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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 3 June 2013

Report of the Leader

New Corporate Concerns and Complaints Policy

Purpose of the Report

1. To seek Cabinet endorsement of a new Corporate Concerns and Complaints Policy.

Recommendations

1. That the new Corporate Concerns and Complaints Policy (Appendix A) be approved and that it come into operation on 1 July 2013.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1. The new 2 Stage Corporate Concerns and Complaints Policy (CCCP) is designed to streamline and improve existing procedures, and to comply with the Welsh Government's recommendation that all public service providers in Wales adopt the same Model Policy.

Background

2. The Council's current 3 Stage Corporate Complaints Policy and Process was adopted by Cabinet on 11 June 2008, and it was reviewed and amended by Cabinet on 16 March 2011. Under this policy Stages 1 and 2 complaints were investigated within the service area and the Stage 3 process was undertaken by a senior manager independent of the service.

3. Overall the 3 Stage Corporate Complaints Policy and Process has worked well. However, of late the Council, in common with other Welsh Councils, has been reviewing the effectiveness of current arrangements, not least because of the demands of those arrangements on senior officer time.

4. Throughout Wales local authorities have different Corporate Complaint Policies, with differing stages and timescales. In order to address this difference the Welsh Government established the Complaints Wales Group, chaired by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. This Group looked to develop a Model Concerns and Complaints Policy for all public service providers in Wales. This resulted in a 2 Stage Model Concerns and Complaints Policy for public service providers in Wales and Guidance for Implementing the Policy being issued by the Welsh Government. There was no statutory requirement to adopt the Model Policy, but the Welsh Government commended its adoption by local authorities and public services providers in Wales.

5. Corporate Management Team received a report in December 2012 and it was agreed that a new 2 Stage Policy should be prepared for Cabinet based on the Model Policy.

Relevant Issues and Options

6. The Welsh Government when it issued the Model Policy listed the following advantages of adopting the scheme:  

  • it would be easier to deal with multi agency complaints and would provide the service user with a single point of contact and a single investigation process
  • it placed a premium on the early resolution of complaints, where possible avoiding the need to engage the formal complaints process by tackling problems at source
  • it minimised the number of complaint stages, thus reducing both cost and frustration
  • it would facilitate the delivery of joint staff training in partner organisations which could both reduce costs and facilitate more effective joint working.

    7. The Model Guidance for Service Providers also states that it will enable common data collection procedures, common methods for learning from concerns and complaints, and a common means of identifying and disseminating good practice

    8. In addition to reducing the number of Stages from 3 to 2, other changes would include all Stage 2 complaints being sent to the “central complaints handler”. That person or team would acknowledge the complaint, offering to discuss the matter with the complainant; grade the seriousness of the complaint to decide on the appropriate level of investigation; identify an officer to do the investigation; and take responsibility for monitoring the smooth running of the investigation, ensuring that timescales are met. The central complaints handler should also be a source of support for front line staff in respect of local resolution. The Model Guidance specifically refers to having the necessary resources to enable the delivery of the Policy, including training. It also refers to front line staff being empowered and trained to deal with complaints and provide appropriate information on advice and advocacy.

    9. The central complaints handler for the Council will be the Customer Complaints Officer, who is based in Customer Relations and located in ContactOne Vale.

    10. Given the changes described in paragraph 8, further work is required to implement a process to ensure that all Stage 2 complaints are received by the central complaints handler and that there is sufficient administrative support to ensure that it runs smoothly.

    11. Complaints regarding staff will now be dealt with under Stage 1. (In the previous Policy such complaints went directly to Stage 2.)

    12. In advance of the implementation date of 1 July 2013, staff will be advised of the new CCCP via StaffNet and Core Brief. The new Staff Guidance (Appendix B) will be placed on StaffNet with letter and report templates. Externally, new complaints leaflets will be produced for members of the public (Appendix C) which will include the complaint form and summary document. Publicity will also be undertaken via E-News, the Council's Website, Social Media and local press. Ongoing training for staff will be provided.

    Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

    13. There will be cost implications for the administration and printing of the complaint form and summary document. The costs of new leaflets and administrative support will be funded from departmental budgets. The training will be undertaken in-house.

    Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

    14. None as a direct result of this report.

    Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

    15. There is no statutory requirement to adopt the Model Concerns and Complaints Policy and Guidance for Public Services Providers in Wales. However the Welsh Government and Public Services Ombudsman for Wales have commended its adoption.

    Crime and Disorder Implications

    16. The Policy and Process will include complaints relating to community safety issues.

    Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

    17. The corporate complaints documents will be produced bilingually. Complaints about the Welsh Language and Protected Characteristics will be monitored. Advice has been given from the Equalities Team that an Equality Impact Assessment does not need to be undertaken prior to the adoption of this CCCP, as the main change is reducing the number of Stages from 3 to 2.

    Corporate/Service Objectives

    18. The Customer Relations Strategy states that the Council will learn from complaints. The Corporate and Customer Services Service Plan states that the Council will develop a system that allows us to record and respond more effectively to common complaints. This CCCP will ensure that we comply with both aims. In addition it will provide a clear, transparent and fair complaints handling process.

    Policy Framework and Budget

    19. This is a matter for Executive decision.

    Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

    20. None.

    Relevant Scrutiny Committee

    21. Corporate Resources.

    Background Papers

    Reports to Cabinet on 11 June 2008 and 16 March 2011, and respective Minutes C27 and C1249.

    The Corporate Concerns and Complaints Policy; Staff Guidance and summary document for members of the public.

    Contact Officer

    Eira Carroll

    Officers Consulted

    Corporate Management Team, Heads of Service, Operational Managers relevant staff who deal with complaints, Customer Relations Project Board, Information Manager, Corporate Equalities Officer, Equality Coordinator, Team Manager with responsibility for Social Services Complaints, Trade Unions.

    Responsible Officer:

    Huw Isaac

    Head of Performance and Developmen

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