Annual Complaints Report 2022-23
This report provides the Scrutiny Committee with a breakdown of complaints received by department and the top 5 issues of complaint for those respective departments. The report also provides a breakdown of the number of complaints that have been upheld, not upheld, partly upheld, rejected or withdrawn for each department along with a correlation between the root causes and their issue types and outcomes of complaints.
The report also includes the Annual Complaints report (approved by Cabinet on 16 October 23) detailing complaint’s performance for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023 and also focussing on the nature of complaints and the learning they provide to inform Brent’s future approach to service improvement.
Councillor Tatler introduced the report that provided the Committee with a breakdown of complaints received and the Annual Complaints report as approved by Cabinet on 16 October 2023 that detailed complaints performance for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023, with a focus on the nature of complaints and the learning gained to support informing Brent ‘s future approach to service improvements.
The following key points were discussed:
· The Committee queried the effectiveness of the comms strategy in relation to how residents were informed of the different ways that a complaint could be made. In response the Committee was advised that residents could find information on how to make a complaint via the Brent website, options included using the dedicated complaints phone line or registering a complaint via the portal on the website, additionally residents who came to the Civic Centre could be supported by the Customer Services team to make a complaint.
· Officers agreed that steps could be taken to share the dedicated complaints line telephone number more clearly on the website and also to utilise the ‘Your Brent’ magazine to promote the complaints procedure.
· The Committee questioned if adequate efforts had been made to resolve residents’ concerns at an early stage so that issues did not escalate to a formal complaint. Officers advised that it was a key priority of the Council to effectively manage residents’ concerns and seek resolution before it reached the stage of a formal complaint, it was noted that in some areas of the Council service requests were regularly utilised by residents more than complaints.
· Following a Committee query in relation to the quality of the responses provided to residents, the Committee was advised that resident satisfaction was measured by how many complaints required further escalation. The Complaints Team were in the process of completing some focused work in relation to the quality of responses provided in order to identify training points that could be used to support training for officers in managing complaints more effectively to increase resident satisfaction; this included bespoke departmental training and checklist criteria to ensure comprehensive responses were provided.
· The Committee heard that patterns of complaints were looked at to identify particular themes that required attention, the learning achieved from this was used to inform service improvements moving forward.
· The Committee felt that where service improvements had been made as a result of residents’ dialogue with the Council, it would be positive to promote this to residents to demonstrate the Council’s desire to actively work with residents to improve service delivery.
· It was clarified that complaints in relation to commissioned services were treated with the same level of response by officers within their remit who would liaise with the commissioned services to seek a resolution.
· It was confirmed that the Annual Complaints report was published in full on the Brent website, the Committee felt it would be helpful to also publish a shorter user-friendly version of the report that listed key areas of concern.
· The Committee noted that over the years of austerity inflicted on local government, it was inevitable that service delivery would be affected and lead to increased resident complaints, despite the difficulties in managing increasingly reduced budgets the Committee was assured that the Council remained committed to delivering high quality services within the context of the difficult financial circumstances.
· The Committee was advised that equality data feedback received so far had not indicated any specific groups of particular concerns, however it was noted that not all complainants completed the form as it was not mandatory.
· In terms of inclusivity, it was felt that the different mechanisms to make a complaint were sufficient to support all residents, examples shared that demonstrated inclusivity were that digitally excluded residents could make a complaint over the phone or come in to the Civic Centre to receive support, visually impaired residents could receive communication in bigger print or on different coloured paper, translation services and an advocacy service were available and support could also be provided to residents from their local Ward Councillors.
· The Committee queried the disparity in relation to why some cases were considered if they were reported after a 12 month period, whereas others were rejected on this basis. In response the Committee was advised that they were required to work in accordance with the Social Care and Housing Ombudsman; whereby many cases that extended beyond 12 months would be difficult to thoroughly investigate; it was noted that there were exceptions to the rule and discretion was exercised where appropriate.
