Important note about changes to recording from 1 April 2007
We have always drawn a distinction between people approaching us with enquiries and those making complaints. Enquiries are mostly about whether we can consider a complaint about a particular organisation or matter although they can be about a wide range of other things.
Both enquiries and complaints can be made by letter, electronically, by telephone or in person. However, the proportion of enquiries made by telephone is relatively high. Over the lifetime of the office we have encouraged staff to become more rigorous about recording approaches made to us by telephone so that we can see trends and take action if, for example, we receive unusually high numbers of approaches relating to particular issues or sectors.
When we came to analyse the data about telephone contacts it became apparent that many which had been categorised as enquiries were probably complaints. That is, the person making the contact wanted us to look into a specific concern even if they were approaching us too early (because they had not yet complained to the public body concerned) or inappropriately (because the concern was about a body or a matter outwith our jurisdiction).
So from 1 April 2007 we have classified approaches to us as enquiries or complaints entirely on the basis of whether the person making the approach was simply looking for information or wanted us to take action in respect of their concerns. This change means that figures will in future more clearly reflect the reasons why people approach us. However, it does have implications for making comparisons between 2007-08 statistics and those from previous years.
Implications for comparing received cases
As a result of this change a proportion of cases that would previously have been classed as enquiries in 2006-07 and earlier are now being classed as complaints. If you compare statistics directly between 06-07 and 07-08 for example, it looks as if there has been a drop in enquiries and an increase in complaints. However, this is not comparing like-for-like.
We have studied the cases received in 2007-08 seeking to identify all those cases that are now classed as complaints, but that would previously have been classed as enquiries. We estimate that this amounts to 740 cases which means 29.4% of all cases received in 2007-08 that would previously have been classed as enquiries are now being classed as complaints.
For comparison purposes, we have produced an adjusted version of 2006-07 top-line data. This has not been applied at all levels of detail because as the numbers become smaller the assumptions become less reliable, and the interpretation very subjective. Adjusted data for comparison purposes can be found in the top level stats report.
For anyone wishing to compare statistics at a more detailed level, we would recommend looking at total contact numbers, rather than enquiries or complaints individually. For this purpose, the total contacts for 2006-07 and 2007-08 have been presented in the attached table.
Implications for comparing determined cases
Information relating to investigated cases can be compared without any problems, as the changes only affect cases that are determined before investigation.
In terms of cases determined at the Assessment stage – a proportion of what we called Assessment stage complaints in 07-08, would have been called enquiries in previous years. Once again we have produced an adjusted version of the 2006-07 statistics, based on what we know about 2007-08 cases. Details can be seen in the table that has been produced for comparison purposes.
updated 28 August 2008