WCHG’s overall performance on complaints handling has been strong for 2020/21.

Fewer formal complaints were received than the previous year (105 vs 119). However, of the 87 customers who provided feedback on the experience of complaining 80 (76%) were satisfied, which was down from 85% the previous year.

Informal complaints have increased while formal Stage One complaints have decreased.

This shows we have improved resolving complaints quicker before they are processed formally. Informal complaints have also captured service requests that have been sent to the Customer Feedback team as people use other  channels such as email/website to report issues.

This year 95 informal complaints came in via social media compared to 43 last year, with the most coming in the first lockdown period, quarter one (43). This increase can be explained by our ability to capture and record complaints at the first point of contact which are then sent directly to relevant managers to resolve.

Learning from complaints has also significantly improved during the year. with managers analysing complaints for potential service improvements in 98% of cases. This is up from 52% in 2019/20.

In 2020/21 the Ombudsman formally investigated two complaints from our residents. In both cases there was a finding of no maladministration and down from five formal investigations the previous year.

In July 2020, an equality review of customer complaint data was conducted to understand whether gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability impacted on a customers’ ability to access the complaints process or the outcome of the complaint.

The findings showed that:

  • male customers are less likely to complain to us than female customers.
  • female customers are more likely to resolve their complaint informally than male customers.
  • ethnicity, sexuality and disability do not seem to influence whether a customer complains to us, nor on how their complaint is resolved.
  • customers for whom we do not hold ethnicity or sexuality data are more likely to complain formally to us, than those for whom we hold this information.

Further work is being conducted during 2021/22 to improve customer profiling data and ensure that access to our complaints process continues to be widely promoted.

Almost half (46%) of complaints were upheld or partially upheld by managers. These complaints resulted in a range of service improvements outlined below.

Service improvements implemented in 2020/21 include:

  • developing a formal approach to reasonable adjustments and including this in the complaints policy.
  • introducing the option for customers to access an independent specialist third-party if communication has broken down.
  • asking managers to speak to the customer at Stage One of the complaints process when previously this was only required at Stage Two.
  • a monthly review of live Right to Buy cases to identify any over three months.
  • Following a boiler installation ensuring that the boxing in of pipework is checked and added to the snagging list.
  • amending the Notice to Quit procedure and developing a condolence letter where a family member is acting on behalf of deceased tenant.

Training

We have developed a new training programme for managers to ensure compliance with the Housing Ombudsman Complaints Handling Code that was launched in September 2020. This helps encourage a positive complaint handling culture that welcomes, value and hears resident feedback to make sure that we are learning from complaints and improving our services.