Agenda Item No 11
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Audit Committee: 27th July 2016
Report of the Head of Finance /Section 151 Officer
Purpose of the Report
The purpose of this report is to provide the Audit Committee with an update on the Council's Corporate Complaints procedures and processes.
THAT Members consider the content of this report.
Reason for the Recommendation
To ensure that the Audit Committee is fulfilling its role and responsibilities in accordance with its terms of reference, in particular "To monitor the Council's Complaints Procedure and make recommendations to Cabinet and/or Council as appropriate".
One of the functions of the Audit Committee as set out in its Terms of Reference is "To monitor Council policies on "Raising Concerns at Work" and the anti-fraud and bribery strategy and the Council's complaints procedures and to make recommendations to Cabinet and / or Council as appropriate". Therefore, the content of this report assists the Committee in fulfilling its role and responsibilities in accordance with the requirements of the Terms of Reference.
The Council's current Corporate Complaints Policy has been operational since 1st July 2013. The Policy applies to members of the public receiving or seeking a service from the Vale of Glamorgan Council. The Policy does not incorporate complaints in relation to Social Services, which are dealt with via separate statutory policy. Similarly separate policies exist in relation to dealing with complaints being made against Council Members, Schools and in relation to the Welsh Language.
All of the above policies are readily available to members of the public on the Council's website. Advice is provided on the various methods in which a complaint can be made and who to direct that complaint to, depending on the nature of it.
This report focuses on the current Corporate Complaints Policy (July 2013) which was approved by Members in June 2013. This policy is based on the "Model Concerns and Complaints Policy for Public Services Providers in Wales" issued by Welsh Government.
Relevant Issues and Options
The Council's Corporate Complaints Policy provides clear guidance to the reader on the various stages of a complaint, the associated timescales for investigation, the expectations the complainant can place on the Council and how to take matters further should the complainant feel their complaint has not been properly addressed. In addition, the Council's Staffnet provides detailed guidance for officers who investigate complaints at both Stage 1 and Stage 2 levels and the Council has a dedicated Corporate Complaints Officer whose role includes ensuring all Stage 2 complaints are logged on the Oracle CRM system, supporting officers as they investigate complaints within the timescales, monitoring complaints received and perhaps most importantly, lessons learnt.
In 2014/2015 an audit review of the Council's Corporate Complaints Policy was undertaken. This included reviewing the system used by the Council to log and monitor complaints (Oracle CRM) and testing to ensure adherence to the policy, especially in relation to timescales for investigation. The audit review also incorporated a review of the complaints process in operation within Social Services.
The Audit report concluded that at that time, Reasonable Assurance could be placed on the control environment. A small number of recommendations were made, primarily relating to ensuring complaints are dealt with within the pre-set timescales and are closed down on Oracle CRM in a timely manner.
Based on the information contained within Oracle CRM and analysed via the dashboard, the Operational Manager for Customer Relations has previously reported information to Members with regard to 2014/15 corporate complaints. In summary this showed that for 2014/15 there were 303 formal complaints, 280 being handled and resolved at Stage 1 of the policy and the remaining 23 being handled at Stage 2 of the policy. Only 4 complaints investigated at Stage 2 went on to be referred to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, three of which were not investigated and 1 was upheld where it was deemed that the Council was guilty of maladministration.
Of the complaints made during 2014/15, 34% were upheld with a further 15% partially upheld. The analysis further shows that 71% of complaints were investigated within the target timescales, suggesting an area for improvement and in line with the findings of the 2014/15 audit report.
During 2015/16 there were 377 complaints received, this represents a 24% increase on the number received in 2014/15. Of these 333 were resolved at Stage 1 of the Policy and 44 were escalated to Stage 2. The fact that more complaints were received should not necessarily be seen as a negative point as the Council's policy is to encourage the public to make contact, raise their concerns, and provide a chance for the problem to be rectified and for lessons to be learnt.
During the year, 6 Stage 2 complaints were escalated by the complainant to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. Of these; 3 were looked at during the year and the Ombudsman made a decision that no investigation was necessary on their part. The remaining 3 were carried forward into 2016/17. Again, for 2 a decision was made by the Ombudsman that no further investigation was necessary. The remaining case is yet to be decided.
Of the complaints made, 42% were upheld with a further 16% partially upheld. In the majority of cases (47%) there was no learning outcome as a result of the complaint. For 37% of cases staff training and development was identified as a learning outcome. The remaining learning outcomes were to review / amend systems (6%), review / amend policies and procedures (5%) and review / amend information and communication (5%). In addition, 74% of complaints were investigated within the target timescales; this is an improvement on the previous year of 71%. With the potential roll out of access to dashboard to Managers, this figure should continue to improve as greater monitoring can be undertaken.
Finally, analysis by directorate has shown the following:
Environment and Housing received the most complaints with 77% of the total. (264 Stage 1 and 27 Stage 2). This is a common tend for the Directorate and it has been recognised that this reflects the high volume of customer interaction and high public profile of the services provided in this area.
Directorate of Resources received 20% (61 Stage 1 and 15 Stage 2),
Learning and Skills received 3%.
It should be noted that complaints in relation to Social Services are not dealt with via the Corporate Complaints Policy and therefore not recorded in the same way on Oracle CRM. It has been established that there were 52 complaints in 2015/16 compared to 55 in 2014/15 for that service.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
Effective audit planning and monitoring are key contributors in ensuring that the Authority's assets and interests are properly accounted for and safeguarded.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
None directly from this report
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
Provision of an adequate and effective Internal Audit function is a legal requirement under the Accounts and Audit (Wales) Regulations 2014 as amended from time to time.
Crime and Disorder Implications
Pursuing initiatives to prevent, detect and deter crime is encompassed within the terms of reference under which the audit function operates.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
None as a direct consequence of this report.
The work of audit is intended to assist in the achievement of all corporate and service objectives.
Policy Framework and Budget
The proposals in this report are in accordance with the policy framework and budget.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
No further consultation is proposed.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
Corporate Performance and Resources
Previous Audit report
Corporate Learning from Complaints 2014/15
Helen Smith - Operational Manager - Audit Tel: 01656 754901
Corporate Complaints Officer
Carys Lord - Head of Finance / Section 151 Officer