Item 13.4 - Attachment 1

Draft Customer Compliments & Complaints Policy 2009

 

 

Customers Compliments and Complaints Policy

 

Background:

This policy relates to the capturing, handling, and resolution of Compliments and Complaints about Parramatta City Council, including their capture, handling, resolution and reporting.

 

Objective:

To bring alive Councilís guiding principles, including Councilís commitment to customer service, integrity, and accountability by providing the community with a method of making compliments and complaints that is consistent, transparent and accountable, and providing Council with the means to identify areas which need improvement.

 

Scope:

This policy applies across all areas of Council

 

Relationship to Legislation:

Whilst not relating to legislation, this policy is based on the guidelines set out by the NSW Ombudsman in The Complaint Handlerís Tool Kit, May 2000.This policy also acknowledges the authority of the Ombudsman Act 1974, the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 and the NSW Child Protection (Prohibited Employment) Act 1998 in establishing the processes applicable to complaints about staff working with children.

 

Related Strategies, Plans or Policies:

This Policy is related to the Compliments and Complaints Handling Procedures , Human Resources Policy 4 Working with Children Policy and the Code of Conduct

 


 

 

POLICY CONTENT

 

Aim................................................................................................................ 3

Customer Request Framework..................................................................... 3

Definitions..................................................................................................... 3

What is a compliment........................................................................................................... 3

What is a complaint.............................................................................................................. 3

What is not a complaint........................................................................................................ 3

Who is a complainant........................................................................................................... 4

What is transparency............................................................................................................ 4

What is natural justice.......................................................................................................... 4

What is maladministration................................................................................................... 4

Our Commitments......................................................................................... 4

What are Council's Commitments?.................................................................................... 4

What are Compliments?................................................................................ 5

Why are compliments valuable?......................................................................................... 5

How will compliments be handled....................................................................................... 5

Complaints.................................................................................................... 5

Why are complaints valuable............................................................................................... 5

Handling Compliments and Complaints......................................................... 5

How will complaints be treated........................................................................................... 5

How do we receive compliments and complaints............................................................. 5

What are Council's deadlines............................................................................................. 6

What will be done with your information............................................................................. 6

Complaints of a personal nature......................................................................................... 6

Complaints about Councillors............................................................................................. 7

Complainants who are abusive or unreasonable.............................................................. 7

Anonymous Complaints....................................................................................................... 7

Complaints constituting a breach of law............................................................................ 7

Complaints against staff working with children................................................................. 7

Corruption, Maladministration & serious and substantial wastage................................. 8

Complaints that Council will not act on............................................................................... 8

Cultural diversity and special circumstances..................................................................... 8

Exploration of options and consequences......................................................................... 8

How will we handle complaints............................................................................................ 8

Your rights to appeal............................................................................................................ 8


 

 

1.††††††† Aim

Parramatta City Council seeks to measure and monitor its service to provide members of the community with the highest possible service and commitment.

 

2.††††††† Customer Request Framework

There are a number of different mechanisms for persons who wish to raise concerns about the conduct or services of Council and its staff.This policy provides guidance on the response that customers can expect when they contact Council to complain about its services, conduct, staff, and Councillors.

 

FEEDBACK FRAMEWORK

 

3.††††††† Definitions

 

3.1.††††††††††††††† What is a compliment

A compliment is an expression of praise or regard for service received or performance given.

 

3.2.††††††††††††††† What is a complaint

A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with the quality of the service provided by Parramatta City Council.This includes dissatisfaction with the outcome of a decision, level or quality of service, the failure to adhere to a policy or procedure, or behaviour of an employee or agent, which can be investigated and acted upon.

 

3.3.††††††††††††††† What is not a complaint

For the purposes of this policy, the following are not classified as a Ďcomplaintí:

3.3.1.††††††† A request for service (unless there was no response to a first request for service)

3.3.2.††† A request for information or an explanation of a policy or procedure.

3.3.3.††† Disagreement with a lawfully made decision of the Council.

3.3.4.††††††† An appeal or representation against a decision, other than that made as the result of a complaint.

3.3.5.††† An objection to a development application

3.3.6.††† A disagreement made with the decision made on a development application.

3.3.7.††† An internal grievance

3.3.8.††††††† An appeal or request for internal review where the right and process of appeal is established by statute (eg. Internal review under the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act (NSW) 1998)

3.3.9.††††††† A complaint against a member of the public, such as a complaint about a barking dog, unauthorised building work, noise etc.

