Corporate complaints team privacy notice

Online council services

Who we are and what we do?

We are the council’s corporate complaints team.  We investigate complaints at Stage 2 of the council’s corporate complaints procedure on behalf of the council’s Chief Executive. We provide a support function to colleagues in adult social care and children’s services in relation to the handling of complaints made under the statutory social care complaints procedure. We provide guidance and support to colleagues across the council in matters of complaints handling.  We act as the liaison point between the council and ombudsmen services (such as the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and the Housing Ombudsman Service) in the handling and investigation of complaints made against the council.

We use information that you provide us with when you submit your complaint.  This will usually include your name, your address, your contact details, details of your complaint and any supporting documents that you choose to provide to support your complaint.

In order that we can deal with your complaint properly and as thoroughly as possible, we may sometimes ask you for further information and we access information that other council services might have about you in respect of the complaint you submit to us.

For example, if your complaint concerns a Council Tax liability, we may ask colleagues in the Revenues and Benefits Service for information or access the council’s database for Council Tax accounts.

At stage 2 of the council’s corporate complaints procedure we deal with various issues such as bin collection, planning applications, housing and homelessness applications, repairs, claims for benefits, Council Tax liability, enforcement, anti-social behaviour, school admissions, adult learning services and street cleaning.  Broadly speaking, we cover the majority of services provided by the council.  We may therefore seek information about you or share information about you that is relevant to our complaint investigation with colleagues across council services, depending on the matter that is the subject of your complaint.

Similarly, in providing a support function in respect of complaints about adult social care and children’s services, we may ask for information about you or access the relevant databases or share information about you with colleagues who work in social care services.

Safeguarding

If, through our complaint investigations, or through our processing of your complaint, we identify any safeguarding issues, we will make the appropriate referrals to the adults’ or children’s safeguarding teams.  When this is the case, we will share information such as your name, address, contact details, or any other relevant information to enable colleagues in safeguarding in assessing the case and to take action as they deem appropriate.  When appropriate to do so, we will inform you that we have made such a referral.

Information we hold Click to get info

We will hold information about you that is relevant to the complaint.  For example:

  • your name, address and contact details such as a phone number and email address
  • details of the complaint or complaints you have made to the council at different stages of the complaints procedure (both corporate and statutory)
  • details of complaint responses already issued to you
  • Council Tax account number
  • benefit claim reference number
  • details and information provided in a housing or homelessness application
  • details of repairs you have requested for your home (when this is a council-owned property)
  • copies of tenancy agreements
  • Information about your household
  • Information about illness or disability
  • financial information
  • visual images (such as photographs or video recordings that are relevant to the complaint)
  • sound recordings (such as recording of phone calls that are relevant to the complaint)
  • information about the provision of social care services

The above list is not exhaustive.  We will hold any information that you send us in support of your complaint together with information that we obtain to enable us to investigate and process your complaint in accordance with our procedures.

Advocates and/or other persons whom you have chosen to represent you

We may share information about you with person or persons whom you have chosen to represent you or assist you with making your complaint.  These could be friends or family members that you have nominated; advocacy agents or agencies; charities or similar support organisations or solicitors.  We will only disclose information when you have given us your written and signed authority that a third party can act on your behalf.

Other services across the council

We may share information about you with different service areas across the council as and when this is relevant to the investigation of your complaint and to enable us to provide you with a full response to your complaint.  For example, if your complaint is about your liability for Council Tax, we will share details of your complaint with the revenues service.

Contractors and sub-contractors

We may share information about you with our contractors and/or sub-contractors, when the service you are complaining about is being delivered by contractors or sub-contractors acting on the council’s behalf.  For example, if your complaint is about the collection of refuse or recycling bins we may share information about your complaint with the council’s waste collection contractor.

Where this occurs our contractors and sub-contractors shall be contractually required to ensure that they adhere to the security requirements imposed by the data protection laws.

Regulators

We may share information about your complaints with independent bodies that oversee the work of the council, such as the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, the Housing Ombudsman Service or the Information Commissioner.  This will happen only when any of those independent bodies contact us in respect of a complaint that you have made to them.

Insurers

In certain cases, when the complaint includes a claim that needs to be dealt with under insurance processes, we may share information about your complaint with colleagues in the council’s insurance and risk department and/or with the council’s insurers.  For example, if your complaint is about damage caused to personal property as a result of service failure by a council service, we may direct you to make an insurance claim but we may also share information about your complaint with the Insurance and risk department to make them aware of your claim.

Auditors

The complaints team is subject to scrutiny by the council’s internal auditors.  We will ensure that any auditors access your information solely for the purposes of carrying out the audit in question.

