This report looks at the role of complaints in transforming public services.
- Public services need to shift from a delivery model to a ‘relational’ model, in which complaints provide an opportunity to open a dialogue with the public.
- Complaints help identify blind spots, and thereby hold the key to unlocking innovation and improvement.
- This report recommends a number of ways of embedding complaints in a new model of public services.
- It also makes specific recommendations for those involved in dealing with complaints about public services at different levels: ombudsmen, government and service providers.
Complaints are not often associated with innovation and creativity. When we think of complaints, we tend towards negative association - frustration, failure, poor service, something to be dealt with promptly and filed away. Receiving lots of complaints is seen as something to be wary of, not celebrated.
But getting complaints is much better than not getting complaints - they show that people think it's worth complaining and that they will be listened to, and that they believe that they have power to influence the system. They are a good sign of democracy in action.
A complaint can provide important insight on where there is need for improvement or an opportunity for innovation. Gripes, Grumbles and Grievances therefore examines questions such as: how are complaints changing public services? Do they lead to innovation?
To what extent do complaints help public services adapt to today’s rising and complex demands? How can public services use complaints to listen, and engage with the public as co–producers of better outcomes? And how can public services make it easier for people to complain and encourage them to do so?
Richard Simmons and Carol Brennan