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Complaints Standards Authority Update August 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Local government

We reported last month that the model complaints handling procedure (CHP) requires local authorities to report annually on their performance in handling complaints, in line with SPSO requirements. The SPSO performance indicators (PDF, 123KB) for this were designed to help councils understand their complaints handling performance in more detail and ensure that they capture consistent and directly comparable information. This includes the volumes and types of complaints handled and key performance details, for example the time taken and the stage at which complaints were resolved. Key to assessing how effectively complaints are handled is understanding how the learning from them is shared both within and across local authorities. The annual reporting of performance should, therefore, demonstrate the arrangements councils have in place to learn from complaints.

So far, we have not seen these annual reports from all councils.We would take this opportunity to remind councils that, as a minimum requirement, their performance against each of the performance indicators should be published in their annual complaints report. They may, however, include additional information as they consider appropriate.

Councils that have not yet provided SPSO with an annual complaints report may do so by emailing CSA@spso.org.uk and either attaching their council’s report, or providing a web link to it. This is also the email address to which to send any questions about this or about any other aspect of the model CHP or compliance requirements.

The next meeting of the local authority complaints handlers network is on 31 October, where benchmarking of complaints performance will be the theme. The network group use the Knowledge Hub to share information about meetings and to seek or provide advice and guidance. The hub is becoming a valuable resource for complaints handlers in the sector as more people contribute to it. If any local authority representatives would like more information about the network, please contact CSA directly on CSA@spso.org.uk.

Housing

RSLs should also report on their complaints handling performance in line with SPSO requirements.We have provided self-assessment complaints indicators for the housing sector, developed in association with the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Scottish Housing Best Value Network and HouseMark, to monitor performance against the requirements of the model CHP.

The indicators, which are linked to the core recording, reporting and publicising requirements in the CHP, can be found on this website (PDF, 187KB).  The information RSLs publish will allow them to compare their complaints handling performance across the sector, building on their existing benchmarking arrangements.

It is hoped that there will be a network meeting of the housing complaints handling network in September. Members of the network, and those who have expressed an interest in joining, will be sent confirmation of the final date when it is agreed. If you are interested in this, please contact the CSA team directly at CSA@spso.org.uk. Please also send any queries about the model CHP or monitoring and compliance arrangements to that email address.

Higher education

The higher education complaints network includes representatives from all institutions across Scotland. The next meeting will be on 3 October at HeriotWatt University, and the CSA will be in attendance. The model CHP has been in operation across this sector since 30 August 2013.We would remind universities that they are required to report on complaints handling performance annually in line with SPSO requirements. These requirements are in the CHP implementation guide (PDF, 101KB), and include performance statistics on the volume and type of complaints and key performance details, such as the time taken and the stage at which complaints were resolved. Learning from complaints is a key requirement in annual complaints reporting, and institutions should clearly demonstrate the improvements to services or procedures made as a result of complaints, and the arrangements they have in place to learn from these.

Please direct any queries about the model CHP or monitoring and compliance arrangements to the CSA team at CSA@spso.org.uk.

Further education

As with other sectors, we would remind all colleges of the requirements to report annually on their performance in handling complaints in line with SPSO requirements. The CHP implementation guide (PDF, 103KB) provides a set of indicators including statistics showing the volume and type of complaint as well as key performance details, for example on the time taken to resolve complaints and at what stage they were resolved. Colleges should also demonstrate the improvements to services or procedures made as a result of complaints, and the arrangements they have in place to learn from these.

The complaints handling advisory group is preparing a webinar for new college staff, about the sector’s complaints handling tool. This is on target for September, and the advisory group will provide further information directly to colleges. The group also plan to include a session on complaints reporting at the October meeting of the Quality Development Network. Any sector representatives who want to join, or to learn more about the advisory group, should contact the CSA team directly at CSA@spso.org.uk.

Scottish Government

As part of our ongoing work with the Scottish Government we recently met with their complaints improvement group. Discussions included the SPSO’s approach to handling complaints, the reporting and monitoring of complaints performance, and proposed changes to the way the Government will manage complaints in the future.

Network groups of complaints handlers have been successfully introduced in most other sectors. We hope that a similar approach can be introduced in the Scottish Government sector – this includes the government, the Scottish Parliament and a diverse range of associated public authorities in Scotland. The core business of organisations may vary, but processes for handling complaints, benchmarking performance, and sharing expertise and best practice in complaints handling are relevant both in and across sectors. Any organisations interested in forming a complaints network should contact the CSA team directly on csa@spso.org.uk.

NHS

In August, we met key NHS stakeholders to discuss the initial outline of a proposed approach to taking forward recommendations from the Scottish Health Council’s review of NHS feedback and complaints. The recommendations relate to developing a standardised model complaints handling procedure in the NHS.  We plan further discussions with the government and other stakeholders about developing the procedure, and will report on progress in future updates.

Updated: March 8, 2017