which would be dealt with by a housing officer or area manager.
- complaints about the level of rent and service charge set by the Council. These will be dealt with by the relevant service area who will be able to check the information and provide explanations as to how the figures have been calculated.
- when a complainant refuses to engage with the Council or the complaints process, and is abusive to officers or acts unreasonably.
- a dispute over a commercial contract where the relationship is between a private landlord and the Council.
If the Complaints Team receive a complaint regarding any of the matters above, they will pass it on to the relevant team who will contact you.
The Council does reserve the right to refuse to deal with complaints, or deal with them differently, if they are pursued unreasonably or could be handled more effectively in a different manner.
There are also separate arrangements in place for handling complaints linked to the following services:
- Social Services, Schools, Parking Matters, Planning Applications and Housing/Council Tax Benefits. If you are unhappy with a decision about these services, the letter notifying you of the decision should explain how to complain.
- Waste collection - for information on how to complain about waste collection contact Street line on 020 7361 3001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sports centres - please contact the General Manager at Chelsea Sports Centre in the first instance. If you do not receive a satisfactory response, the matter should be escalated to the GLL Partnership Manager who is based at Head Office, Middlegate House, The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, London SE18 6SX. Alternatively, you can contact the customer services line on 020 3457 8700 or email email@example.com.
Are multiple accessibility routes available for residents to make a complaint?The answer is: Yes
Residents can complaint online via the Council’s complaints web form, by phone, email, or in writing.
Is the complaints policy and procedure available online?The answer is: Yes
Do we have a reasonable adjustments policy?The answer is: Yes
We do not have a policy of this name however we have the Council’s Customer Access Strategy. This aims to make it easier for all residents to interact with the Council, and to resolve their queries at the point of contact rather than having to wait for several days before they get an answer/solution to their query.
The first step towards that, is the Council’s new and improved website which is being updated to meet the Accessibility Regulations and has been built upon residents’ feedback, to ensure it meets their needs.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, as an employer, and as a provider of services to the public and other public bodies is committed to complying with the Equality Act 2010.
There is no prescribed list of reasonable adjustments, and we do not make assumptions about an individual’s needs. Therefore, the adjustment will depend (upon discussion) on the individual’s needs. Types of reasonable adjustments we offer include:
- step-free access to our Customer Service Centre.
- British Sign Language (BSL) Video Link - Sign Language interpreter.
- translation services.
- inductions loops.
- toilet facilities (including disabled toilets and baby changing).
- provision of information / correspondence in appropriate alternative formats (eg large print, Braille, coloured paper etc).
- extension of time limits (where that is permitted).
- the choice to use email or telephone in preference to hard copy.
- use of plain English.
- communication through a representative or intermediary.
Do we regularly advise residents about our complaints process?The answer is: Yes
Instructions on how to complain are included in our newsletters, the housing management customer services automated email response, and on the website.
3. Complaints team and process
Is there a complaint officer or equivalent in post?The answer is: Yes
We have a Customer Experience team with a remit including complaints but extending to resident engagement.
Does the complaint officer have autonomy to resolve complaints?The answer is: Yes
The Customer experience team coordinates complaints and have this autonomy.
Does the complaint officer have authority to compel engagement from other departments to resolve disputes?The answer is: Yes
The Customer Experience team has this remit.
If there is a third stage to the complaint’s procedure are residents involved in the decision making?The answer is: Yes
At the third stage, the complaint is reviewed by the Corporate Complaints team. At every stage of the process, the response will advise of the next steps available to the complainant such as a referral to the Ombudsman Service.
Is any third stage optional for residents?The answer is: Yes
Does the final stage response set out residents’ right to refer the matter to the Housing Ombudsman Service?The answer is: Yes
Do we keep a record of complaint correspondence including correspondence from the resident?The answer is: Yes
According to the Council’s retention policy, complaints records are kept for six years from the date of resolution or conclusion.
At what stage are most complaints resolved?Stage 1.
Are residents kept informed and updated during the complaints process?The answer is: Yes
Residents receive a written acknowledgment of their complaint upon receipt, and a follow-up phone call from a complaints officer.
As part of their investigation, the expectation is that the investigating team / officer will call the customer directly also. Any commitments made during a complaint response are logged and assigned to the relevant officers (generally the officer who carried out the investigation).
The Performance team regularly produces reports on open commitments which are then reviewed by the Director of Housing Management as well as the Heads of Services.
Are residents informed of the landlord’s position and given a chance to respond and challenge any area of dispute before the final decision?The answer is: Yes
In terms of Stage 1 and Stage 2 responses, it is not our standard practice to send a draft to the customer for comment prior to issuing a finalised version. Rather, we send out the response and the customer then has the option to escalate if they remain dissatisfied. However, as previously stated, the expectation is that the investigating officer will have spoken to the customer during the investigation process to ensure they are clear on the various aspects of the customer’s complaint and their desired outcomes. This is an area of review for 2012/22.
Are all complaints acknowledged and logged within five days?The answer is: Yes
Are residents advised of how to escalate at the end of each stage?The answer is: Yes
What proportion of complaints are resolved at stage one?In 2019-20 92 per cent were closed at Stage 1.
What proportion of complaints are resolved at stage two?For closures in year, 6.3 per cent were closed at Stage 2.
What proportion of complaint responses are sent within Code timescales?
- Stage one
- Stage one (with extension)
Our target for last year was 15 working days therefore we did not aim to resolve within 10 days.
