To consider a report on complaints related activity for the year 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.
Cabinet considered a report which detailed complaint related activity during 2020-21 and which complied with the requirement to publish a report on complaints under the relevant statutory complaints legislation.
The Authority undertook millions of transactions with its 204,000 residents and 6.6 million visitors to the Borough throughout the year. Against that background, the number of complaints received by the Authority remained consistently low, reflecting the excellent services the Authority’s customers received and its ability to resolve swiftly any issues that did arise at the first point of contact.
The number of formal complaints during 2020-21 remained static compared to the previous year as the Authority continued to take a proactive approach to encouraging residents and service users to provide feedback. The Authority’s complaint leaflet entitled ‘How to complain about Council services’ was widely available in the Authority’s buildings and to download from the Authority’s website. It was also now easy for customers to contact the Authority on-line, and Social Care Service users were provided with a complaint leaflet at the first point of contact.
Customer satisfaction with the complaints process remained relatively high and the Authority continued to resolve the vast majority of complaints at Stage 1. The Authority welcomed complaints as valuable feedback from its customers and complaint outcomes provided valuable lessons to further improve and enhance the Authority’s services and procedures.
The Authority operated statutory complaint procedures for Adult Social Care
and Children and Young People’s Services and Public Health. It also
provided a corporate complaints procedure for all other services.
During 2020-21, the Authority had responded to Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) enquiries in a timely fashion and was well within the required timescale for response of 28 days. The LGSCO’s annual review of complaints for 2020-21 was detailed in the report at Appendix 2.
The Authority’s complaints service report for 2020-21 at Appendix 1 showed that the overall number of formal complaints had remained static in comparison to 2019-20 (1,070 complaints and 1,069 complaints respectively).
There had been 967 Corporate Complaints received during 2019-20, the figure during 2020-21 was 451, it was noted that the registering of complaints had been placed on hold in line with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s recommendations during April – June 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The Authority recognised that it was important to deal with complaints well as this was central to providing a good customer service. Services sought to address complaints and learn from these complaints so that the Authority could continually improve services. The results were set out in detail in the report at Appendix 1.
The number of social care complaints (relating to both Adult Social Care and Children and Young People’s Services) was 102 in 2019-20 and 68 in 2020-21. This equated to 30 cases in Children’s Social Services and 38 cases in Adult Social Care. A breakdown of the numbers and categories of complaints was provided in the report.
The Authority had established a programme that aimed to improve customer services and to demonstrate that “we listen and we care”. This programme had four parts: Customer Promise, Brilliant Basics, Customer Focussed Services and Better Never Stops – a continuous improvement culture.
Better Never Stops would, amongst other things, examine how the Authority collected queries, feedback and complaints. It would look at the quality and consistency of the Authority’s responses and how the feedback was used to gather and inform ongoing service delivery. The Authority would also develop the way its employees acted to drive up the standard the Authority had set itself and how to recognise and celebrate good customer service.
A key aim of the complaint process was ‘learning’ from complaints and connected with the Better Never Stops programme. There had been several changes to procedures and practice during 2020-21 as a result of resolved complaints, examples of which were given in the report.
Complaints were now widely recognised as integral to the provision of quality services at both individual and strategic levels. The Authority’s successful history and current good practice in effective complaint handling would be an integral service improvement driver in the current rapidly changing culture. The demands of maintaining and increasing levels of customer satisfaction, coupled with organisational changes across public and partner sectors, would be well supported by the current robust complaint handling procedures and electronic system in place.
Cabinet considered the following decision options: to note the content of the report and approve publication of the report; or alternatively to refer the report back to officers and request that further analysis and information is provided.
Resolved that (1) the complaint related activity during 2020-21, as set out in the Annual Complaints Report (Appendix 1), be noted;
(2) the Report be approved for publication by the Director of Law and Governance; and
(3) the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s Annual Review of complaints concerning North Tyneside Council for 2020-21 (Appendix 2) be noted.
(Reasons for decision: All local authorities providing ‘social service functions’ including North Tyneside Council are legally required to publish an annual report on complaints received. Publication of a report also supports community engagement and promotes transparency and opportunities for organisational improvement.)