The Ombudsman and social work complaints

Following a Scottish Government review of social work complaints, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) is introducing two major changes to the handling of these complaints from 1 April 2017.
  1. There is a new two stage model complaints handling procedure (CHP) for all social work complaints.
  2. SPSO will be able to consider social work professional judgement as part of an independent review of complaints, replacing Complaints Review Committees.

The social work model CHP has been developed with significant input from social work representatives and other key stakeholders including the SSSC, Scottish Government, the third sector and representative bodies, such as Inclusion Scotland. These changes are being introduced at the same time as a similar model for NHS complaints, bringing them into line with other public services which already have a simple, two stage procedure. This means integrated health and social care services will have very similar complaints procedures for all their services, allowing greater integration in complaint responses.

Social work services will need to adapt and adopt the model CHP, ready for 1 April 2017. The new procedure focuses on ensuring customers have easy access to an efficient, customer focused complaints service which responds to their concerns quickly and as close to the point of service as possible. It is therefore important that frontline staff are empowered to deal with complaints and have the full support of senior management in valuing and resolving complaints.

The CHP provides information about when complaints should be signposted to the Care Inspectorate and guidance on handling complaints that involve social work and another service or organisation. There is also advice on a range of more complex social work scenarios.

SPSO’s independent review of complaints will bring social work in line with health complaints, where SPSO already considers clinical judgement. Detailed advice from independent professional advisers will help decision making.  These advisers will be trained to meet SPSO’s rigorous criteria and will be subject to regular audits and quality checks to ensure consistently high quality advice.  SPSO will continue to build a bank of advisers over the coming months.

SPSO will provide support and advice to organisations as they implement the new CHP in April 2017 and look forward to seeing significant improvements in complaints handling as authorities adjust to the new way of working.

Full details of these changes can be found on the Valuing Complaints website:

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