Creating a learning culture in social care

Our findings suggest that councils are not currently making the most of their annual complaints reports as an opportunity to demonstrate how responsive they are to feedback. Read our report to find out more.
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Our research found that the reports focused on counting the number of complaints rather than identifying why complaints were being made, the frequency of specific or common complaints and how to achieve a resolution.

A lack of consistency in approach makes it impossible to understand national trends or learn from comparisons between councils.

Key messages

  • Reports are becoming less accessible to the public
    When we first reviewed local authority complaints reports in 2017, we were able to find reports online for half of the 152 councils in England. When we repeated the exercise in early 2019, we were only able to find them for a third of local authorities.
  • Reports focus on numbers not learning
    In most reports we looked at, the emphasis was on the number of complaints received during the year and whether they were processed within the council’s agreed timeframes. Having more complaints than the previous year was often seen as a ‘worse performance’.

    In their current form, local authority complaints reports represent a missed opportunity for sharing learning about how to improve social care and demonstrating how people’s experiences can drive that improvement.

  • Local government needs a more consistent approach
    When looking at local authority complaints reports, it is very difficult to compare like for like. There is no consistency in what they cover. The structure and even the taxonomy vary considerably between councils.
Complaints can be scary for organisations to deal with, often requiring services to accept that things have not gone according to plan. But they also present a huge opportunity to identify and tackle the root causes, and make sure others don’t have the same negative experience in future.
— Jacob Lant, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Healthwatch England


If you need this report in a different format, please contact us.

03000 68 3000

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