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Overview of the complaints we receive and lessons learnt

Complaint information

Performance is reported twice a year.

2020-21 – a year of challenge

Graph to illustrate the Get it sorted (GIS) scores. Details of the graph are in the table below.

Graph to illustrate the Get it sorted (GIS) scores. Details of the graph are in the table below.

Summary
Complaints 2020/21 2019/20
Get It Sorted (GIS)

2,311

(64/1000 properties)

2,164

(60/1000 properties)

Stage 1 17 (1%) 45 (2.1%)
Stage 2 10 (0.6%) 8 (0.4%)
GIS resolved within timescale 83% 74%
Stage 1 resolved within timescale 88% N/a
Stage 2 resolved within timescale 70% N/a
Average complaints that went overdue on timescales 17% 26%
Average days overdue by 3 5
Ombudsman queries 10 15
Ombudsman cases 3 0
Ombudsman cases upheld 1 3**        
Ombudsman cases not upheld 0* 2**
Compliments 511 400
Compliment category

Well mannered,

kind, professional

Helpful, tidy, polite, explaining work

* 2 cases have not yet been determined.
** The 3 complaints upheld and 2 complaints not upheld by the Housing Ombudsman were cases opened in 2018/19 but the findings from the Ombudsman were not received until 2019/20.

The first six months of the financial year (April to September 2020) was dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected all our lives. There was also an immediate impact on Together Housing and the way we operated – from closing our offices to carrying out emergency repairs only.

The graph above shows that there was a corresponding drop in our complaint levels at the start of lockdown, but as services and interactions started returning, so did our feedback.   Expectations of our services continued to be high and complaints remained above last year’s levels.

The second half of the year (October 2020 to March 2021) saw added pressure on services as staff and contractors were also being affected by quarantine requirements, leaving resources in some services reduced at short notice. Our timescales extended and resulted in some increased dissatisfaction and complaints.  Some residents were concerned about having anyone from outside of their household inside their home, but we always checked if they were happy to allow us to enter to carry out our work and offered alternatives where possible.

Despite the challenges the pandemic has posed, the number of complaints that were escalated reduced from last year and the number of Housing Ombudsman enquiries also fell.  Compliments increased, showing we also got a lot right with our service delivery.

Complaints by service area

Complaints by service area: Repairs 1,325 (57%); Gas 203 (8.7%); Neighbourhoods 163 (7%).

Recurring themes for these areas are: –

Repairs – Appointment times, time taken to complete work or subsequent follow-up jobs, contractor performance and quality of work.

Despite the country coming out of lockdown briefly in late summer and a desire to resume a ‘normal’ repair service, the impact of technician’s (and our contractors) having to self-isolate at short notice meant that appointment times were cancelled or pushed back.

We carried out around 100,000 repairs over the year and not all can be rectified at the first visit, which we know can be disruptive.

Examples of learning include: –

Updating our repairs pledge; communicating our service offer as we come out of lockdown; refreshed contractor terms and conditions; improved parts availability for technicians.

Neighbourhoods – Disputing decisions, incorrect information and not keeping people informed.

“The tenant is unhappy as she said the Neighbourhood officer did not explain correctly and is disappointed with communication throughout the process”.

We quality check a sample of calls to ensure messages and discussions are clear.

Gas – Multiple boiler failures, time taken to resolve and wait for parts. Complaint total up to 203 from 179 last year.

Over the year there have been just over 63,000 gas-related jobs – servicing, repair and fitting of new central heating boilers.

Parts availability has now improved reducing the time customers must wait.

We are reducing the number of re-visits for gas problems year on year and access to people’s homes is improving.

Equality & Diversity

We monitor the profile of complainants based on the information provided to us and do this against all nine protected characteristics (e.g. age, ethnicity, gender etc.).  We do this analysis to ensure that we are providing a fair service to all our tenants.

Analysis has shown that the age profile of complainants generally reflects the population of Together Housing. More females complain (65%) than men (34%).  Our baseline profile shows we have more female tenants (57%) than males (41%).

Last year there were slightly more tenants from ethnic minorities that made complaints than the wider tenant population (12% against 9%).  This year however, we are pleased to report that the figure has reduced as there were 9.6% of our complainants from tenants from ethnic minorities against a baseline of 8.6%. Similarly, around 74% of complainants were white British against a baseline of 77%.

In an independent audit, it was “found that THG was able to evidence the Group’s policy regarding impartiality and the protective characteristics of the individual had been considered, with no instances of discrimination towards the individual making a complaint”.

Dissatisfaction

We introduced an option for our staff to record issues that are not complaints (as there was no service failure), but that through analysis could highlight areas of concern that may lead to policy changes.  We had over 653 notes of ‘dissatisfaction’. This was a slight rise from last year (500).  These were largely about issues where we were not in breach of policy e.g. people believing that their situation is an ‘emergency’ but it is not defined as such in our policy.

