Concerns and formal complaints policy
Bridgend County Borough Council Concerns and Complaints Policy
Bridgend County Borough Council is committed to dealing effectively with any concerns or complaints you may have about our services. We aim to clarify any issues you may be unsure about. If possible, we’ll put right any mistakes we may have made. We will provide any service you’re entitled to which we have failed to deliver. If we did something wrong, we’ll apologise and, where possible, try to put things right for you. We aim to learn from our mistakes and use the information we gain from complaints to improve our services.
When to use this policy
When you express your concerns or complain to us, we will usually respond in the way we explain below. However, sometimes you may have a statutory right of appeal e.g. against a refusal to grant you planning permission or the decision not to give your child a place in a particular school so, rather than investigate your concern, we will explain to you how you can appeal. Sometimes, you might be concerned about matters that are not covered by this policy e.g. when a legal framework applies and we will then advise you about how to make your concerns known.
This policy does not apply to ‘Freedom of Information’ or data access issues. Please contact the Data Protection Officer, Legal and Regulatory Services, Bridgend County Borough Council, Civic Offices, Angel Street, Bridgend CF31 4WB, tel: 01656 643565 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Complaints Officers can advise on the type and scope of complaints they can consider.
We have a separate policy for Social Services complaints.
Welsh Language Standards
Bridgend County Borough Council embraces the Service Delivery, Policy Making and Operational Welsh Language Standards with which it is expected to comply positively and will strive to ensure that the use of the Welsh language in Bridgend is developed and promoted.
How we will deal with complaints relating to our compliance with the Welsh Language Standards
The public is able to raise complaints with the Council’s compliance with the Welsh Language Standards under this Complaints Procedure using the process described. All complaints related to the standards (or any other service provided in Welsh) will be taken seriously and will be fully investigated to establish the validity of the complaint. If the council has failed in its compliance with the Welsh Language Standards, it will apologise to the complainant and will consider any shortfall in compliance when reviewing any relevant internal processes or practices.
Staff training and awareness raising
We will raise awareness amongst all relevant council employees of the requirement to deal with any complaints regarding the Council’s compliance with the Welsh Language Standards to ensure that such complaints are investigated fully and impartially. Employees will also be made aware of the need for records of all written complaints, investigations and outcomes, against the council’s compliance with the Welsh Language Standards to be retained and to be included and published in the Council’s Annual Welsh Language Reporting process. This will be provided for each financial year.
This policy is also available in Welsh at our public buildings and on our website.
Asking us to provide a service?
If you are approaching us for a service for the first time, (e.g. reporting a faulty street light, requesting an appointment etc) then this policy does not apply. If you make a request for a service and then are not happy with our response, you will be able to make your concern known as we describe below.
If possible, we believe it is best to deal with things straight away rather than try to sort them out later. If you have a concern, raise it with the person you are dealing with. He or she will try to resolve it for you there and then. If there are any lessons to learn from addressing your concern then the member of staff will draw them to our attention. If the member of staff cannot help, they will explain why and you can then ask for a formal investigation.
How to express concern or complain formally
You can express your concern in any of the ways below.
- You can ask for a copy of our form from the person with whom you are already in contact. Tell them that you want us to deal with your concern formally.
- You can get in touch with our central complaint contact point on tel 01656 643565 if you want to make your complaint over the phone.
- You can use the form on our website
- You can e-mail us at email@example.com
- You can write a letter to us at the following address:
Legal and Regulatory Service
Bridgend County Borough Council
Dealing with your concern
- We will formally acknowledge your concern within 5 working days and let you know how we intend to deal with it.
- We will ask you to tell us how you would like us to communicate with you and establish whether you have any particular requirements – for example, if you need documents in large type.
- We will deal with your concern in an open and honest way.
- We will make sure that your dealings with us in the future do not suffer just because you have expressed a concern or made a complaint.
Normally, we will only be able to look at your concerns if you tell us about them within six months. This is because it is better to look into your concerns while the issues are still fresh in everyone’s mind.
We may exceptionally be able to look at concerns which are brought to our attention later than this. However, you will have to give us strong reasons why you have not been able to bring it to our attention earlier and we will need to have sufficient information about the issue to allow us to consider it properly. (In any event, regardless of the circumstances, we will not consider any concerns about matters that took place more than three years ago.)
If you are expressing a concern on behalf of somebody else, we will need their agreement to you acting on their behalf.
What if there is more than one body involved?
If your complaint covers more than one body (e.g. Housing Association, NHS) we will usually work with them to decide who should take a lead in dealing with your concerns. You will then be given the name of the person responsible for communicating with you while we consider your complaint.
