COVID-19 update

Our office is currently not open to visitors. We are responding to emails; however, our response times will be affected.  We are operating a limited telephone service for complaints related enquiries. Our Scottish Welfare Fund review service is still available by telephone as normal.  Please read our information for customers and organisations

Frequently Asked Questions - Information for public service providers

We may contact you in the early stages of our consideration when we are deciding whether or not to investigate to provide some specific comments/information to help us make that decision.  Quick responses to those requests help us to ensure we don’t take cases to investigation which we could resolve early in the process.

When we decide to investigate, you will receive a letter, usually by email, which sets out clearly the information we are looking for and gives you an opportunity to comment.  We will also ask you to fill in a self-assessment form about how you handled the complaint. At this stage, we normally give organisations 20 working days to return the information and provide comments. We may be able to provide short extensions to that time limit, but you will need to give us good reasons for the delay and explain why you can’t meet the original limit.

During an investigation we may be in touch to ask for clarification or more information.  We will always give you a timescale for providing this and that is likely to be around 10 working days for these more detailed requests.

Following an investigation, if we have made recommendations, we will ask for evidence that they have been fulfilled.  We will let you know the type of evidence we will need, and the time we give for responding will reflect the recommendation we have made.


At the end of our investigation we will tell you our decision. We will also send the decision to the organisation you complained about and we are likely to publish information about it. We do this in order to share learning from the complaint, to help public services improve. We publish our decisions in two types of report.

Public decision report

This is a summary of a decision letter. We send these reports to the Parliament and Scottish Ministers and publish them on our website and sometimes in other forms of communication like newsletters. We usually publish decision reports about six weeks after making our decision. In a small number of cases we do not publish decision reports, usually to prevent the possibility of someone being identified. For the same reason we sometimes we publish the report, and anonymise the organisation complained about (for example, we call the organisation A Council).

If you have requested a review of your decision, we will not publish the decision report until the review is complete.

Public detailed investigation report

This is a detailed report, usually where a case has a wider public interest. We send these reports to the Parliament and Scottish Ministers and publish them on our website and in other forms of communication like newsletters. We publish these reports at the same time as giving them to the people involved in the complaint. 

When we publish our detailed investigation and decision reports, we normally identify the organisation involved. Where, however, we think that doing so could identify an individual, for example, in a small GP practice or in a complaint about school bullying, we are likely to anonymise the organisation. We also reserve the right to exempt some reports from publication, usually to prevent the possibility of someone being identified.

You must make arrangements for an investigation report to be publicly available for at least three weeks (unless the Ombudsman directs otherwise).  This is to allow any person to inspect it at any reasonable time, and to obtain a copy of it, or any part of it.  You must also publicise those arrangements.  In practice, this can simply mean publishing the report on your website and letting people know it is there.  It is, however, for you to decide how to publish these and you may use other relevant methods should you choose to do so.

Section 15(4) of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Act 2002 sets out this requirement.