Our review process is open to both complainants and organisations. People can ask for a review if they think there is new and significant evidence about the complaint that we have not seen, or that there are factual inaccuracies in our decision. The reviews give us the opportunity to address any concerns about what we have said and, in some cases, to provide further explanations about our powers and the reasons for our decisions. They also help us feed back to our staff how they could have communicated a decision more thoroughly or clearly. We carefully analyse requests for reviews of our decisions to check that we are getting things right, and take action in any cases where we have not.
The total number of decision review requests we receive is low relative to the number of cases we deal with (in 2015-16 it was just over 6 per cent). Where we uphold a request for a review, the case can be reopened and the original decision revised. In 2015-16 the decision was revised in 0.1 per cent of cases.
What kind of issues emerge in review requests?
- Communication - we have not fully explained our decision
- Time limit – we have incorrectly told a complainant that a complaint is too old for us to look at (under the SPSO Act we cannot usually look at something that is over 12 months old). We have discretion in this area, and sometimes the reviewer decides that we should, in fact, look at a case even when it is older than 12 months. In these cases, the complaint moves back into our process.
- Jurisdiction - we have incorrectly told a complainant that we cannot look at their issue/the body complained about (the SPSO Act lists what we can and cannot look at). In some circumstances this can be a complex area and a reviewer can – sometimes with the benefit of new information provided – move the complaint back into our process.
What we do with the outcomes of reviews
We take the outcomes of reviews very seriously. The senior management team analyses the information on a quarterly basis. The information forms part of our Service Improvement agenda. Crucially, the feedback allows us to improve our guidance, for example on timebar or jurisdiction. It also allows us to clarify any confusion, ensure consistency and stress the need for clear, evidenced decision-making. Issues are fed back at team meetings and individual 1-2-1s.
Our aim is that our response to the review process, together with the development of our Quality Assurance process, will demonstrate our commitment to quality and continuous service improvement.
What can you do if you think we have got something wrong in an Investigation Report?
As is explained in the leaflet Your complaint at the SPSO (PDF), at the end of an investigation the Complaints Reviewer will send you and the organisation a draft version of the report, to give you both a chance to highlight any factual inaccuracies before the final version is published. Any comments received will be considered carefully but the decision on what to include in the report, the findings and conclusions are ours.
We keep a record of all requests for reviews of our decisions and the outcome of each. Access a PDF with this information here: requests for review - annual totals and outcomes (PDF).