If the complaint is about a body working on our behalf (e.g. private residential homes, specialist health providers) you may wish to raise the matter informally with them first. However, if you want to express your concern or complaint formally, we will look into this ourselves and respond to you.
We will tell you who we have asked to look into your concern or complaint. If your concern is straightforward, we will usually ask somebody from the service to look into it and get back to you. If it is more serious, we may use someone from elsewhere in the Council or in certain cases we may appoint an independent investigator.
We will set out to you our understanding of your concerns and ask you to confirm that we have got it right. We will also ask you to tell us what outcome you are hoping for.
The person looking at your complaint will usually need to see the files we hold relevant to your complaint. If you do not want this to happen, it is important that you tell us.
If there is a simple solution to your problem, we may ask you if you are happy to accept this. For example, where you asked for a service and we see straight away that you should have had it, we will offer to provide the service rather than investigate and produce a report.
We will aim to resolve concerns as quickly as possible and expect to deal with the vast majority within 20 working days. If your complaint is more complex, we will:
- let you know within this time why we think it may take longer to investigate
- tell you how long we expect it to take
- let you know where we have reached with the investigation, and
- give you regular updates, including telling you whether any developments might change our original estimate.
The person who is investigating your concerns will aim first to establish the facts. The extent of this investigation will depend on how complex and how serious the issues you have raised are. In complex cases, we will draw up an investigation plan.
In some instances, we may ask to meet you to discuss your concerns. Occasionally, we might suggest mediation or another method to try to resolve disputes.
We will look at relevant evidence. This could include files, notes of conversations, letters, e-mails or whatever may be relevant to your particular concern. If necessary, we will talk to the staff or others involved and look at our policies and any legal entitlement and guidance.
If we formally investigate your complaint, we will let you know what we have found in keeping with your preferred form of communication. This could be by letter or e-mail, for example. If necessary, we will produce a longer report. We will explain how and why we came to our conclusions.
If we find that we got it wrong, we will tell you what and why it happened. We will show how the mistake affected you.
If we find there is a fault in our systems or the way we do things, we will tell you what it is and how we plan to change things to stop it happening again.
If we got it wrong, we will always apologise.
Putting things right
If we did not provide a service you should have had, we will aim to provide it now if thatis possible. If we did not do something well, we will aim to put it right. If you have lost out as a result of a mistake on our part we will try to put you back in the position you would have been in if wehad got it right.
If you had to pay for a service yourself, when you should have had one from us, or if you were entitled to funding you did not receive we will usually aim to make good what you have lost.
If we do not succeed in resolving your complaint, you may complain to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. The Ombudsman is independent of all government bodies and can look into your complaint if you believe that you personally, or the person on whose behalf you are complaining:
- have been treated unfairly or received a bad service through some failure on the part of the body providing it
- have been disadvantaged personally by a service failure or have been treated unfairly.
The Ombudsman expects you to bring your concerns to our attention first and to give us a chance to put things right. You can contact the Ombudsman by:
- phone: 0300 790 0203
- e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- the Ombudsman's website
- writing to: Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, 1 Ffordd yr Hen Gae, Pencoed CF35 5LJ
There are also other organisations that consider complaints. For example, the Welsh Language Board about services in Welsh. We can advise you about such organisations.
We take your concerns and complaints seriously and try to learn from any mistakes we’ve made. Our Senior Management Team considers a summary of all complaints quarterly and is made aware of all serious complaints. Our Cabinet also considers our response to complaints at least twice a year. We share summary (anonymised) information on complaints received and complaints outcomes with the Ombudsman as part of our commitment to accountability and learning from complaints.
Where there is a need for significant change, we will develop an action plan setting out what we will do, who will do it and when we plan to do it. We will let you know when changes we’ve promised have been made.
What if I need help?
Our staff will aim to help you make your concerns known to us. If you need extra assistance, we will try to put you in touch with someone who can help. You may wish to contact e.g. Age concern, Shelter etc who may be able to assist you.
You can also use this concerns and complaints policy if you are someone under the age of 18. If you need help, you can speak to someone on the Meic Helpline (phone 080880 23456, www.meiccymru.org) or contact the Children’s Commissioner for Wales.
Contact details are:
01792 765600 (South Wales)
01492 523333 (North Wales)
What we expect from you
In times of trouble or distress, some people may act out of character. There may have been upsetting or distressing circumstances leading up to a concern or a complaint. We do not view behaviour as unacceptable just because someone is forceful or determined.
We believe that all complainants have the right to be heard, understood and respected. However, we also consider that our staff have the same rights. We therefore expect you to be polite and courteous in your dealings with us. We will not tolerate aggressive or abusive behaviour, unreasonable demands or unreasonable persistence. We have a separate policy to manage situations when we find that someone’s actions are unacceptable.