To guide Department of Communities Child Protection and Family Support division's (CPFS division) child protection workers in responding effectively to formal complaints from children, parents, extended family and members of the community using the Complaints Management Policy (in related resources).
A complaint is defined as a formal expression of dissatisfaction with any aspect of the CPFS division operations.
An informal complaint is one that can be resolved by speaking to the case worker or team leader. Many complaints can be resolved this way.
It becomes a formal complaint at the point in time that a manager or director must be involved in resolving a complaint.
Complaints may be made about:
The Complaints Management Policy (in related resources) meets the Australian Standard on Complaint handling AS 4269 1995.
All complaints must be acknowledged and considered however, some complaints cannot be responded to within the Complaints Management Policy. For detailed information, child protection workers should refer to the Complaints Management Policy, section 4.5 'Complaints that will not be accepted' (in related resources).
It is important to assess the suitability of every complaint in the first instance, and to advise people where they may progress any complaints that do not meet the policy for progression.
The Complaints Management Policy does not apply to complaints regarding staff conduct. These are referred to the CPFS division's Integrity Services Unit.
Complaints can be received by the Minister for Child Protection and the Director General; while not formally included in the complaints process, complaints to these offices that meet the definition of a complaint will be forwarded to the Complaints Management Unit (CMU) for processing - refer to Other Complaint Avenues (in related resources).
Complaints may also be received at CMU or directly to work units verbally, in person, in writing, or through use of the complaint form.
At times a person may be dissatisfied with aspects of the CPFS division's services and have an advocate or support person act on their behalf. The CPFS division aims to resolve dissatisfactions at the casework level where possible and is open to including a support person or advocate to achieve resolution. It is important to have signed permission from the person and their advocate or support person.
If the inclusion of an advocate or support person is not improving communication, or the issues cannot be resolved at the casework level, consult your line manager and/or CMU. CMU can provide consultation and advice to progress to a formal complaint and provide support strategies towards achieving resolution to all parties.
Issues regarding confidentiality, conflicts of interest and third party information require careful consideration with your line manager.
Refer to Advocate or Support Person Information (in related resources) for more detail, including an example of a 'Permission to act' advice letter.
The following actions are essential to effectively respond to a complaint and to meet the requirements of the Complaints Management Policy:
Note: Complaints of misconduct about staff are not investigated within the complaints process. These complaints are referred to the CPFS division's Integrity Services Unit. Advise the complainant of the referral in writing using the Referring of complaint misconduct letter template (in related resources).
The director or delegate should complete this entire process within 21 working days of receiving the complaint.
In circumstances where actions or tasks are recommended following a formal complaint (including Tier 1, 2 or via external complaint avenues), record the details on Assist/Case Plan Supervision, to document the actions to be completed and reviewed, if necessary.
The district director or CHARM delegate must verify that these recommendations, actions and subsequent outcomes are recorded on Assist.
The CPFS division has developed a tiered complaints process.
The district is responsible for responding to complaints with the goal of resolution. It is hoped that as many complaints as possible can be resolved at this level as it is the easiest and most positive outcome for all if this can be achieved.
All complaints received by CMU, the Minister for Child Protection, and the Director General will be lodged with the responsible tier one director for assessment and resolution in the first instance. Complaints may be made in writing, by telephone or by meeting the director or their delegate.
CMU is responsible for effectively managing the ongoing operation, improvement and quality assurance of our complaints handling procedures; it has oversight of district and work units’ complaint handling procedures.
CMU is responsible for a range of functions including:
Where matters remain unresolved at this level, complainants must be advised. They may seek an external resolution through independent bodies such as the Ombudsman’s Office.
Where complainants are dissatisfied with outcomes at the completion of tier one and two of the CPFS division's complaints process, they may seek external resolution via the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman will likely review the tier one Complaint outcome Letter and the tier two Investigation Outcome Letter, and consider whether they will seek further inquiry from the CPFS division on behalf of the complainant.