Child Friendly Complaints

Ensuring children’s rights and needs are met by public service complaints procedures in Scotland

January 2024 -  Consultation on Draft Child Friendly Complaints Handling Principles

Our consultation on the draft Child Friendly Complaints Handling Principles (PDF, 125KB) is now open, and we are accepting responses until 1 March 2024. The purpose of this consultation is to gather responses on the current drafts, to ensure they are clearly communicated and easy to understand. This consultation is also a legal requirement, as we will be looking to amend our Statement of Principles to include the Child Friendly Complaints Handling Principles in the next few months, following parliamentary approval. 

The consultation is open to all, but we are particularly looking for responses from:

  • Anyone under 18
  • Anyone with caring responsibilities for someone under 18
  • Public services and third sector organisations who work with people under 18 or have an interest in promoting their rights 

The consultation questionnaire only takes about 10 minutes to complete. It can be found here: Consultation on Child Friendly Complaints Handling Principles

Alternatively, you can download and complete a word version of the consultation (Word, 30.4KB) and submit this to [email protected].

June 2023 - Pilot of Draft Child Friendly Complaints Guidance

Following an extensive co-design project with a wide range of children, young people, and other stakeholders, we have now launched a pilot of a draft version of the new approach to handling complaints involving children. This consists of two key guidance documents - the Child Friendly Complaints Handling Principles, and a Child Friendly Complaints Handling Procedure.

The purpose of the pilot is to test the new approach in a real world setting, to ensure it achieves the goal of meeting children's rights and needs, and to identify any changes required or improvements that may be beneficial. The pilot is open to any public body under our jurisdiction, to trial and test the new process at a scope and scale that they feel is appropriate and manageable, with the SPSO available to support that implementation and answer any questions that may arise during the handling of a complaint.

If your organisation would like to learn more about the draft guidance, or would like to take part in the pilot, please contact us at [email protected] and we will be happy to help.

December 2022

The SPSO is currently working on a new approach to handling complaints that involve children. We are doing this by working with children & young people from a range of backgrounds, and from across Scotland, to co-design this new approach and ensure it is a system fit for purpose. We have also enlisted the help of a wide range of parents, advocates, and professionals that work with children in the public sector, to test and refine the approach and ensure it will work in a practical setting. We would like to extend our sincere gratitude and thanks to everyone who has helped us in this work so far.

We now have a first draft of a guide that will ultimately be implemented by all public bodies under our remit. This guide will set out how existing complaints processes can be adapted when a child or young person is involved. It will aim to ensure that their rights under the UNCRC are met throughout the complaints process and that their concerns are handled in a way that they have told us meets their needs.

We had initially planned to carry out a public consultation around now, aiming towards publishing the guide under our model complaints powers and requiring all relevant public bodies to have their own version in place by 1 April 2023. Following feedback from our engagement and testing work, we have decided to carry out a more targeted pilot first.

The pilot will focus on key services provided to children and young people, such as schools, social work services, and children’s health services. The aim of this work will be to test the new approach in practical settings, both to ensure it results in the right outcomes for children, and that it is efficient, practical and workable for the public sector bodies managing the process.

We will still hold a full public consultation before publication of the final guidance, but this will now take place after the pilots are complete and any changes made. We are still in the process of refining the pilot, and will provide further updates on the timeline and launch when we have definite dates. We will also be aiming to share further details of the approach before the 1 April 2023, so that all relevant bodies, including those not involved in the pilot, will have a better understanding of what to expect.

If your organisation would like to be involved, or you would like further information about what your involvement might entail, please contact us at [email protected] and we will do our best to help.

July 2022

The SPSO is being funded by the Scottish Government to develop a child-friendly way for public bodies to handle complaints. On 25 April 2022 we launched our two-year project to develop and implement new guidance for the public bodies we work with.

Children and young people are users of a wide range of Scottish public services, including schools, children and families social work, and health visitor services. Many of these focus on wellbeing, health and development. Children have the right to complain if they are unhappy with those services.

We are developing guidance that will cover complaints about public services:

  • made by children and young people themselves
  • made on behalf of children and young people with their permission (e.g. by their parents, carers or third-party advocates), and
  • concerning children and young people (e.g. made by their parents, carers or third-party advocates without permission or input from children and young people).

Project aim

Co-design and implement a public sector complaints service that meets children’s rights and needs, working in co-operation with children and young people, public bodies and wider stakeholders

It is important that complaints handling processes both enable children and young people to exercise their rights, and ensure those handling complaints hear and respect children and young peoples’ views and voices. Taking a co-design approach that hears those voices from the outset will help ensure young people have a real impact in shaping the new guidance.


We will be running design workshops with a wide range of people over the next few months.  If you would like to take part in our workshops, or if you have any questions about the project, please contact us by emailing [email protected].  

Updated: February 23, 2024