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Complaints, Housing, Internal review, Local government, Ombuds and reviewers, Reports & Publications, Research, Scotland

Being Complained About – What Next?

An update from Carolyn Hirst (Hirstworks), Chris Gill (University of Glasgow) and Jane Williams (Queen Margaret University) on the Being Complained About work and their related new project on Therapeutic Complaint Resolution (TCR). Their previous UKAJI blog post on this project can be found here.


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Our ‘Being Complained About: Good Practice Principles and Guidelines’ were published in February 2019. You can find information about the research leading up to the publication of these Guidelines, together with pdf and Word versions of the Guideline documents, on the University of Glasgow School of Law website:


The Guidelines are available as a free resource, although we would be grateful if you could acknowledge having drawn on them if you choose to adopt or adapt them within your organisation. We are tracking the impact of the Guidelines and would also be grateful if you could email chris.gill@glasgow.ac.uk to tell us if you have found them useful and if you decide to use them in your organisation.


So what next?

We have a couple of updates. The first is that we were successful in acquiring ESRC Impact Acceleration Account Business Booster funding to progress the implementation of the Being Complained About Guidelines. We have been progressing this by speaking to practitioners at a number of complaint-related events and have a few more events coming up in the diary.


We are also currently working with a social housing organisation in Scotland who have agreed to be a ‘pilot’ case study for putting the Guidelines into practice. Using a partnership approach, we are looking at the practicalities of implementing the Guidelines and the impact this might have on complaint handling approaches. In doing so, we are working with housing staff who deal with complaints and provide services, and in partnership with Human Resources.


This reflects our belief that the way in which an organisation approaches and deals with its own internal disputes and disagreements will have a direct effect on how it deals with external concerns such as complaints.


We plan to report at regular intervals on the progress of this pilot study.


Therapeutic Complaint Resolution (TCR)

The second update is that we have recently obtained ESRC Impact Acceleration Account Follow On funding for a Therapeutic Complaint Resolution (TCR) project. The objectives of this project are:

  • To continue to implement the Being Complained About research findings and research-based guidelines within a number of case study organisations;
  • To test and refine the findings and insights from the original research in collaboration with the case study organisations;
  • To develop – through working with practitioners – the broader concept of TCR as a novel approach to complaint handling, and in doing so, to provide a more theoretical basis for this work;
  • To publish a summary of the case study findings as a resource for other organisations looking to improve their complaint handling and the support they provide to their staff;
  • To develop an implementation toolkit and website – aimed at practitioners – through which the research, guidelines, case study findings and resources, can be promoted in order to widen and deepen the impact of the research.


This work has just started. We are in the process of identifying the case study organisations. Already, a Council in Scotland and an NHS Trust in England have indicated their willingness to work with us. We also plan to publish an academic piece in 2020 on TCR and to present the research findings at an international conference.


What is TCR?

As noted above, TCR is a work in progress, however, we have some initial thoughts about how this project will develop.


Our plan in developing TCR as an approach to complaint handling practice draws on the field of therapeutic jurisprudence, as well as a range of other relevant theories including procedural justice theory, restorative justice, and conflict resolution theories. Our aim is in developing TCR is to integrate a range of theories and practices in order to provide a stronger basis for the practice of complaint resolution.


We hope that TCR will develop as a model that provides theoretical justification for a range of therapeutic approaches to complaint resolution and a framework within which such approaches can be tested, developed, and refined. We expect the work to be relevant to ombuds institutions, professional bodies and regulators who deal with complaints, and those dealing with complaints in a wide range of organisational settings.


If you are interested in finding out more about this work please contact one of us:


Carolyn Hirst, Hirstworks – cahirstworks@aol.com


Chris Gill, University of Glasgow – Chris.Gill@glasgow.ac.uk


Jane Williams, Queen Margaret University – JWilliams@qmu.ac.uk


About UK Administrative Justice Institute

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, we link research, practice & policy on administrative justice in the UK



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