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Feedback policy for compliments, complaints and suggestions

As an organisation we welcome feedback and are committed to learning from any feedback, positive or negative. We take all feedback (complaints, compliments, suggestions and representations) received seriously. This document details how we deal with any feedback that we receive.

How do I provide feedback?

You can provide feedback yourself, or a family member, friend or representative can contact us.

There are a number of ways you can provide feedback:

What if I need help to provide my comment?

If you need assistance in providing feedback, please contact our Customer Services Team (0345 045 5200). If you would prefer to discuss this in person, you can also be supported to provide feedback at our main office receptions, or in our libraries where staff can support you in completing the online form.

Confidentiality in the feedback process

We will maintain the confidentiality of all personal information and only disclose it to other relevant parties with your permission or if we are otherwise legally obliged to do so. However, if we are informed of anything that makes us think that an individual is unsafe or at risk of being harmed, we will pass this on to the appropriate authority or service for action. Having your personal details helps us work with you in the best way through our feedback processes, however if you wish to make the complaint anonymously, please discuss this with our Customer Service Team. If you are raising an issue on behalf of someone else, we reserve the right to inform that person that you have contacted us.

What happens when I provide feedback?

Once we have received your comments we will review them and determine whether your feedback is a complaint, compliment, suggestion or representation. Further information is provided on each of the categories below.

How we will keep in touch

Whether you contact us online, via email, or telephone, we will usually respond to you via email unless you notify us otherwise. If you write to us, we will respond to you in the same manner unless you request a different form of communication.

We will always do our best to respect the method of communication you have requested, and if we are unable to do this, we will tell you the reason.

What is a compliment?

A compliment is an expression of praise or gratitude about an individual, a team, a service, or a policy.

What happens when I make a compliment?

We will let you know we have received your compliment and we will pass it onto the individual and/or the service to whom it relates.

What is a suggestion?

A suggestion is an idea or plan put forward for consideration.

What happens when I make a suggestion?

We will let you know we have received your suggestion and we will pass it onto the service to which it relates to consider your ideas. We will let you know whether we have made any changes as a result of your suggestion.

What is a complaint?

A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with Cambridgeshire County Council that you believe needs resolution. Specifically, it is:

  • Where a service is delayed or is unsatisfactory
  • Where we have not delivered our statutory responsibilities
  • Where you are unhappy with an employee’s attitude or behaviour
  • Where you believe we have demonstrated poor customer service
  • Where you are unhappy or concerned with how we have handled your personal information (See section 3 further information on Data Protection complaints)
  • Where you are dissatisfied with how we have delivered policies, or where you are unhappy with a policy

The complaints procedure should not be used in the following circumstances:

What happens when I complain?

If you make a complaint online, you will immediately receive confirmation that your complaint has been logged by the Council. No matter the method used to submit your complaint, we will acknowledge receipt of your complaint and endeavour to provide a response within 10 working days of receipt.

If your complaint is about Social Care, we will contact you separately to confirm the process and timelines that we will follow and which officer will be dealing with your complaint. (See Sections 1 and 2 for more information.)

Our processes follow the three stages set out below.

Three stage complaint procedure

In the first instance of receiving your concerns, we will always try to resolve the issue in the simplest and most direct was possibly before entering the formal complaints process. Where this cannot happen and the complaint enters Stage 1, the manager directly involved in the matter being complained about will conduct an initial investigation into the concerns and will respond.

We will review the information you have provided and respond to you within 10 working days. We monitor compliance with our policies to ensure that timelines are being met, and so if it is not possible to respond within this timeframe, we will contact you and explain why.

Within our response to you, we will let you know if we agree with all or part of your complaint, apologise where failures have been made, and consider appropriate actions to take to remedy any failures. We will ensure that we learn from any mistakes to help improve our service. If the complaint is about a partner organisation or an organisation acting on our behalf, we will let you know and will advise what (if any) action we take on this.

If it is the case that we do not agree with the issues raised in your complaint, we will explain why.