We will retain records pertaining to our complaint investigation for a period of 3 years (see further information under “Retention of Records Policy” section below).

We operate a paperless system, so all complaint records will be held electronically.  Any information or correspondence about your complaint that we have in printed format will be scanned and stored electronically and the paper copy will be destroyed on completion of the complaint investigation.  The records we keep will usually include:

  • your name, address details and contact details
  • copies of the complaints you have made to the council
  • copies of the responses to your complaints
  • copies of any correspondence exchanged with you during the complaint investigation
  • notes and records made during the complaint investigation
  • copies of correspondence we have exchanged internally with colleagues as part of our complaint investigation
  • information we have received from colleagues and services to support our complaint investigation
  • copies of any follow up correspondence that we may exchange with you after the conclusion of our investigation, where this is relevant to the same matter that we have investigated.

The above is also applicable for records of those complaints that are investigated by the council’s regulating bodies such as the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, the Housing Ombudsman Service and the Information Commissioner.

Retention of records Click to get info

Stage 2 corporate complaints

We keep the stage 2 investigation folders for a period of 3 years after the complaint has been closed. For operational reasons, we will not calculate this period on the basis of the closure date for each individual complaint.  We will calculate the period of 3 years on the basis of closure of financial years which run from 1 April of any given year to 31 March of the subsequent year. The stage 2 investigation folders will include all information gathered that is relevant to your complaint.

Statutory Social Care Complaints

We keep records for stage 1 statutory social care complaints for a period of 3 years after the complaint has been closed.  For operational reasons, we will not calculate this period on the basis of the closure date for each individual complaint. We will calculate the period of 3 years on the basis of closure of financial years which run from 1 April of any given year to 31 March of the subsequent year. The stage 1 complaint record will usually include:

  • the customer’s complaint
  • the council’s response to the complaint;
  • internal correspondence regarding the complaint

We keep a copy of the investigation file for stage 2 and stage 3 statutory social care complaints for a period of 3 years. This will include all papers, correspondence and all other relevant documents and information pertaining to the stage 2 or stage 3 investigation and outcome.

Complaints dealt with by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman or the Housing Ombudsman Service

We propose to keep records of complaints dealt with by the Ombudsmen services for a period of 3 years after the complaint has been closed. For operational reasons, we will not calculate this period on the basis of the closure date for each individual complaint.  We will calculate the period of 3 years on the basis of closure of financial years which run from 1 April of any given year to 31 March of the subsequent year.

Other records

The complaints team is regularly contacted by customers or internal services with enquiries about complaints or complaint-related correspondence.  The complaints team keeps records of this contact, which can include but is not limited to:

  • Stage 1 complaint letters received by post, which we scan and pass on to business support for logging on the complaints database
  • correspondence regarding complaints that could potentially escalate to Stage 2 of the council’s corporate complaints procedure
  • enquiries received from the Chief Executive’s office
  • enquiries received from the office of the Leader of the council
  • requests for support from colleagues in other services, such as the contact centre and business support
  • requests or information in respect of subject access requests and requests for information made under the Freedom of Information Act
  • action taken under the council’s policy for dealing with unreasonable behaviour
  • correspondence that we have passed on to other services within the council, such as the insurance team, parking services or the revenues and benefits service

We keep these records for a period of 3 years. We will calculate the period of 3 years on the basis of closure of financial years which run from 1 April of any given year to 31 March of the subsequent year.

Statistical information

We keep statistical information regarding complaints and/or other correspondence processed by the Corporate Complaints Team (as referred to above) for a period of 3 years. We will calculate the period of 3 years on the basis of closure of financial years which run from 1 April of any given year to 31 March of the subsequent year.

Note: Information that we access for complaint investigation will be held by other services within the Council. Other services are likely to have retention policies that are different from the period of 3 years specified above.  This is because services might need to retain information for different periods of time to enable them to provide their services and/or to fulfil statutory obligations.

We collect information about you for the sole purpose of investigating complaints you make to the council; for the provision of support to social care services in respect of complaints made about social care complaints, and in order to respond to enquiries by regulatory bodies as referred to above.

The Council’s Data Protection Officer is Mr Mark Hynes.  You can contact him by email at data.protection@walthamforest.gov.uk.

Please see the relevant section of the Council’s Corporate Privacy Notice.

Please refer to the relevant section of the Council’s Corporate Privacy Notice.

These are included in the relevant section of the Council’s Corporate Privacy Notice.

If we’re unable to resolve your complaint to your satisfaction, you can make a complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).