Complaint Handling policy and procedure


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Part 1 – The Policy

1.1 Policy Statement

The City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council is committed to providing an excellent standard of customer service and using valuable customer feedback to improve the services it delivers across the District. The Council will:

  • Take seriously any concern or complaint made.
  • Acknowledge any complaint made in writing and provide a timescale for investigation and response.
  • Communicate with the complainant, for example, to advise of progress with the investigation; any delays and the reasons.
  • Address any concern or complaint fairly, thoroughly, proportionately and sensitively attempting to find resolution as quickly as possible and within set timescales.
  • Ensure that, where appropriate*, the investigation of the complaint is carried out independently from the service that is the subject of the complaint *normally applies only to Stage 2 investigations
  • Ensure that all staff dealing with complaints are appropriately trained and supported.
  • Maintain and monitor a record of all complaints and customer feedback received for the purposes of ensuring compliance with this policy and to understand which areas of the Councils service are causing satisfaction /dissatisfaction and where improvement actions are required.
  • Comply with the relevant legislation* governing the provision of social care and public health services. The Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations (2009); The NHS Bodies and Local Authorities (Partnership Arrangements; Care Trust, Public Health and Local Health watch) Regulations 2012.
  • Reserve the right to discontinue corresponding to a complainant where it believes that the concerns have already been addressed and where the complainant becomes persistent or vexatious and / or where there is a further route of appeal that has already been explained to the complainant.
  • Ensure a complainant is fully aware of the role of the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) relating to complaints made about the Council.
  • Ensure that this policy is easily accessible by making it available on the internal and external websites as a minimum.

1.2 Scope and limitations

A concern or complaint for the purposes of this policy is defined as: An expression of dissatisfaction about the standard or implementation in relation to:

  • The provision of a Council service
  • A Council Policy or Procedure
  • The way in which the Council’s staff carry out their duties.

This Policy does not cover:

  • Complaints from Council employees (current or former), trainees, apprentices or persons on work placements, regarding working conditions, pay or any other internal grievance or staffing dispute.
  • Complaints about any aspect of the Council’s recruitment process.
  • Complaints about Elected Members of Council. There is a separate complaints procedure (PDF) for the conduct of elected Members (also known as Councillors).
  • Complaints about the internal services provided by one Service / Department to another.
  • Complaints from external agencies/organisations unless made on behalf of and with the consent of the complainant.
  • Complaints from suppliers of services to the Council or those working in partnership with the Council.
  • Anonymous complaints (depending on the circumstances)
  • Complaints where the original problem occurred more than 12 months ago (except in exceptional circumstances when it would not have been reasonable to expect the complainant to have made the complaint within the time limit and it is still possible to consider the complaint effectively and fairly despite the lapse of time).
  • Complaints about missed bin collections, faulty street lights, fly tipping, dog fouling, noise nuisance etc, in the first instance, as these will be dealt with as a 'service request' by the relevant Council Department.
  • Where there is a recognised formal process for dealing with the dissatisfaction of a decision, such as a formal appeal route or a claim for damages.
  • Complaints about the handling of information requests, under the Freedom of Information (FOI), Environment Information (EIR) or Data Protection Act. Queries should be directed to (for FOI and EIR) (for all other DP related enquiries).
  • When the complainant has stated, in writing, to the Council that they are taking, or intending to take, legal proceedings.
  • Complaints regarding fraud or misuse of Council property. Concerns or reporting of such should be directed to Report Fraud.
  • Complaints regarding children’s social care. Such complaints should be directed to Bradford Children and Families Trust.

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Part 2 - The Complaints Procedure

2.1 Making a complaint

A complaint can be made by or on behalf of someone who the Council

  • has a duty to provide a service to
  • someone who has been or is likely to be caused injustice by an action or decision of the Council.

In order to be as flexible as possible and subject to the Council’s policy on dealing with unreasonably persistent complaints, the Council will accept a complaint from any person or anyone acting on behalf of a person who has the appropriate authority and full consent, in any of the following formats:

In line with the Council’s Equality and Diversity Statement individual needs are taken into account when applying this policy and any reasonable adjustments that are required will be put into place.

2.2 Acknowledging a concern or complaint

All complaints received by the Council will be acknowledged within 2 working days of receipt.

2.3 Dealing with a concern or a complaint

Depending on the type of complaint there are up to 2 stages in the Council process as follows:

2.3.1 Informal early resolution – Stage 0 or Pre- Complaint

All Council staff within Services and Departments will attempt to resolve concerns or complaints at the point of first contact and where possible resolve this within 5 working days.

2.3.2 Formal resolution - Stage 1

Where a concern or complaint cannot be resolved as in 2.3.1 above then the concerns raised will be dealt with by the Council Service / Department that is subject to the complaint as a formal Stage 1 complaint.

The complaint will be acknowledged within two working days. The Council will provide details of its procedure and, where relevant, information about advocacy services.

A discussion may take place with the complainant to agree the terms of reference (TOR) or the issues to be investigated, how the complaint will be investigated, what outcome they would like to see and the timescale for a response. Where a TOR is considered appropriate then the timescale for responding to the complaint will start from the date the TOR was agreed by all parties.

The standard of proof applied by the investigation of complaints will be the civil standard of “balance of probabilities” and not the criminal standard of “beyond all reasonable doubt”. Timescales

Legislation may dictate the timescale in which the Council has to respond to Stage 1 Complaints as follows:

Statutory Complaints

Adult Social Care and Public Health 20 working days

Non – Statutory Complaints (Corporate Complaints) 20 working days

The Council aims to respond to all complaints within the timescales shown but in exceptional circumstances where this is not possible then the complainant will be notified, in writing, with an explanation for any delay and an indication of when a full response will be provided.