Finally, we will review lessons learned from complaints and explore themes that emerge within services to improve the quality of our service across the Council. All comments and complaints are taken seriously and given fair consideration.

Providing information

We expect that, where possible, all relevant information is provided to enable us to investigate the complaint or issue as fully as possible. Introducing new information at a late stage, which you expect to be taken into account and commented on, can hinder our ability to respond within the appropriate timescales. To help us resolve your issue, please ensure that any questions you want to raise are concise and clear and are within the context of your complaint or issue.

We will use our judgement to determine if issues raised represent a change to an issue we are already responding to or if it is a new complaint which will also need to be dealt with in accordance with this Feedback Policy.

Why is the process different for Social Care?

The way we deal with complaints relating to Social Care services is set out by Central Government. As a result, the process and timelines for dealing with complaints may vary dependent upon the type of complaint being made. Please refer to Sections 1 and 2 for more information.

What if I disagree with your response to my complaint?

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of our investigation into your complaint, you can contact us again to discuss why you are dissatisfied and for us to consider possible next steps and the next stage.

Please note: This applies to standard complaints only. Please see sections 1-3 for Social Care and Data Protection related complaints.

You can ask for a senior manager to review the response to your complaint. You can do this by contacting the person who responded to your initial complaint at Stage 1. This senior manager will investigate and aim to respond within 10 working days. If they are not able to provide a full response within the timescale, they will contact you and give a date by which you can expect a full response.

If the senior manager’s Stage 2 response does not satisfy you, you may ask the Chief Executive to review your case. The Chief Executive, or delegated senior officer, will investigate and aim to respond within 10 working days. If they are not able to provide a full response within the timescale, they will contact you and give a date by which you can expect a full response. The Chief Executive’s or delegated senior officer’s decision will be the final response from the Council.

Local Government Ombudsman

If you remain dissatisfied with the response from the Council after your complaint has been considered at all three stages of our standard complaints process, we recommend that you contact the Local Government Ombudsman who adjudicates on the effectiveness of local authority complaints:

Customer handling policy

The vast majority of complaints are handled effectively through the procedures outlined in this Feedback Policy. Very occasionally, however, customers may be pursuing complaints and other issues in ways which we believe are unhelpful. Our Customer handling policy describes how the Council may deal with customers where the customer is unreasonably persistent or otherwise acts unreasonably. This policy, together with guidance for staff on the relevant procedures, helps Cambridgeshire County Council deal with customers in ways which are consistent and fair.

What is a representation?

A representation is a comment or complaint about County Council policy or procedure (rather than how we have applied a policy or procedure). A representation can also be made about allocation of resources or the nature or availability of services. We understand that the term ‘representation’ isn’t well known, so we will tell you if we think your comment or complaint is a representation as well as outlining the timescales and processes we will follow.

What happens when I make a representation?

We will let you know that we have received your representation and will show your representation to the Director responsible for the relevant subject area for them to consider. If your representation relates to a policy set by another organisation, we will advise you who you need to contact.

If the Director feels that the policy, legislation or funding decision should be changed, they can take it forward for further consideration and will advise you of our next steps. Please note: Cambridgeshire County Council’s elected members will then have the final decision on whether it is changed.

If the Director feels that the policy, legislation or funding decision is appropriate and should not be changed, we will let you know the reason for this decision, explaining that this is the Council’s final decision on this representation at this time. However, if we receive a significant number of similar representations, and it is within our power and responsibilities, we will consider re-investigating the concerns raised again.

The way we deal with complaints relating to children’s Social Care is set down by Central Government. As a result, the process and timescales for dealing with them may vary dependent upon the type of complaint or representation being made.

Who can use this process?

This procedure is for complaints in relation to children’s social care services.

Complaints following this procedure can be made by a child or young person who is subject to a Special Guardianship Order, is adopted, is or was Looked After, or is In Need. Complainants can also be a family member of such a young person, a foster carer, a current or former guardian, an adopter or prospective adopter, or a person who has applied for an assessment under section 14F(3) or (4). The complainant can also be such other person as the local authority considers has sufficient interest in the young person’s welfare.

