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.
- 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.