The Housing Service Lead introduced the report concerning self-assessment of the complaints procedure against the Housing Ombudsman’s code.
The Housing Ombudsman has updated its complaints handling code taking effect from April 2022. It is a requirement for the Council to assess its approach to complaint handling against the Complaint Handling Code annually and to report this to its governing body.
The EDDC corporate complaints team, in consultation with the Housing Service have assessed the current procedure against the new code. This report summarises the findings of the self-assessment, which confirms that the current procedure complies with the new requirements.
The self-assessment found that the EDDC complaints procedure is compliant with the Housing Ombudsman code in all but one area:
· Section 5.1 of the code relating to Stage 1 formal complaints requires landlords to respond to the complainant within 10 working days of the complaint being logged, and allows for a further 10 days in exceptional circumstances.
· Under the EDDC corporate procedure, the response time for Stage 1 and stage 2 complaints is 20 working days. This applies across all service areas of the council and the council has been advised that, where compliance in particular areas is not appropriate, an explanation of this within the self-assessment is acceptable. The Housing Ombudsman recognises that local authorities generally operate a complaints procedure which is consistent across all service areas.
The conclusion is that the current complaints policy complies with the new Housing Ombudsman Code, taking into account the aforementioned clarifications.
A broader review of how the Housing Service responds to complaints and service issues will be beginning shortly, with an initial consultation session due to take place at the Designated Tenant Complaints Panel (DTCP) meeting in September.
Changes to the Housing Ombudsman scheme, taking effect from 1st October, include the removal of the “democratic filter” which means that, if complainants remain dissatisfied at the end of the formal complaint process, they will no longer have to refer their complaint to a designated person or wait 8 weeks before referring to the Housing Ombudsman. The Ombudsman considers this to be a positive change which will make it easier for residents to access their service.
The following points were raised in discussion:
· 7.3 of the Ombudsman Code indicates as best practice that a member of the governing body should be appointed to have lead responsibility for complaints. It was suggested that the Board considers which member should take this role.
· It was recognised that dissatisfaction concerning complaints handling is often due to a failure to communicate effectively with complainants about what is being done and timescales. The Housing Service Lead is committed to refreshing this and building a better system going forward.
· Record keeping was also identified from maladministration complaints as an area for improvement. The Housing Service Lead stated it was on managers’ agenda to work with front line teams on record keeping and to audit and spot-check cases. Where issues with recorded keeping are identified, individual cases are raised with officers so that they can understand what was missing.
· Concerns were raised about the service that tenants were receiving from contractors Ian Williams. The Housing Service Lead stated that tenants have been listened to and an action plan is in place with a focus on improvements that need to be made with the contract.
· Details of how to complain are publicised on the website as well as via leaflets, publications, notices in community centres, and staff are also briefed. It was noted that some people would need help to write complaints to ensure their message is legible and covers the points they need to make.
That Board noted that the council have undertaken an assessment of the Corporate Complaints Procedure against the Housing Ombudsman’s complaint handling code of practice, and that a review of the procedure for handling housing service complaints is planned with tenant involvement.