Complaints made on behalf of a child

Where a complaint is received from a representative acting on behalf of a child or young person, the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team will seek to confirm where possible that the child or young person is happy for this to happen and that the complaint submitted reflects their views. The Council has the discretion to decide whether or not the representative is suitable to act in this capacity or has sufficient interest in the child’s welfare.

What can and cannot be complained about?

The Statutory Complaint procedure does not apply when the person wishing to complain does not meet the requirements of “who can use this process”.

We may not be able to investigate complaints if the event about which is being complained occurred earlier than 12 months prior to submitting the complaint.

Regulation 8 provides the local authority with discretion in deciding whether to consider complaints where to do so would prejudice a concurrent investigation, such as Court proceedings or Tribunals.

Complaints regarding children’s services that are not in relation to social care, such as Special Education Needs, Statutory Assessments for Education, Health and Care Plans, and Early Help intervention are observed under the Feedback Policy and do not follow statutory regulations. Additionally, where a complaint is received about Children's Social Care but isn't made on behalf of or relating to the child, then these concerns may be investigated as a Complaint under the Feedback Policy.

We are not able to investigate complaints which are regarding other agencies, such as health or education. In such circumstances, we will direct you to the applicable complaints policy with the relevant agency where reasonably possible.

The Statutory Complaint procedure does not apply when the same complaint has already been dealt with at all stages of the procedure.

Stage 1 - Local Resolution

On receiving your complaint, the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team will send you an acknowledgement, within 3 working days, explaining which manager will be investigating and responding to you, and the due date for the complaint response to be sent to you.

We will look into the issues you have raised and try to help. A written reply, via email, will usually be sent on or before 10 working days of receipt of your complaint. A holding letter will be sent if there is going to be a delay, with a maximum of 20 working days for the response to be sent.

We will always try to find a satisfactory resolution to your concern, and we may arrange a meeting with you.

Once all issues of your complaint have been responded to, if you remain dissatisfied after attempts at resolution have been made, your complaint may be escalated to the next stage of the complaint procedure.

Stage 2 - Independent Investigation

This stage involves the appointment of two independent people to investigate the complaint, all of whom have been Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checked and are taken on for single pieces of work for which they are paid an hourly rate.

With your written permission (and with the knowledge of any other person with Parental Responsibility), the independent people will offer to meet you to introduce themselves, review the relevant case files and interview key staff. The Investigating Officer writes the main report, including findings and recommendations, and the Independent Person writes a shorter supplementary report. Both reports are forwarded to the relevant senior manager within the service to be read and for a ‘letter of adjudication’.

From the date of your escalation request, our aim is to complete the investigation within 25 working days. A holding letter will be sent if there is going to be a delay, with a maximum of 65 working days for the investigation.

As with all expressions of dissatisfaction, the Children's Complaints and Feedback Team, together with the responding Manager, will attempt to find a resolution to any ongoing dissatisfaction prior to offering Stage 3.

If you remain unhappy with the response to your complaint, you are entitled to request escalation to Stage 3 where a further review by a panel of three independent people occurs.

Stage 3 - Panel Review

Request for a panel review must be made within 20 working days of the Stage 2 ‘letter of adjudication’. Upon the complaint being escalated to Stage 3, we aim to convene a review panel within 30 working days.

Unlike Stages 1 and 2, Stage 3 of the Statutory Complaint procedure is not another investigation. It is a panel of 3 independent people, not previously involved with the complaint, who consider if the complaint was properly investigated and whether there should have been different or additional findings and recommendations.

The panel review tends to take place over 2-3 hours, and will include the complainant(s), panel members, Stage 2 investigators, relevant Head of Service, relevant senior manager, Customer Care Manager, and a note-taker. The complainant(s) may be accompanied by an advocate if they choose.

