Council complaints handling comes under scrutiny

Members of the Scrutiny Committee will discuss two reports about complaints handling in Perth & Kinross Council when they meet next Wednesday (3 December).

Members of the Scrutiny Committee will discuss two reports about complaints handling in Perth & Kinross Council when they meet next Wednesday (3 December).

One report looks at the numbers of complaints made to the Council as a whole, while the second focusses specifically on the way in which complaints are handled within schools.

The Council introduced a new complaints handling procedure in April 2013, in line with national guidance produced by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). Having one agreed approach to complaints means that the Council can, for the first time, effectively benchmark its performance in complaints against other local authorities.

Anyone who makes a complaint to the Council and remains unsatisfied can, if they have exhausted the Council’s complaints procedure, then ask the SPSO to look into the matter.

The reports being considered by the Committee show that the number of complaints made to the SPSO against Perth & Kinross Council from April 2013 to March 2014 are within the range of the national average for local authorities.

The level of complaints focussing on social work, finance and housing services provided by Perth & Kinross Council are below average.

Schools in Perth and Kinross handle complaints in a number of ways, depending on the seriousness of the matter. Most complaints are raised directly with the class teacher in primary schools and the guidance teacher in secondary schools and in most cases can be resolved quickly by staff within the school.

The updated complaints procedure has only been operational for one full academic year, August 2013-June 2014. During that period the report being considered at committee shows that 57 issues were resolved at the initial stage in primary schools and 38 in secondary schools. Headteachers record issues that have been raised and monitor these issues to identify any trends which relate to staff, policies or procedures which could then result in further action for example, problems between pupils.

Councillor Alexander Stewart, Convener of the Scrutiny Committee said: “It is important that the Council takes all complaints extremely seriously. If someone feels strongly enough about an issue to make a complaint then it is important that this is resolved, if possible, and that the findings of any investigation are used to make improvements.

“It is reassuring that the majority of complaints against Perth & Kinross Council are resolved at the first contact, and that the number of complaints which end up being referred to the SPSO are within the average range for Scottish local authorities. However, it is important to be aware that there are a number of complaints which are upheld, or partially upheld, by the Ombudsman and it is of vital importance that we learn from those mistakes and the issues that they raise to ensure that services are improved for the future.”

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