 

 

3.4.††††††††††††††† Who is a Complainant

A complainant is any person wishing to provide feedback about Councilís services which expresses dissatisfaction with a decision, level or quality of service, failure to adhere to a policy or procedure, or behaviour of an employee, Councillor or agent, which can be investigated and acted upon

 

3.5.What is transparency

Transparency means that the process used to handle and resolve complaints is fair and is seen to be fair. This principle refers to the way in which policies and procedures are made clear, visible and comprehensible to all those using them. Nothing should occur that could not easily be explained to any party to a complaint. Whether making a complaint, being complained about, or witness to an investigation, everyone should understand how information will be used; the role of all those involved in handling the complaint or playing any part in the process, and their own rights and responsibilities.

We seek to be transparent in the decision making process. It means that resolutions or other decisions should always be accompanied by an explanation of the process used to make the decision and the reason why the decision was reached.

 

3.6.††††††††††††††† What is Natural Justice

The following natural justice principles have been identified by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and are required to be addressed and implemented by Council:

3.6.1.††††††† Who ever is the subject of concern must know all the allegations in relation to their behaviour;

3.6.2.††††††† All parties to the complaint must have the right to be heard;

3.6.3.††††††† All relevant submissions and evidence must be considered;

3.6.4.††††††† Matters which are not relevant must not be taken into account;

3.6.5.††††††† The person who makes the complaint must not determine the matter;

3.6.6.††††††† The decision-maker must be fair and just.

 

Further to this, we will address and implement the following principle:

3.6.7.††††††† All parties involved have the right to seek review of the complaint determination

3.6.8.††††††† The person who is the subject of the complaint must not determine the matter.

 

 

3.7.††††††††††††††† What is Maladministration

The Protected Disclosures Act 1994 defines maladministration as conduct of a kind involves action or inaction of a serious nature that is:

3.7.1.††††††† contrary to law, or

3.7.2.††††††† unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory

3.7.3.††††††† based wholly or partly on improper motives

Further detailed guidance in relation to maladministration is provided in the Protected Disclosures Act 1994.

 

4.†† Our Commitments

 

4.1.††††††††††††††† What are Council's commitments?

We are committed to: -

Providing an accessible compliment/complaints system,

Listening to what the citizen has to say,

Seeking to understand what the citizen wants,

Respecting the customerís integrity,

Giving an explanation,

Considering all aspects of the complaint including possible solutions and the impact of the solutions on other members of the community,

Taking action, if required, within a reasonable time, and keeping the complainant informed.

 

5.†† Compliments

 

5.1.††††††††††††††† Why are Compliments valuable

Compliments give us an opportunity to identify services and areas of best practice by staff, and incorporate those practices and standards in other areas of Council.

 

5.2.††††††††††††††† How will Compliments be handled

Compliments will be registered in Councilís Customer Relationship Management System, and actioned to the appropriate area manager.Compliments will be reported to the General Management Team on a regular basis, to ensure that staff are recognised and examples of best practice identified and acknowledged.

 

 

6.††††††† Complaints

 

6.1.††††††††††††††† Why are complaints valuable?

Complaints give us an opportunity to identify and resolve issues of concern to members of the community. Complaints may bring to our attention issues regarding:

6.1.1.††† an administrative decision making process or procedure;

6.1.2.††† the conduct of a member of Council staff, a Councillor, or an agent of Council;;

6.1.3.††† the conduct of another resident in a matter before Council;

6.1.4.††† the delivery of Council services;

6.1.5.††† timeliness to take appropriate action on a request;

6.1.6.††† facilities and resources available; and

6.1.7.††††††† discrimination and/or harassment of a complainant or group of complainants on the basis of their age, gender, race, country of origin, sexuality, marital status, pregnancy, disability, transgender, medical record, religion, criminal record, political belief or union activity.

Complaints provide us a valuable feedback mechanism, and are welcomed as an opportunity for us to improve its services and performance.

 

 

7.††††††† Handling Compliments and Complaints

 

7.1.††††††††††††††† How will complaints be treated

Complaints will be treated confidentially according to the principles in the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act (NSW) 1998.

 

Wherever possible complaints will be resolved and reviewed locally and have the fewest people necessary involved. Complaints are treated confidentially and information is only used for the purposes for which it was collected unless;

7.1.1.††† either the consent of the individual(s) is obtained, or

7.1.2.††††††† We have reasonable grounds for believing the use of the information will reduce a threat to the life or health of any person, or

7.1.3.††† The use is authorised or compelled by law.

 

Where a complaint relates to a number of issues, such as the conduct of a staff member and the outcome of a decision made, Council may handle these matters as separate complaints.

