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Privacy notice for complainants

We process personal information to enable us to carry out our statutory duties. These duties include considering and investigating complaints, providing advice and information, and undertaking research.

We will process any personal data we collect, either through our website or by other means, such as by post or email, in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation 2016 and the Data Protection Act 2018.

We also record telephone calls made to our 0300 061 0614 help line number for training and quality purposes. We may record incoming and outgoing calls on other numbers.

If you make a complaint to us, we will hold the information you provide to us securely and use it to help us process your complaint. We will let you know if we need more information from you as your complaint progresses.

We process information that is relevant to the investigation of complaints we receive. This could include:

  • personal and family details
  • financial details
  • details of complaints, incidents and grievances
  • visual images
  • sound recordings

We also process special categories of personal data. This may include information about:

  • physical or mental health
  • adult social care
  • sex life or sexual orientation
  • racial or ethnic origins
  • religious or philosophical beliefs

To investigate complaints, and to carry out feedback research, we need to process personal data to carry out our public task, and in the public interest.

We may also need to show some of the information you give us to other people. For example, in nearly all cases, we will share some, or all, of the information you give us with the organisations you have complained about, so they can respond to our enquiries. We will do this even if you have yet to complete the complaint process with that organisation. Where you have complained about a specific employee of the organisation concerned, we will usually share information you have provided about your complaint with that employee.

If we are investigating more than one organisation, we will share the whole complaint with each organisation.

The types of other people and organisations we share data with include:  a person who is representing you in making your complaint, professional advisers, and other ombudsman or regulatory authorities, see also section below on Joint investigations. We will usually tell you when we share your data, and who with.

To process your complaint, we will often obtain information about you and your complaint from other sources. In many cases we will obtain information from the organisation you are complaining about, and, in some cases, we will need information from third parties such as legal or other expert advisers. Some of this information may be special categories of personal data, such as health or care records, where these are relevant. When we are given information by third parties, we will tell you what it is.

We take the security of your data seriously. We have internal policies and controls in place to ensure that your data is not lost, accidentally destroyed, misused or disclosed. We also make sure our employees only access your data in the proper performance of their duties. For more details see our Information Management Policies.

We scan all documents when we receive them and will generally destroy the paper copies, unless you tell us that you want your documents returned. We normally destroy most of the complaint file material 12 months after the complaint is closed. This includes all the information you have sent to us and we have obtained from other sources, for example from the council. In exceptional circumstances, we may need to keep complaint file material longer, including if there is a court case pending; if the remedy is delayed, if it is relevant to a more recent complaint or where we are required to by a legal order. We will generally tell you if so.

We keep a record of the complaint and details of our decision for five years as this helps if you complain to us again. When we publish a report, we keep a copy of the report for 15 years and most reports are published on our website. Decision statements are also usually published on our website. Neither reports nor statements will contain your name or any other information that would identify you.

If we have directed you to a different organisation because the enquiry is one we cannot consider, we will retain the information submitted for 12 weeks.  The information will then be destroyed.

Where a telephone call is recorded, we will retain it for 30 days.

In most cases, people who complain to us are reasonable and allow us time to do our job. However, some people behave in a way which affects our ability to deal with their or other people’s complaints. If this happens, we may need to manage the way that person can contact us.

In extreme cases, we keep details of people who we consider present a possible threat to the safety or wellbeing of our staff. We will normally tell the person when their details are recorded in this way, unless we believe this may provoke unacceptable behaviour towards our staff. We regularly review information recorded in this way and delete it when it is no longer relevant.

We carry out some joint investigations with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) where a complaint covers both health services and social care services. Where we consider your complaint is one which could be best dealt with jointly, we will ask for your consent before we start considering it. By providing your consent to a complaint being dealt with jointly by both organisations you are also providing your consent to us sharing the information required to do so. We will share the whole complaint with each of the organisations complained about.

If you do not give us consent, then we will not be able to undertake a joint investigation. For specific details on how a joint investigation will be carried out please see the agreement between PHSO and LGSCO for joint working.

See how the PHSO will process your information.

We also work with the Housing Ombudsman with whom there is also scope for carrying out joint investigations, and we each deal with different aspects of complaints about housing. We will ask for your consent before starting a joint investigation. See our Memorandum of Understanding with the Housing Ombudsman.

We share information with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the independent health and social care regulator in England. The two organisations work together to promote high quality services for all people who use adult social care services. See our Information Sharing Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding with CQC.

We are signatories to the Emerging Concerns Protocol. This means we might share, or be asked to share, information with other health and social care regulators where it appears there is a risk to people who use a service. It is unlikely we would share personal information through this protocol, but we will ask for your consent if we think it is necessary to share your personal information. A full copy of the Emerging Concern Protocol is available on the Care Quality Commission’s website.

We usually contact complainants six weeks after they have had the decision on their complaint to ask them to take part in our feedback survey.

If a complainant has provided an email address we will email them with a link to the survey. If not, we will send the survey by post.

Complainants do not have to take part in the survey.

Responses are not seen by the original case officer, but a separate team will analyse them to see how we can improve our service. The results are presented in an aggregated form in a quarterly report.

Please see separate Privacy Notice for survey respondents.