YOUR VOICE COMPLAINTS REPORT
The Head of Adult Social Care & Homelessness presented the Your Voice Complaints report for 2022/23 (previously circulated). The report captures any compliments, suggestions and complaints received by Denbighshire County Council under the council’s customer feedback policy. The report also included Social Services complaints received under its statutory complaints procedure.
The report was positive; a steady performance of meeting complaint targets was noted in the report.
The Statutory & Corporate Complaints Officer guided members through the detail of the report. It provided details of each complaint received and demonstrated how many of those complaints are dealt with within the approved timescales. Members were informed there was a statutory procedure and timescale for complaints made against social services along with guidelines set by the ombudsman for all other complaints.
It was unusual for officers to receive complaints late or outside of the timescales.
The Statutory & Corporate Complaints Officer informed members the number of complaints received was broadly similar to the year before. The ombudsman was happy with the process in place for dealing with complaints. It was also noted any compliments or suggestions received are also recorded.
There was no issue regarding the way complaints are processed across the council.
Members heard the ombudsman set up the Complaints Standards Authority a couple of years ago. The Complaints Standards Authority had responsibility for monitoring all complaints received across the councils in Wales. The authority had recently received the ombudsman’s draft report for Denbighshire. it stated they had received 32 complaints in the previous year. They only intervened in 2 of those complaints both of which had an informal resolution was reached.
In the list of complaints received in 2022/23 the highest recorded complaint had been around the complaints process. It was thought this could be because the Statutory & Corporate Complaints Officer also referred complainants to the ombudsman if they were dissatisfied with his response to a complaint.
Is was noted the low number of stage 2 complaints which suggested the more informal stage 1 complaints are being resolved by officers.
The Chair thanked both the officers for the introduction and reminded members that the committee had a statutory duty to receive an annual summary of complaints. The terms of reference of the Governance and Audit Committee included the responsibility to review and assess the council’s ability to handle complaints effectively.
Further to the introduction the following areas were discussed in greater detail:
· A complaint had been taken on by the Welsh Language commissioner, that sat outside the Corporate Complaints processes.
· There was one complaint against the Welsh Language. It was confirmed that individuals could complain in Welsh or English at the start of the process.
· Within the team there was a Welsh speaker who could assist with complaints through the medium of Welsh.
· School complaints were separate to the Corporate complaints procedures. Schools have their own complaints procedure. It was unusual for the authority to intervene with complaints against schools.
· 360is the system that was commissioned by the council in 2019. The 360 system was council wide, it was used for a wide range of facilities including complaints and compliments. The ombudsman’s definition of a complaint was someone who is dissatisfied with an issue that wants a response from the council. However, if it is the first time an issue has been reported it would be classed as a request for service. If it was the first instance the authority was made aware of an issue; the ombudsman’s stance was the council should be given the opportunity to respond to that issue in the first instance. It would become a matter of complaint if a subsequent came back to the council with the same request.
· Members suggested a review to the tables included in the report for ease and transparency. It was also suggested figures be included to the reports to demonstrate a service area and the number of complaints made against a specific area. A breakdown of complaints recorded against each service was available if members wanted that information.
· The Chair suggested that for reports submitted to the committee a note of reference to the committee’s Terms of Reference be included in the covering report in relation to the report being presented.
· The Statutory & Corporate Complaints Officer stated it was his responsibility to sift through the complaints. Members were provided with information on instances that were not recorded as complaints.
· The time limits for responding to complaints were as follows - Stage 1: 10 working days and Stage 2: 20 working days. The Ombudsman only classes a stage 2 complaint as a complaint, all stage 1 complaints would be classified as an informal complaint. Denbighshire officers do treat stage 1 complaints quite formally. It was thought that may impact the number of complaints progressing to stage 2 complaints.
· 6 months was the time frame for complainants to formally place a corporate complaint and 12 months for complaints against social services.
· Freedom of information issues are complaints made to the Information Commissioners Officers.
· The Chair suggested the report be presented to the committee on an annual report. Members were in agreement.
· It was important to record compliments on the 360 system. It’s a process for individuals to complete a compliment so it was felt importance to note. Feedback on compliments was presented back to officers that they relate to.
· The Lead Member for this service was Councillor Julie Matthews.
· Within the 360 system includes a mandatory section that asks for service improvements and learning from complaints to ensure services recognise areas they can improve and learn from. It allowed officers to identify trends and put processes in place to improve the service in that area.
The Chair thanked the officers for the detailed discussion.
RESOLVED that the Governance and Audit Committee note the contents of the report.