 

7.2.††††††††††††††† How do we receive Compliments and Complaints

We may receive complaints through the;

7.2.1.††††††† internet -the complaint will be registered and directed to the appropriate person;

7.2.2.††††††† mail Ė Sent to Records, will be registered and directed to the appropriate person;

7.2.3.††††††† email - The Council officer in receipt will be responsible for registering the complaint compliment and actioning it to the appropriate person;

7.2.4.††††††† in person, by using the Counter Compliment and Complaint Form which will then be registered and directed to the appropriate person, or,

7.2.5.††††††† via telephone, by calling customer service on 9806 5050.

 

Where possible, an interpreter will be made available to assist with verbal complaints and completion of forms.

 

 

7.3.††††††††††††††† What are Councilís deadlines

Complaints are handled in a timely manner with achievable deadlines clearly stated for each stage in the resolution of a complaint. In order to comply with the recommendation of the Ombudsman Council's performance standard for responding to a complaint is that it will be acknowledged within 10 working days, and resolved in approximately 28 days.Where a complaint is complex, technical or requires additional time to search for the required information, we will negotiate with the citizen to review the timeframe for the response.

 

The time taken to resolve a complaint is one of the measures of the success of our ability to effectively resolve complaints. Perceived unnecessary delay is usually the single biggest complaint made about the complaints process.

 

Where a complaint is not clearly identified as a complaint, meeting these deadlines may not be possible.Where a complaint is misdirected due to poor identification, these deadlines shall apply from the date that the relevant Council officer becomes aware of the complaint.The complainant will be made aware of this delay.

To ensure that complaints are directed correctly, written complaints should be clearly and immediately identified as such.

 

7.4.††††††††††††††† What will be done with your information

 

Your personal information will be used by Council Officers in relation to investigating and handling your compliment / complaint.If you take your complaint to the Ombudsman, we will share any relevant information relating to your complaint with the Ombudsman.

 

Information you provide in relation to Compliments will be used to recognise good service by staff and identify best practice within Council.

 

Statistical information will be used to identify areas/services/procedures that need review or that may need additional resources to provide the required level of service to our Customers.In the case of compliments about our service or our staff, we will use that information to reward our staff, through the celebrating Success initiative as well as identify what works well so that we may use those principles in other areas.

 

Statistical information will be reported to Managers monthly and to the CEO every three months.A report will also be presented to Council every three months. The report will consist of the number of compliments / complaints received in service areas, the number of complaints attended to and the number of complaints outstanding.Where it is requested, statistical information may be more detailed.

 

 

7.5.††††††††††††††† Complaints of a Personal Nature

As representatives of the Council, complaints about Councilís staff and agents will be taken seriously. Complaints of a personal nature will be handled differently than Complaints against a service level or decision.To ensure confidentiality and compliance with relevant legislation, complaints of a personal nature will NOT be entered into our service request system, rather, they are to be stored in the appropriate confidential TRIM folders.

 

The Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (PPIPA) defines personal information as:

††††† information or an opinion (including information or an opinion forming part of a database and whether or not recorded in a material form) about an individual whose identity is apparent or can reasonably be ascertained from the information or opinion.

 

A Ďpersonal complaintí will be taken to mean any complaint by an individual against another individual that includes such Ďpersonal informationí about either party.This includes:

7.5.1.††††††† A complaint about the conduct of a member of Council staff or management

7.5.2.††††††† A complaint about the conduct of a Council contractor or volunteer

†††††††††††

 

Personal complaints do not include:

7.5.3.††††††† Complaints about decisions made by staff Ė with such complaints council will focus on the quality of the decision made, not the staff member who made it.

 

Where possible, complaints of a personal nature will be handled in such a manner to protect the Privacy of both the person who is the subject of the complaint and the complainant.

 

7.6.††††††††††††††††††††† Complaints about Councillors

As elected community representatives, complaints about Councillors are treated seriously.In accordance with the requirements of the NSW Model Code, complaints against Councillors will be handled in accordance with Councilís Code of Conduct

 

 

7.7.††††††††††††††††††††† Complainants who are abusive or unreasonable

In any interaction with members of the community where personal abuse or vulgar language is used, the communication may be terminated immediately by the employee. If face to face, the employee should walk away.If on a telephone, the employee will terminate the call. If in email, it may be blocked.If in correspondence, it will be returned to the sender and not acted upon. Before doing so, an employee will advise the complainant that they are terminating communication, and will not discuss the matter further.

 

We identify three main types of unreasonable complainant:

 

7.7.1.††††††† Those that become physically or verbally aggressive. The safety of employees and other members of the community is paramount.

7.7.2.††††††† Those that make substantial and unreasonable demands on the workload and resources of Council.

7.7.3.††† Vexatious complainants whose aim is to annoy and irritate.

