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Principles of Good Complaint Handling

Being customer focused

Public bodies should do the following:

  • Ensure their complaints procedure is simple and clear, involving as few steps as possible. Having too many complaint handling stages may unnecessarily complicate the process and deter complainants from pursuing their concerns.
  • Ensure that their complaint handling arrangements are easily accessible to their customers.
  • Let their customers know about any help or advice that may be available to them if they are considering making a complaint. For example, Community Legal Advice offers wide-ranging legal advice and the Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS) provides advocacy for NHS complainants.
  • Deal with complaints promptly, avoiding unnecessary delay, and in line with published service standards where appropriate. Resolving problems and complaints as soon as possible is best for both complainants and public bodies.
  • Acknowledge the complaint and tell the complainant how long they can expect to wait to receive a reply. Public bodies should keep the complainant regularly informed about progress and the reasons for any delays, and provide a point of contact throughout the course of the complaint.
  • Treat complainants sensitively and in a way that takes account of their needs.
  • Use language that is easy to understand, and communicate with the complainant in a way that is appropriate to them and their circumstances. For example, public bodies should make arrangements for complainants with special needs or those whose first language is not English.
  • Listen to and consider the complainant’s views, asking them to clarify where necessary, to make sure the public body understands clearly what the complaint is about and the outcome the complainant wants.
  • Respond flexibly to the circumstances of the case. This means considering how the public body may need to adjust its normal approach to handling a complaint in the particular circumstances.
  • Ensure, where complaints raise issues about services provided by more than one public body, that the complaint is dealt with in a co-ordinated way with other providers. If a public body cannot respond, it should refer the complainant quickly to other sources of help.