Complaint Handling Code

Advice, guidance and best practice in complaint handling for organisations we investigate

What is the Complaint Handling Code?

The Complaint Handling Code ('the Code’), sets out a process for organisations that will allow them to respond to complaints effectively and fairly. The purpose of the Code is to enable organisations to resolve complaints raised by individuals promptly, and to use the data and learning from complaints to drive service improvements. It will also help to create a positive complaint handling culture amongst staff and individuals.

The Code will act as a guide for individuals setting out what they may expect from an organisation when they make a complaint. Organisations should seek feedback from individuals in relation to their complaint handling as part of the drive to encourage a positive complaint and learning culture.

Organisations should have a single policy for dealing with complaints covered by the Code.

The principles, process and timescales in this Code are aligned with the Complaint Handling Code issued by the Housing Ombudsman. This means that organisations who fall under the jurisdiction of both Ombudsmen should be able to provide a co-ordinated complaint handling process across services covered by both Codes.

Who does the Complaint Handling Code apply to?

We have issued the Code as “advice and guidance” for all local councils in England under section 23(12A) of the Local Government Act 1974. This means that councils should consider the Code when developing complaint handling policies and procedures and when responding to complaints. If a council decides not to follow the Code we would expect it to have a good reason for this.

The Code only applies to complaints where there is no statutory process in place. This means that some complaints about children’s services, adult social care and public health are not covered by the expectations set out in the Code.

The Code was launched in February 2024. Local councils are encouraged to adopt the Code as soon as they are able to do so. We intend to start considering the Code as part of our processes from April 2026 at the earliest. This gives local councils the opportunity to adopt the Code successfully into working practices. During the first two years we will be working with a number of pilot councils to understand the impact of the Code and provide further guidance to the sector.

The Code is considered good practice for other organisations we investigate except where there are statutory complaint handling processes in place. We may decide to issue the Code to other organisations in future.

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