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Housing Ombudsman Complaint Handling Code: Self-assessment

Compliance with the Complaint Handling Code

South Tyneside Homes is committed to being compliant with the Housing Ombudsman Complaint Handling Code. 

The aim of this self-assessment is to assess whether we are compliant, and identify where we can improve. 

All questions were provided by the Housing Ombudsman. 

South Tyneside Homes completed this self-assessment in November 2020. 

  1. Definition of a complaint
  2. Accessibility
  3. Complaints team and process
  4. Communication
  5. Cooperation with Housing Ombudsman Service
  6. Fairness in complaint handling
  7. Outcomes and remedies
  8. Continuous learning and improvement

1. Definition of a complaint

Does the complaints process use the following definition of a complaint?

'An expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions or lack of action by the organisation, its own staff, or those acting on its behalf, affecting an individual resident or group of residents.'

Our response: Yes

Does the policy have exclusions where a complaint will not be considered?

Our response: Yes 

Are these exclusions reasonable and fair to residents?

Our response: Yes 

Evidence relied upon:

The exclusions include formal appeals processes which are not part of the Complaint Policy, and legal issues which are being dealt with by Solicitors.  The only other exclusion is where the complaint has been dealt with before.

These are considered reasonable in that they provide alternatives for customers to have their concerns considered and dealt with formally. 

2. Accessibility

Are multiple accessibility routes available for residents to make a complaint?

Our response: Yes 

Is the complaints policy and procedure available online?

Our response: Yes 

Do we have a reasonable adjustments policy?

Our response: No

We do not have a specific policy however we offer complaint responses in different formats and languages. We use translation services, and we accept complaints from third parties. This is acknowledged in our Complaints Policy and Procedure.

Do we regularly advise residents about our complaints process?

Our response: No

It is on the front of our website, however we do not have 'promotional' materials available to share with other agencies and public spaces.

3. Complaints team and process

Is there a complaint officer or equivalent in post?

Our response: Yes 

Does the complaint officer have autonomy to resolve complaints?

Our response: Yes 

The Complaint Officer involves the relevant Head of Service in the resolution of the complaint too

Does the complaint officer have authority to compel engagement from other departments to resolve disputes?

Our response: Yes

The Complaint Officer works with the Head of Service to ensure that teams are very much involved in resolving disputes

If there is a third stage to the complaints procedure are residents involved in the decision making?

Our response: No

The three stage process will end in February 2021, and we will then implement a two stage process in line with the Housing Ombudsman Service Complaint Code.

Is any third stage optional for residents? 

Our response: No

Does the final stage response set out residents' right to refer the matter to the Housing Ombudsman Service?

Our response: Yes

Do we keep a record of complaint correspondence including correspondence from the resident?

Our response: Yes

At what stage are most complaints resolved?

Our response: Stage 1

4. Communication

Are residents kept informed and updated during the complaints process?

Our response: Yes

Acknowledgement letters are sent to customers to confirm the complaint has been received and the timescale for the investigation.  Contact is made by the investigator and a response is provided to the customer.  Customers are also advised when complaints are escalated with a timescale, and the investigating officer contacts the customer to talk through the complaint and a formal response is provided.

Are residents informed of the landlord's position and given a chance to respond and challenge any area of dispute before the final decision?

Our response: No

Are all complaints acknowledged and logged within five days?

Our response: Yes

Are residents advised of how to escalate at the end of each stage?

Our response: Yes

What proportion of complaints are resolved at stage one?

Our response: 92%

Based on 2019-20 figures

What proportion of complaints are resolved at stage two?

Our response: 55%

STH is still running a three stage process until the new year - 2019-20 figures show that 45% of the complaints that went to stage 2 took their complaint to stage 3

What proportion of complaint responses are sent within Code timescales?

Our response:

  • Stage one - 93.43%
  • Stage one (with extension) - Data is not collected
  • Stage two - 87.27%
  • Stage two (with extension) - Data is not collected

Where timescales have been extended did we have good reason?

Our response: Yes

We don't have a system that would support collecting numbers of extensions, however only the Customer Feedback Officers are able to extend a complaint, and will only extend if the investigating officer has agreed the new target date with the customer, and the extension is a reasonable length of time.

Where timescales have been extended did we keep the resident informed?

Our response: Yes

What proportion of complaints do we resolve to residents' satisfaction?

Our response: 96.5%

3.5% of complaints go to Stage 3 based on 2019-20 figures.

5. Cooperation with Housing Ombudsman Service

Were all requests for evidence responded to within 15 days?

Our response: Yes

Usually we always meet deadlines, however there has been some slight slippage during the Lockdown

Where the timescale was extended did we keep the Ombudsman informed?

Our response: Yes

6. Fairness in complaint handling

Are residents able to complain via a representative throughout?

Our response: Yes

If advice was given, was this accurate and easy to understand?

Our response: Yes

How many cases did we refuse to escalate?

Our response:

This is not measured - however we rarely refuse to escalate, only those who fall into the categories in point 1

What was the reason for the refusal?

Our response:

As stated above - those that are part of a formal appeal process, or formal legal process are refused.  Equally when the complaint has been investigated before we will refuse to re-investigate if there is no new information.

Did we explain our decision to the resident?

Our response: Yes

7. Outcomes and remedies

Where something has gone wrong are we taking appropriate steps to put things right?

Our response: Yes

8. Continuous learning and improvement

What improvements have we made as a result of learning from complaints?

Our response:

Some of the improvements identified in 2019-20 include:

  • Staff training was identified within a number of complaints in 2019-20, including cross team issues in relation to the Allocations Policy, individual officer training and complaint logging and handling training was identified as a key priority for 2020-21
  • Review of ASB Policy and Procedure
  • Provide clear guidance for staff on how to balance the requirements of data protection legislation and the need to keep victims of anti-social behaviour informed of progress with a case
  • New guidance on third party permissions
  • Review rechargeable repair policy and information provided to customers
  • Review of the lettable standard

How do we share these lessons with; residents, the board/governing body, in the Annual Report?

Our response:

  • Residents - Through the Annual Report
  • The board/governing body - Through an annual performance report and through quarterly performance reports
  • In the Annual Report - Yes, although our Feedback System needs some work to enable us to run searches and produce information and data on implemented improvements

Has the Code made a difference to how we respond to complaints?

Our response: Yes

Its not in place yet however we are going from a three stage to a two stage process to make things speedier for our customers

What changes have we made?

As above, in the new year we will be introducing a new two stage process, and have reviewed our processes and procedures around complaint handling