On Board - A guide for Board Members of Public Bodies in Scotland (April 2015)

This Guide provides much of the basic information that a Board Member will need to understand their role as a member of the Board of a public body in Scotland.

Complaints Handling

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) is the independent body that handles complaints from members of the public about devolved public services in Scotland.

Under the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010, the SPSO was given a lead role in improving the handling of complaints by public sector bodies in Scotland. In 2013 the SPSO published a model Complaints Handling Procedure (CHP) for the Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament and Associated Public Authorities, which public bodies have a statutory requirement to adopt.

The CHP includes a commitment for public bodies to publish information against performance indicators, which will provide consistent complaints data across the various sectors of the public service in Scotland.

Board members should have an awareness of the importance of having an effective complaints policy in place. Promoting a 'valuing complaints' culture - with a pro-active approach to effective resolution, monitoring and learning from complaints - is an essential part of effective governance of public services.

The Board has a collective responsibility and Board members, the Chair and the Chief Executive are also individually responsible for ensuring the public body has an effective, efficient, customer-focused approach to complaints resolution in place.


  • Ensure the public body and executive team are learning from service failures and customer insight provided by complaints, with systems in place to record, analyse and report on complaints outcomes, trends and actions taken;
  • Ensure that processes are in place for the public body and executive team to identify and respond immediately to critical or systemic service failures identified from complaints handling;
  • Take an active role in monitoring and reviewing learning from complaints and reviewing individual complaints to obtain an understanding of how any failures occurred and have been addressed;
  • Provide the necessary challenge and hold the senior officer(s) to account for the public body's performance in complaints handling, with Board / Board members themselves regularly monitoring and reviewing the complaints handling performance of the public body;
  • Ensure that service improvements are agreed, actioned and reviewed, possibly on a quarterly basis.


Email: Gordon Quinn

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