Immediately following the panel review, the panel members meet in closed session. Within 5 working days of the panel review, the Panel Chair draws up the panel findings in consultation with the other Panel Members. Within 15 working

days of the panel findings being completed, the Assistant Director writes to the complainant with their response to the panel findings. This is the final stage of the Council's consideration of the complaint.

What's next?

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) can be approached by complainants at any point during the children’s social care complaint process but you will usually be redirected to the local authority for it to complete all 3 stages of its complaint procedure.

The LGO looks to see if there has been maladministration and makes recommendations to the local authority where it feels this has been the case.

For more information on feedback and complaints about Children's Services, please visit our website.

The Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations 2009 underline the importance of allowing flexibility in designing person-centred ways of resolving people’s concerns and complaints. Cambridgeshire County Council’s Adults Social Care Complaints Policy provides detailed information on how such feedback is processed.

Who can use this process?

A complaint may be made by:

  • A service user
  • Any person who is affected by, or likely to be affected by, an action, omission or decision of Cambridgeshire County Council if it is the subject of the complaint
  • A person acting on behalf of another, where:
  • The person themselves has requested that they act as their representative and has provided consent for them to do so
  • The person themselves is unable, by reason of physical or mental incapacity, to make a complaint on their own behalf
  • The person has died, and the representative is a relative or other person who, in the opinion of the Customer Care Manager, had or has sufficient interest in their welfare and is a suitable person to act on their behalf
  • A solicitor or legal representative on behalf of their client (see point 11.5 below)

What is outside the process?

We will not usually take a complaint if there is:

  • An investigation under the disciplinary procedure (eg. Local Authority ‘Disciplinary Policy and Procedure’)
  • An investigation by one of the professional regulatory bodies
  • An investigation of a possible criminal offence
  • An investigation under the Safeguarding Adults procedure
  • Legal proceedings or a claim for financial compensation
  • Twelve months from the date on which the matter which is the subject of the complaint occurred
  • Twelve months from the date on which the subject of the complaint came to the notice of the complainant

The complaints process

Most problems are resolved by speaking to the person you are dealing with or their manager.

If you are not able to resolve it this way please tell the Customer Care Team or the member of staff that you have already been dealing with.

The Customer Care Team will:

  • Explain the process and what to expect
  • Obtain details of your complaint and your desired outcomes
  • Acknowledge receipt of your complaint within 3 working days - summarising the nature and substance of the complaint
  • Coordinate an investigation into your concerns with relevant staff
  • Provide you with a written response within 25 working days from receipt – summarising the conclusions and findings; and including any apology, remedy, outcome or planned action

If you remain dissatisfied

Advise the Customer Care Team why you are dissatisfied. Any next steps to address your concerns can then be considered, for example:

  • Offering you an initial or additional meeting
  • Coordinating a further complaint response if all issues have not been addressed or more detail is required
  • Escalate to Senior Manager Review (SMR)
  • Signpost you to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO)

The way we deal with complaints relating to how we handle your personal information under Data Protection is outlined under law (for example, the General Data Protection Regulation). As a result, where a complaint relates to Data Protection matters your complaint will be reviewed and responded to by the Council’s Data Protection Officer (DPO).

Where a complaint covers more than one area, if there is any Data Protection elements to your complaint this will be investigated separately from your main complaint. We will endeavour to ensure you are given one comprehensive response but depending on the matter concerned we may need to issue a separate response to your Data Protection complaint.

How will your complaint be handled?

Your complaint will be investigated by the Information Governance Team within Cambridgeshire County Council and will be responded to within one month.

Where your request is complex, legislation allows us to extend this period for up to a further two months. If we need to apply this extension, we will inform you within one month of receipt of your original request. Once the investigation is complete this will be reviewed by the Data Protection Officer before the final response is issued to you.

Where you have exercised any of your rights under Data Protection law in your complaint, these will be responded to as part of your complaint.

Where can I get additional support?

If you are not satisfied with our response to your complaint you can contact the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) who oversees compliance with Data Protection laws within the United Kingdom. They can be contacted via: