Lessons learned when it comes to school bullying

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The council has made “service improvements” as a result of complaints about its performance from members of the public, councillors were told this week.

They heard that 696 complaints had been recorded in the 12 months to March 2014 – and that more than 30 per cent had been upheld.

However, the level of grievance cannot be compared to previous years as SBC only formalised its complaints handling procedure (CHP) in April 2013.

A report to Tuesday’s meeting of the council executive – the first since the system was introduced – did not specify which departments elicited most public criticism.

However, it revealed that bullying among schoolchildren was “one of the most common themes of education complaints”.

“Analysis of these [complaints] and how they were handled in schools highlights the need for parents to be better informed of our new anti-bullying policy and the need for staff to share information with parents if they report concerns,” stated the report.

As a result of the complaints, SBC was now working with parent councils and school staff to raise awareness among concerned parents of the so-called “respectful relationship” policy.

In another example of a lesson being learned from a disgruntled citizen, letters to those entitled to Council Tax exemptions and discounts had now been reworded to ensure all recipients are aware such exemptions can expire during a year and the full amount then charged.

“We are committed to providing high-quality services, but occasionally things go wrong,” admitted chief executive Tracey Logan in her foreword to the report.

“When this happens it is important we act quickly to address and resolve the situation. Complaints indicate where we fell short of what people expected and sometimes where we are failing to meet our own standards.

“We use this information to make service improvements.”

Of the 696 complaints received, 85 were made in person at council offices or contact centres, 231 were submitted by telephone, 221 were lodged online, 78 were conveyed by letter and 81 by email.

The report revealed that 429 (76.6 per cent) complaints were “closed”, with a response sent and no further action required, at the first stage of the CHP – where, if upheld, resolution is normally via an on-the-spot apology or an explanation that something has gone wrong.

Of these, 198 were upheld and 231 were not upheld.

Stage two of the procedure, involving a detailed investigation, a discussion with the complainer and a full response within 20 working days, was required for 118 complaints, of which 46 were upheld.

During the year, 44 complaints about SBC were lodged with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. Of these, 47 per cent were deemed “premature” because the complaint had not gone through the council’s procedure. Nine investigations were carried out by the national watchdog, of which four were upheld.