Analysis shows that the figures increased when we made a temporary change to our repairs policy – carrying out emergency repairs only.  This was because of the Covid-19 pandemic which impacted on our technicians and contractors in particular.

There were also slightly more enquiries from MP’s (Member of Parliament) during the year, (157) with most being queries around allocations, anti-social behaviour and progress with repairs.  None this year required further investigation.

Learning points

Key to improving our service is using the information from complaints to learn about what could be changed.  Over the months there have been several actions that we have taken to address some of the issues highlighted by the improved complaint data.

There are several changes we have made to our processes and we continue to look at the issues raised and contribute to the “You Said, We Did” sections of our website and customer magazine.

Examples are set out below: –

Issue Solution

General – Regular contact being made chasing information and/or appointments.

Dissatisfaction with timescales.

Contractors not always performing to same levels as in-house staff.

Review of service standard response times to ensure they are adequate e.g. 5 days for e-mail.

We improved the level and type of communication with our residents to help them understand the impact of the backlog of repairs jobs due to the lockdown and the quarantining of staff.

Improved contractor Terms and Conditions clarifying responsibilities.

Neighbourhoods – pest control – inconsistencies in approach and pricing between Local Authorities. New processes have been developed due to a change in responsibility for pest control.
Fencing – dissatisfaction with timescales. Jobs are risk assessed to pick up priorities e.g. where there is a safety concern.

Appointments – Communication when making changes.

 

We call customers to let them know about changes to appointments. Sometimes customers don’t answer their phone because they don’t recognise our telephone number.  We will remind them when reporting a repair to add our number as a ‘known’ contact.

Contractor issues can also be a source of complaint.  We use complaint data to support discussions that lead to improvement or for decision making at contract renewal.

Housing Ombudsman

We have now met our obligation to publish a self-assessment against the Housing Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code, published in July 2020.  This was reviewed by our Tenant Scrutiny Group to ensure it was easy to understand.  Since publication we have started to monitor satisfaction with complaint handling and are also setting up a resident review group to look at some case studies.

We also reviewed our complaints policy with over 200 residents to make sure it was relevant and easy to understand.

The Housing Ombudsman has recently established a tenant panel and invited applications from across the country.  We are pleased to report that four Together Housing residents were asked to be a part of this.  We wish them well in this role.

We continue to encourage our residents to complain so that we can understand what matters to them and compare this with other feedback from our surveys, scrutiny projects and resident engagement functions.

In 2019/20 there were no new cases to the Housing Ombudsman, but five were ‘determined’ from the previous year.  This year, we have had just one determination and two that are still under review.

Some customers have been contacting the Housing Ombudsman before making a complaint to us, so the Resolution Team contact them in order to understand their concerns and then work with their colleagues to resolve – also informing the Housing Ombudsman of our actions.

Compliments

We received over 500 compliments from our tenants and residents.  We value positive feedback and encourage our customers to let us know when we have given them great service.  By understanding what people appreciate, we can encourage our staff to keep doing it!  Being polite, friendly, helpful and tidy are always well received.

“[The resident] Would like to thank the man who came and restored heat and hot water – she really appreciates how hard it must be for our techs during the Pandemic.”

“Tenant very happy with our service as plumber arranged for contractors to come out really fast and the repair completed.  She wanted to pass this on to plumber and say thank you for a great service.”

Compensation

We recognise that unnecessary delays or failing to do something we should have done can cause disruption and distress.  We can recognise this by paying compensation, but please remember, we will take account of several factors before deciding on a proportionate amount to pay. In addition, this discretionary payment can be off set against any arrears on the tenancy.

We have paid out £50,902 this year, compared with £70,000 last year. Most payments are for excessive delays, damage and recognising that the service provided was not as good as it should be.

Please check to make sure you have contents insurance.  For example, we will repair any leaks that occur, but it is your responsibility to have insurance should these leaks cause any damage to flooring or your possessions. Check out our website for details of our compensation policy and also great value insurance cover.

Conclusion

We continue to value the feedback provided through our complaints process and are also now tying this into other data from the Resident Engagement Team, Rant & Rave scores (the satisfaction surveys by text following a contact or repair) and our scrutiny function so we have a comprehensive understanding of feedback from you and what it is telling us.

By understanding the impact our services have on the people we serve, we can learn and make changes that aim to improve both satisfaction for you and efficiency for us so that we can re-invest in our existing properties and build new ones for future generations.

We encourage you to look at our website first as there is plenty of information here that might help you – including how complaints are managed.

About Us Openness and transparency When things go wrong – Dealing with complaints Overview of the complaints we receive and lessons learnt