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Dealing with complaints - how we perform

Updated: 30 Jul 2014
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Complaints help us improve our service
Making a complaint

Complaints performance April 2012 – March 2013

The Housing Executive’s complaints procedure is a key element of improving our service to the public.
The procedure provides for a two tier process: first stage complaints are investigated by the Regional/Grants/Land & Property Managers as appropriate, and if still not satisfied, the complainant may then appeal to the Chief Executive at the second stage.
Where a complainant, after Stage 2, remains dissatisfied, they have recourse to the Commissioner for Complaints who may decide to investigate the case independently of the Housing Executive.

Context

A complaint is not looked upon as a negative to the Housing Executive and its staff but as a valuable vehicle for ensuring the delivery of a high quality service to the customer. The Housing Executive places importance on trying to resolve complaints at an early stage. This is one of the reasons that home visits (when appropriate) play an important role at the first stage of the Complaints Process.
Response times alongside the quality of response are closely monitored. While it is important to meet the deadline, some cases, because of the complex nature of the complaint, take longer to resolve than others. The principle that is adopted is that an early response should not be at the expense of a full and thorough investigation.

Key issues 2012 /2013

A full review of the complaints process was carried out in January 2013. The proposals aimed to streamline the system and take account of new structures within the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. These proposals are currently being considered.
Internal Audit carried out an audit of the policy and procedures of the Complaints Process during April and May. This has been completed. The result was a ‘Satisfactory’ outcome, but with a number of recommendations made.

Performance 2012 /2013

During the last year, a total of 329 formal complaints were received.  This compares with 470 received in each of the previous two years. Of the 14 cases investigated by the Commissioner for Complaints in 2012/13, only one was upheld.
In the single Commissioner for Complaints case, maladministration was found in respect of the Housing Executive’s poor communication with the complainant and failure to keep adequate records.
The Chief Executive issued an apology to the complainant and a directive was issued to all relevant staff to reinforce the importance of the issues highlighted.
One of the objectives of the complaints procedure is to act promptly to resolve the complaint, thereby reducing the flow of complaints from one stage to the next. During the year 2012/13, 237 First stage complaints were dealt with and 78 went on to the second stage.
We aim to respond to all complaints within 15 working days. Our target is to adhere to this in at least 90% of cases. For the first time this performance target was not met. The overall performance, for complaints, excluding informal complaints was 71%. The target of 90% is a challenging one, but clearly restructuring and significant staffing changes have caused delays.

Performance tables

Performance 1 April 2012 – March 2013

Stage 1 Stage 2 Commissioner Total
Within 15 days 184 (78%) 45 (58%) 6 (43%) 235 (71%)
Total 237 78 14 329

Complaints statistics break down of areas 2012/13

Complaints Overall Amount Under 15 days Percentage
1st Stage Belfast 61 56 92%
1st Stage North (inc West) 79 55 70%
1st Stage Grants 17 15 88%
1st Stage Land & Property 1 1 100%
2nd Stage Housing & Regeneration 67 36 54%
2nd Stage Grants 8 6 75%
2nd Stage Land & Property 3 3 100%
Commissioner 14 6 43%
Overall 329 235 71%

Performance table for first quarterly figures 01/04/13 – 30/06/13

Complaints Overall Amount Under 15 days Percentage
1st Stage Belfast 13 12 92%
1st Stage South East 9 8 89%
1st Stage South 5 4 80%
1st Stage North (inc West) 24 15 63%
1st Stage Grants 0 0 0%
1st Stage Land & Property 2 2 100%
2nd Stage Housing & Regeneration 14 8 57%
2nd Stage Grants 5 5 100%
2nd Stage Land & Property 0 0 0%
Commissioner 1 1 100%
Overall 73 55 75%

Nature of complaints

Complaints received tend to be mainly from Housing and Regeneration with over half relating to maintenance and repairs. Other significant areas are Housing Benefit, neighbour disputes and staff attitude.
Problems identified during the investigation of complaints are monitored and, where appropriate, issues are highlighted with a view to improving service or procedures. In addition, where the Ombudsman makes a recommendation with regard to policy or procedural changes, these are followed up with the relevant Division.
The informal part of the Complaints System is used and monitored only by Housing and Regeneration. That showed that 371 informal complaints had been logged last year with approximately 40% of these related to repairs and maintenance.