2.3.3 Complaint Escalation

Where the complainant remains dissatisfied with the response to a Stage 1 complaint, then dependent upon the type of complaint, the complainant should be advised that they can escalate their complaint to the next stage. Adult Social Care and Public Health complaints

Where the complainant remains dissatisfied following the outcome of the complaint at Stage 1, they should be advised of the contact details of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) as there are no further stages in the complaints procedure – see paragraph 2.3.4. All other complaints

Where the complainant is not satisfied with the response at Stage 1, they can request the complaint be escalated to Stage 2. A Corporate Complaints Officer, independent of the Service / Department being complained about will conduct a review of the Stage 1 complaint and decide whether there are grounds to proceed to a further stage 2 investigation, which they will then undertake. The investigation will normally be completed and the outcome communicated within 65 working days.

2.3.4 Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

Where the complainant remains dissatisfied with the Council’s response after all stages of the appropriate Council complaints procedure have been exhausted, then the complainant will be advised to register their complaint with the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO).

2.3.5 Complaints about more than one Service or Department

Where a complaint covers more than one Council Service, individual investigations will be undertaken by the respective Services and a single response co-ordinated by the Corporate Complaints Team.

2.3.6 Complaints about commissioned or contracted services

Where there is a complaint about a service which the Council is responsible for but which is delivered by a provider commissioned or contracted by a Department of the Council, the specific Department of the Council remains accountable to its customers and for any service failure.

The provider is responsible for investigating and /or responding to the complaint, but in exceptional circumstances such as when the relationship between the complainant and the provider has broken down, it may be more appropriate for the Council to respond and this decision will be made by the specific Department in conjunction with the Corporate Complaints Manager.

The provider will only provide a single response to complaints relating to adult social care regardless of any further stages of escalation contained within their own Complaints policy. Should the complainant not be satisfied with the response from the provider, they can ask the Council to review this or be referred to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO).

2.3.7 Safeguarding concerns

Where a complaint leads to safeguarding concerns (for example, Adult or Child Protection) this will be referred directly to the relevant Department of the Council, the Bradford Children and Families Trust (BCFT) and/or or the Police. Where a safeguarding investigation is required and the complaints process may impede or hinder safeguarding activity the Complaints Manager will consider whether it is appropriate to suspend the complaints process until this activity has concluded.

2.3.8 Complaints involving Health Services

The Council will liaise with the appropriate health service to determine who will lead on the investigation of the complaint, the timescales and how the outcome of the investigation will be reported to the complainant.

2.4 Withdrawing and closing complaints

A complaint can be withdrawn at any time by the complainant, either verbally or in writing. Where this happens this will be acknowledged in writing within 5 working days of receipt of the withdrawal or as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Contact with the complainant may be made throughout the complaints process to obtain further information or for clarity purposes. If, after a reasonable number of attempts, the complainant does not respond then the Council will close the complaint.

2.5 Complaint records and confidentiality

All complaints will be dealt with in confidence and information only shared within the Council with those who are required to respond to the complaint. Complaint information may sometimes be shared with a third party where it is necessary, lawful and fair to do so. We may share information with the following for these purposes:

  • The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman
  • Other internal council departments
  • Local health providers

Full details of how personal data is managed within the complaints procedures is displayed in the Corporate Complaints Team Privacy Notice | Bradford Council

2.6. Managing unreasonably persistent complainants

The Council is committed to dealing with complaints fairly and proportionately and to making services as accessible as possible.

The Council has a duty to deploy resources efficiently and for the benefit of all customers and therefore is unable to spend a disproportionate amount of time and resource to enquiries or complaints that have been addressed in full.

The Council’s policy for Managing Vexatious Complainants describes the actions we will take if a customer acts in an unacceptable way and/or abuses their right to receive an appropriate and proportionate response to a legitimate complaint or enquiry.

2.7 Reporting of data

An annual report will be presented to the Council’s Governance and Audit Committee for scrutiny which will analyse the volume, type and source of complaints received and provide information related to the Council’s performance when handling complaints.

The Council’s Corporate Management Team will be provided with departmental performance metrics on a monthly basis.

Council Services will be provided with performance information on a 6 monthly basis.

All reporting of data will be anonymised.

2.8 Suitable and realistic remedies

A complaint cannot be used to overturn a correctly made decision.

If the Council finds that injustice has been caused at any stage of a complaint investigation then a remedy which is proportionate, appropriate and reasonable based on all the facts of the case will be offered. Remedies may include a letter of apology, a review of the procedure or policy used or a review of a process to deliver a service.

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Part 3 - Other relevant policies

This Policy must be read in conjunction with the following supporting documentation:

3.1 From 1 April 2023 Bradford Children and Families Trust will be responsible for Children's Social Care Complaints.

Details of how to make a complaint to Bradford Children and Families Trust can be found at Make a comment or complaint to Bradford Children and Families Trust

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Appendix 1: Summary of City of Bradford MDC Complaints Procedure

Flowchart showing the complaints procedure. Informal Resolution (up to 5 days). Complaint may then go to Stage 1. Adult Services Stage 1 complaint (Acknowledgement within 2 working days): 20 working days. Adult services complaint may then go to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. Corporate Stage 1 complaint (Acknowledgement within 2 working days): 20 working days. Corporate complaint may then to go Stage 2: 65 working days. Corporate complaint may then go to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

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