 

In the case of an unreasonable complaint or complainant, the complaint will be recorded but no further action will be taken.†† The CEO may approve and sign correspondence notifying the complainant that Council has implemented the full review process in relation to their complaint, and will not review the process further. The CEO will confer with the Lord Mayor in such circumstances.This step will only be taken as a last resort, where all other avenues of resolution have failed.

 

If the employee feels threatened by the language or behaviour of the complainant, the police shall be notified.

 

7.8.††††††††††††††††† Anonymous Complaints

In line with the Ombudsmanís own practices, anonymous complaints will only be acted upon where the matter is relatively serious, and there is sufficient information in the complaint to enable an investigation to be conducted.

 

7.9.††††††††††††††††† Complaints Constituting a Breach of Law

Where a complaint indicates that a crime has been committed, we will report this information to the relevant law enforcement body, subject to the approval of the CEO.

 

 

7.10.††††††††††††† Complaints Against Staff Working with Children

Complaints against staff working directly with Children will be handled in accordance with the relevant legislation, specifically the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998, the Ombudsman Act 1974 and the NSW Child Protection (Prohibited Employment) Act 1998, which mandate a specific approach to the handling and reporting of complaints about staff working with children.Further information about this process is contained within Human Resources Policy 4 Working With Children.

 

7.11.††††††† Corruption, maladministration, serious and substantial wastage

We are committed to maintaining high ethical standards. Therefore it is everyoneís responsibility to not only act honestly but to report any instances of possible corruption, maladministration or serious and substantial wastage. Anyone who acts in an unethical manner can not only damage the reputation of the Council but also its Councillors and employees.

 

You can report suspected instances in accordance with this policy. You can also report suspected corruption to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (02 8281 5999), suspected maladministration to the Ombudsman (9286 1000) and suspected serious and substantial wastage to the Director General of the Department of Local Government (Sydney 02 9289 4000) (Head Office, Nowra 02 4428 4100)

 

7.12.††††††††††††† Complaints that Council will not act on

We will not act on a complaint if in doing so it would:

1.††† Be against our legal duties as an employer,

2.Be an unreasonable invasion of a personís privacy, according to Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998.

3.Be excessively wasteful of Councilís resources. We have a duty to spend community funds in an efficient and effective manner,

4.Encourage or allow unethical behaviour.

 

7.13.††††††††††††† Cultural diversity and special circumstances

Barriers which deter or prevent complainants from accessing the complaints system will be identified and we will take steps to make access possible.

We are committed to dealing with complaints with thoroughness and sensitivity to the diversity of the community.This diversity includes country of origin, gender, Indigenous Australian complaints, religion, sexuality and disabilities.

 

7.14.††††† Exploration of options and consequences

Unintended consequences will be avoided by exploring all of the options available with the complainant.

 

7.15.††††††††††††† How will we handle complaints

Our policy to handle compliments and complaints will be to use a set of procedures which contain the following elements:

 

7.15.1.†††††† It is a user-friendly system for accepting citizen feedback.

7.15.2.†††††† Clear delegations and procedures for staff to deal with complaints and provide remedies.

7.15.3.†††††† Staff must follow clear referral steps if the matter cannot be resolved by the initial review.

7.15.4.†††††† A procedure and forms for recording, monitoring and providing feedback to the complaint.

7.15.5.†††††† Performance standards are in place for response times and the quality of Council's response.

7.15.6.†††††† Methods for dealing with different types of complaints and complainants.

7.15.7.†††††† Council's Service request system (known as Customer Relationship Management) and records management system log, record and track complaints, the outcomes and feedback.

 

 

 

7.16.††††††††††††† Your Rights to Appeal

Should the complainant be unsatisfied with the handling or determination of a complaint, they may request that an internal review of the complaint be conducted.An internal review will be conducted by a staff member not involved in the investigation of the initial complaint, and will look at the quality of the original investigation.An internal review will only re-investigate a complaint where the original investigation is found to be lacking.

 

Should the complainant continue to be unhappy with the handling or determination of the complaint, the complainant may take the matter to the NSW Ombudsman.The Ombudsman can be contacted in New South Wales on (02) 9286 1000.

 

 

 

 

8.††††††† Administration

8.1.†† Authorisation

This policy was adopted by Council on October 31, 2005.Minute No. 8156 City Leadership and Management.

Amendments to this policy were adopted by Council at its meeting of Ö.

 

8.2.†† Review

This policy is scheduled for review on an annual basis

 

8.3.†† Version

3

 

8.4.†† Owner

The Service Audit and Review Unit is responsible for the management of this policy.

 

Policy Number 216