Regulator publishes inquiry report into complaints handling

Christine Macleod
Christine Macleod

A national inquiry report into how social landlords handle complaints has found that while most landlords have accessible complaints policies and handle complaints well, some could do more to promote their complaints policy, and make better use of feedback.

Published yesterday by the Scottish Housing Regulator, ‘Complaints Handling by Social Landlords in Scotland: A thematic inquiry’ looked at how social landlords handle complaints and how they apply the standards in the Scottish Social Housing Charter and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman’s Model Complaints Handling Policy.

Focusing on 12 case study landlords, the report examined how social landlords promote their complaints policy and how straightforward it is to complain. It also looked at how landlords use complaints to improve services, and what information landlords give tenants and other service users about their complaints handling performance.

The case study landlords, selected for closer study because they covered large and small landlords, urban and rural areas, and care services and housing services providers, were Ardenglen Housing Association, Berwickshire Housing Association, Dundee City Council, Faifley Housing Association, Glasgow West Housing Association, Hanover (Scotland) Housing Association, Key Housing Association, Osprey Housing, Renfrewshire Council, West of Scotland Housing Association, Williamsburgh Housing Association and Yorkhill Housing Association.

Overall the report found that most of the landlords it examined welcomed complaints, had accessible complaints policies and handled complaints well. However some need to be more open to complaints, be more responsive to complaints, and make better use of feedback from complaints to improve their services.

Most of the 12 landlords the Regulator spoke to welcomed complaints and provided information for tenants and other service users that was clear and accessible on the front page of their websites. This was in contrast to those where simple information such as how to make a complaint was not easily accessible.

Those landlords that made it easy for tenants and other service users to make a complaint, often had senior managers and/or governing bodies/elected committees that promoted, and took an active interest in, complaints handling.

While most frontline staff in case study landlords were knowledgeable and helpful, in a small number of cases frontline staff were unable to provide advice about, or explain the complaints procedure when asked for help to make a complaint.

The Regulator saw good examples from the majority of landlords who used the data collected to monitor performance, analyse trend information and provide detailed reports to senior management and or governing body members/elected members.

These landlords also tended to report performance and the complaint outcomes to tenants and service users. In a small number of cases, the Regulator found that although information was recorded, little was done with the information collected.

The Regulator recommended that landlords should value complaints and take advantage of the opportunities to improve services as a result of complaints. It saw examples in some of the 12 landlords where their tenants and other service users worked together to do this.

Others, it added, need to do more to embed a culture that values complaints as a way of improving services.

Christine Macleod, director of regulation (governance & performance), said the report highlights the importance of social landlords handling complaints well.

Ms Macleod added: “An open and responsive approach to complaints can help landlords improve the services they provide. When something goes wrong, tenants and other service users need to be able to find out how to make a complaint, and for it to be considered quickly and thoroughly.

“We found most of the landlords we looked at are doing this well. But some need to do more to improve how they handle complaints. We’ve shared positive practice and recommended ways landlords can improve how they deal with complaints.”

The Regulator’s thematic inquiry involved in-depth landlord case studies and mystery shopping by its tenant advisors. The Regulator also spoke directly with tenants on its National Panel of Tenants and Service Users and analysed national performance information.

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