Of our 15 day target and the 369 complaints received in 2019/20, 88 per cent were responded to within target.
Our selection of 15 days is largely to do with time allowing us to resolve the commitments associated with complaints before we close them. If we review against 10 working days our performance changes significantly.
35 of 372 complaints were sent within 10 days (9 per cent).
The ‘extension’ is a newer concept – we have recently introduced holding replies for complaints that are complex and will take longer to resolve. But if we assume there no restrictions on when an extension can be granted, 357 of 372 responses were sent within 20 working days (96 per cent). Note: the 15 responses over 20 days all did have holding replies marked.
- Stage two
- Stage two (with extension)
Our target last year was same as Stage 1 i.e. 15 days. We sent 12 of 15 responses within 20 days (80 per cent). If including extension of a further 10 days, the figure moves to 13 of 15 (87 per cent). The remaining responses took 45 and 81 days.
Where timescales have been extended did we have good reason?The answer is: Yes
Where timescales have been extended did we keep the resident informed?The answer is: Yes
What proportion of complaints do we resolve to residents’ satisfaction?As previously highlighted, we amended our survey last year and have less data than the previous year to make the survey more appropriate for customers. We found that where we surveyed following a complaint response but commitments had not yet been completed that the survey response generated queries about the commitment and therefore the satisfaction survey was inaccurate. We also asked too many questions and conflicting responses were obtained within some individual surveys.
- Satisfaction with overall service from the initial survey was 33 per cent (based on 60 responses)
- Later surveys (amended question set): satisfaction with overall service 34.15 per cent (based on 41 responses).
Note: we do not survey satisfaction until all commitments are closed on CRM therefore the dates when we survey vary. A shorter survey is now being utilised.
5. Cooperation with Housing Ombudsman Service
Were all requests for evidence responded to within 15 days?Ombudsman’s deadlines vary pending on the case; on occasions we needed extensions. Please note that we receive 2 types of cases – formal investigations and informal enquiries.
Majority of the cases that we receive are informal enquiries (such as: OMB asking us where the resident currently is in our complaints process, requests to contact the resident about issues that have never even been subject to our formal complaints process, requests to escalate complaints to the next stage).
Where the timescale was extended did we keep the Ombudsman informed?The answer is: Yes
Yes, we do inform the Corporate Complaints team about extensions (as they are the ones who communicate with the Ombudsman directly).
6. Fairness in complaint handling
Are residents able to complain via a representative throughout?The answer is: Yes
If advice was given, was this accurate and easy to understand?The answer is: Yes
How many cases did we refuse to escalate?In general, we have no mechanism of recording the numbers of cases which we refused to escalate. However, where we believe the customer’s desired outcome can be achieved without forcing them to go through the formalised Stage 2 process and waiting even longer for a response, we may look to resolve the matter as a Stage 1 follow up so as to expedite the process, as part of our commitment to putting the customer first, and focusing on achieving good outcomes, rather than focusing on process at the expense of people’. We will investigate opportunities to record refusals to escalate during 2021.
What was the reason for the refusal?As above.
Did we explain our decision to the resident?The answer is: Yes
7. Outcomes and remedies
Where something has gone wrong, are we taking appropriate steps to put things right?
The answer is: Yes
The Council has mechanisms in place to ensure that the information we receive from complaints is fed into improving services for our customers. Users of the complaints process may be surveyed for their views on the handling and outcome of their complaint, to enable the Council to monitor customer satisfaction with the process and identify any improvements. We also have a compensation policy.
Finally, we hold regular (weekly) review meetings on all complaints which are on Stage 2, and we have introduced estates reviews meetings to ensure we understand the problems arising on our estates and that we take remedial action.
8. Continuous learning and improvement
What improvements have we made as a result of learning from complaints?We introduced a flag on our CRM system to show when a property has been adapted – this helps reduce any mistakes that might be made during the allocation process of a property.
We now conduct independent estates inspections, to ensure problems are dealt with.
We have revised and agreed a new process to make sure that any failures on heating and hot water are dealt with promptly by the appropriate person and that issues are escalated within specific timescales.
We have reviewed and updated our leak process.
We have used complaints (as well as wider customer contact data within our CRM system) as a trigger to analysing trend data on an estate by estate basis. This has enabled us to better inform our planned maintenance works and identify issues impacting on particular estates or blocks.
How do we share these lessons with residents?We have not previously shared this widely but will design a methodology for doing this going forwards.
How do we share these lessons with the board/governing body?The director of housing management coordinates a weekly meeting reviewing lessons learnt as well as identifying and addressing any trends identified.
How do we share these lessons in the Annual Report?We did not detail lessons learnt in our annual report for 2019/20 but we will include lessons for the year 2020/21.
Has the Code made a difference to how we respond to complaints?The answer is: Yes
What changes have we made?We have amended our response timescales to ensure we are in line with the code. We share summaries of lessons learned more widely with colleagues to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.
We have started weekly estates review meetings as a response to learning lessons and improving our services.
We train our staff on soft skills, communication, and on handling difficult situations. Other improvements made to the service include:
- Auto acknowledgments being sent to all complainants
- All complainants being called after lodging a complaint
- Weekly mandatory meetings held with key services
- Extended hours within CEX team 07:30 to 18:15 hours
- Increase in home visits for Stage 2 complaints
- Improved use of holding responses