· The Committee felt it would be useful to understand any trends in compensation awarded and requested that this information was provided to the Committee at a future date. This was agreed to be taken forward as an information request.
· The Committee noted that Adult Social Care (ASC) were recognised as providing good practice in relation to complaints, however there was an identified theme that required improvement in terms of communication. Claudia Brown, Director of Adult Social Care advised that this was being responded to by increasing communication across teams and colleagues within ASC as well as providing increased communication with service users. Template letters had been developed advising service users of next steps and what to expect once a complaint had been made. The ASC team were committed to providing an improved standardised approach when responding to complaints ensuring clear communication was championed throughout the process.
· The Committee noted that ASC service improvements introduced as a result of service user feedback included the revised template letters for service users that they would receive following a compliant and additional staff training in specifically identified areas of development.
· Following a Committee query in relation to the increased number of Social Care Ombudsman complaints, the Committee was advised that this could be attributed to by the large staff turnover, due to high numbers of agency staff who were not carrying out their duties to the required Brent standards. This had been addressed with agreed steps to increase permanent staff recruitment with a number of measures agreed recently at General Purposes Committee that would see an increased permanent staff team to deliver the high standards of service delivery expected in Brent.
· In terms of Children & Young People (CYP) complaints the Committee queried the increase seen in Looked After Children (LAC) complaints. The Committee was advised that the increase demonstrated that care leavers were confident in advocating for themselves which was felt to be a positive reflection of the strength in Brent’s advocacy services, it was noted that the complaints were largely around the quality of semi-independent accommodation and the quality of the support received from care leaver’s personal advisers. There had been a number of vacancies for personal advisors, following a recruitment exercise the majority of these had been filled and CYP were expecting to see fewer complaints this year.
· The Committee queried what was changing in CYP to reduce complaints and improve service delivery. In response the Committee was advised that similarly to ASC, measures had also been agreed to support the retention of permanent staff as well as communication training being provided to staff to support positive communication with parents/carers, particularly in relation to not getting drawn in to parental conflict.
In closing the discussion, the Chair thanked officers and Committee Members for their contributions towards the scrutiny on the items before summarising the outcomes of the discussions and additional actions, which were AGREED as follows:
Suggestions for Improvement
(1) A user friendly, summarised version of the Annual Complaints Report to be published alongside the full version on the Brent Council website.
(2) Publicise and promote service improvements made as a result of upheld complaints.
(3) Improve the publicity and accessibility of the complaints procedure, including promoting the complaints procedure more regularly in ‘Your Brent’, and adding the customer service telephone number to the ‘How to make a complaint’ section of the Council website.
(4) Liaise with other local authorities to share best practice to reduce the amount of ASC cases being referred to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO).
(1) Provide a breakdown on compensation paid out during the period of 2020-2023 (broken down by issue type and department).
(2) Out of the 56% of Stage 2 housing department complaints upheld, provide further detail on how many of these complaints were not upheld at Stage 1.
- 6. Annual Complaints Report 22-23, item 7. PDF 486 KB
- 6a. Appendix 1 - Correlation between root cause, issue types and outcomes of complaints by department, item 7. PDF 632 KB
- 6b. Appendix 2 - Annual Complaints Report 2022-2023, item 7. PDF 803 KB
- 6b(i) Appendix 2a - ASC Complaints Annual Report 2022-23, item 7. PDF 706 KB
- 6b(ii) Appendix 2b - CYP Complaints Annual Report 2022-23, item 7. PDF 917 KB
- 6b(iii) Appendix 2c - Code-Self-Assessment-2023, item 7. PDF 452 KB
- 6b(iv) Appendix 2d(i) - Damp and Mould Spotlight Report Self Assessment, item 7. PDF 630 KB
- 6b(iv) Appendix 2d(ii) - Damp and Mould Leaflet, item 7. PDF 2 MB
- 6b(v) Appendix 2e - Table Comparing to other London LAs, item 7. PDF 229 KB