At Southway, we are committed to encouraging and listening to feedback from our customers. We welcome complaints because we know they help us improve our services.
We ensure we adhere to the Housing Ombudsman Complaint Handling Code which provides us with instruction and guidance on how we should handle complaints from our customers. You can find more information here.
Make a complaint
When we get things wrong, we want to put them right. We have two complaints processes which are Put things right and Formal complaints.
When you make a complaint it will be dealt with in one of the following ways. Click here to fill in our complaints form.
Put things right
We try to resolve complaints by offering a quick solution that put things right for you. Your complaint will be responded to usually with a phone call or email explaining the resolution and it will be logged as a ‘Put things right’. Occasionally if we can’t offer a resolution because it does not comply with one of our policies we will also log it as a Put things right so we have a record of your dissatisfaction for us to consider when we evaluate our service to make improvements, you will be advised of this with an explanation of why we can’t uphold your request.
If your complaint is more complicated and in-depth, requiring a detailed investigation, it may take us longer to look into and respond:
Formal: Stage 1
A Stage 1 complaint is investigated by an appropriate Manager and we aim to offer you a resolution within 10 working days. Our Complaints Officer will work with you and the relevant department to ensure that your complaint is understood and the best possible outcome is offered, they will also ensure that any promises made as part of a resolution are delivered. We regularly evaluate complaints and are committed to using them as a valuable learning tool that helps us to deliver a better service to tenants.
Formal: Stage 2
If you are dissatisfied with your Stage 1 complaint response and can provide additional information that could change the response decision you can request the complaint be escalated to a Stage 2 Complaint which will be investigated by the Head of the relevant Department. We aim to respond to Stage 2 Complaints within 20 working days.
If after this you are still dissatisfied you can contact The Housing Ombudsman who can offer an independent investigation of a complaint decision if appropriate. The Ombudsman can only investigate a tenants complaint if it has first been logged as a complaint and responded to by Southway. Our Complaints Officer can explain to you how the process works and provide you with contact details for the Ombudsman.
Just to let you know, once your complaint has been resolved we may ask you for feedback on the outcome and way it was handled. The feedback helps us improve our Complaints service.
We monitor and report on our performance around handling complaints. The following is our performance for 2022-23:
78 Formal complaints
We closed 78 formal complaints in 22-23. 26 of these went to Stage 2.
Complaints closed within target
67% Stage 1 complaints closed within target 62% Stage 2 closed within target.
We have a target of 10 working days to close a Stage 1 complaint and 20 working days for Stage 2.
10.5 day average
On average it took 10.5 days to respond to a Stage 1 complaint.
231 Put Things Right Complaints
These are complaints that are more straightforward that we can resolve quickly, in agreement with the customer.
54% of complaints were about repairs
This service has the most interactions with our customers. Therefore, we expect it will receive the highest number of complaints. Covid-19 had a significant impact during 21-22 on the delivery of our repairs service.
We take complaints seriously and make changes in response to what our customers tell us, During 2021-22 you told us that we needed to improve in the following areas:
You told us waiting for repairs and poor communication about repairs were the main areas of dissatisfaction.
We have created a dedicated Repairs Team within our Contact Centre that handles and manages all our repairs appointments and re-appointments. They are also able to comprehensively answer any Repairs Queries as they are solely focused on this service area.
You told us damp & mould in our properties were a concern.
We have committed to a full review of our Damp & Mould Policy and approach to advising on and managing damp and mould in our properties.
In 2022-23 we have taken action over the following issues:
You told us you were unhappy about work not being completed at the first repair
We have delivered further training on repairs diagnosis to our Advisors and delivered further training to our operatives on damp & mould diagnosis.
Our Supervisors monitor stock more closely to ensure our operatives have the correct parts to complete many repairs
You told us you were dissatisfied about waiting times for repairs
We have recruited more operatives to help us reduce the delay in carrying out repairs
You told us you felt communication about repair was poor
Operatives will phone ahead to update on any delays to attending a booked repair
We will tell you in advance if we need to cancel a repairs appointment and provide an alternative
You told us you were dissatisfied with our handling of complaints specifically
We have re-established the Complaints Service Improvement Group made up of tenants who review the quality of specific complaints
We completed Complaints Training Workshops with managers in Spring to ensure they fully understand the complaints handling process and response targets
We have improved Administration and monitoring of complaints within the Hub has been improved to ensure Managers meet the deadline and provide quality responses to our tenants
Your opinions are really important to us, and we thank you for your comments in Customer Care Annual Report. We are making improvements after you raised the following concerns:
Work not being completed: Further training is being provided to both the operational team and Southway’s surveyors, with a particular focus on damp issues.
Waiting times: Overdue jobs are being reviewed by both the Customer Hub and Property & Assets Teams, and 12 more staff being recruited to bring the service to full capacity.
Communication: Repairs staff will phone ahead and/or notify customers of any delays if necessary – social media will continue to be used for any updates on delays too. Should a tenant miss an appointment, a clear No Access procedure will be followed.
Complaints: We are now working to a Complaints Improvement Plan. Many of the complaints we have tried to resolve through our Put Things Right scheme have been too complex to sort out within the timeframes it sets. As a result, complaints that cannot be resolved immediately will be treated as formal complaints from 1st September 2023. Managers will also have to complete a section for Lessons Learned within a newly-devised response letter.
Equality and Diversity: It was found that tenants with a registered disability were generally more dissatisfied. We will be working with the charity Breakthrough on a project to expand our understanding of this, and what we can do to change it.
- 78 Formal complaints
What we do when things go wrong
At Southway, we live by our values. We are caring, committed and want to be successful together with our tenants and communities.
Being true to our values means admitting when we get things wrong, apologising, and making sure that we don’t make the same mistake again.
We recently received a severe maladministration notice from the Housing Ombudsman for the way that we handled a complaint from one of our tenants. The Ombudsman said that we should have shown more empathy and understanding, and that the complaint should have been investigated more thoroughly.
We know that how we handle complaints and communicate solutions to problems is important to our tenants. We already have a Complaints Improvement Plan in place and have delivered complaints training to staff and published complaints performance on our website, including lessons we have learned from cases. We have also added a further quality check to the process.
Following the Ombudsman’s ruling we will do even more to improve our complaints performance making sure that our responses to complaints are accurate, timely, and demonstrate understanding and respect to complainants.
We are now working closely with the tenant who raised their complaint with the Ombudsman. We have apologised and are carrying out the repairs to fix the issues they originally complained about. Once these are complete, we will meet with them in person to make sure we have now dealt with the complaint in full and get their ideas on how we can improve our service for all tenants in the future.
To read more about our Complaints process, recent performance, and how to make a complaint, click here.