Complaints are Gold

By Jonathan Beebee (Chief Enablement Officer and Nurse Consultant PBS4, Royal College of Nursing’s Professional Lead in Learning Disabilities)

A few years ago I was proud to be involved in NHS England’s Ask Listen Do project.

This project was born from the difficulties people with learning disabilities and their families have in making complaints about the support they receive.

Many families report that they are afraid to raise concerns and complaints. They worry that doing so will have a negative impact on the support that their loved one receives, or that they will be further alienated from being involved in their loved ones lives. This has to change!

I love receiving complaints! Please do not misunderstand this. I am never happy that someone has a reason to raise a complaint. However, if I receive a complaint that means I know something is going wrong and I have details I can act upon. If I don’t receive complaints when things go wrong, how do I know what isn’t working?

Also, receiving a complaint shows that people know how to complain and they feel safe to do so. So, as much as I wish they didn’t have a reason to complain, the fact that someone feels able to complain is a good start!

Complaints are gold to me. They are incredibly valuable. That is why I strongly believe it is important to aim for a culture that welcomes and actively encourages complaints.

Most complaints start as feedback. A parent may try sharing with a health or social care provider ideas and thoughts about what they know works for their loved one. If this feedback hasn’t been listened to then issues can begin to develop, and then feedback becomes a concern. When concerns are not listened to, or organisations don’t have effective mechanisms for hearing concerns, then a concern becomes a complaint.  Effectively, a complaint is feedback that has not been heard, so people need a way to speak louder to ensure they are being heard.

Creating cultures where feedback, concerns, and complaints are highly valued is essential for organisations that want to truly value working in partnership with families.

This blog has been written for Making Families Count (MFC) by Jonathan Beebee, who is one of the presenters for the upcoming MFC webinar “The Benefits Of Working Well With Families Who Have Relatives In Forensic Services“ on 27 April https://www.makingfamiliescount.org.uk/what-we-do/webinars/#relatives-forensic-services

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