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4.1.3 Complaints management

Last Modified: 28-Jun-2018 Review Date: 01-Jul-2019


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).

Practice Requirements

  • The CPFS division is open and responsive to receiving complaints from children, young people, parents, extended family and members of the community.
  • Responding to complaints effectively is viewed by the CPFS division as an opportunity for service improvement.
  • CPFS division officers must make every effort to respond to complaints at the local level, in accordance with the standards described in the Complaints Management Policy (refer to Complaints Management - Policy and Procedures in related resources).
  • Any CPFS division officer may receive a complaint, verbally or in writing, and this must be referred immediately to the responsible officer or their delegate (refer to the Complaints Management Policy: Lodging a Complaint in related resources).
  • All CPFS division officers are responsible for ensuring that service users and the community are:
    • advised of, and understand, the complaint process available to them, and
    • are assisted to make a complaint, where required.  This may include providing translated information or interpreting services where the need for such services is identified. Download a copy of the Resolving your Complaints Kit (in related resources).


  • Definition of a complaint
  • What may be complained about?
  • Complaints that will not be dealt with through the Complaints Management Policy
  • Staff misconduct allegations
  • Other complaint avenues
  • Complaints involving Advocates or Support People
  • Actions required when responding to a complaint
  • The tiered complaints process
  • Tier One – District Offices
  • Tier Two – Complaints Management Unit
  • External complaint avenue – Ombudsman Western Australia
  • Definition of a complaint

    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.


    What may be complained about?

    Complaints may be made about:

    • any service offered by the CPFS division
    • any aspect of our operation, or
    • a lack in a service that could reasonably be expected of the CPFS division.

    The Complaints Management Policy (in related resources) meets the Australian Standard on Complaint handling AS 4269 1995.​


    Complaints that will not be dealt with through the Complaints Management Policy

    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.


    Staff misconduct allegations

    The Complaints Management Policy does not apply to complaints regarding staff conduct. These are referred to the CPFS division's Integrity Services Unit.


    Other complaint avenues

    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.​


    Complaints involving Advocates or Support People

    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.


    Actions required when responding to a complaint

    The following actions are essential to effectively respond to a complaint and to meet the requirements of the Complaints Management Policy:

    1. Acknowledge the receipt of the complaint verbally or in writing within two working days - refer to the template Complaint acknowledgement letter (in related resources)
    2. contact the person by telephone to discuss the complaint, or to try and resolve it within seven working days of receipt
    3. if the complaint is lodged verbally it may be helpful to send the person a letter detailing what complaints are being investigated - refer to the Complaint confirmation letter template (in related resources)
    4. respond to complaints that do not meet the complaint criteria in writing - refer to Refusing a complaint letter template (in related resources)
    5. complaints can be resolved prior to being investigated and this is advised in writing - refer to Resolution of a complaint prior to investigation letter template (in related resources), and
    6. complete an investigation and send the complainant an outcome letter within 21 working days of receipt - refer to Complaint outcome letter template (in related resources).

    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 tiered complaints process

    The CPFS division has developed a tiered complaints process.


    Tier One – District Offices

    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.


    Tier Two – Complaints Management Unit

    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:

    • ensuring that all customers, regardless of their background or circumstances, are able to access the complaints management system and receive a fair hearing
    • assuring the professional administration of all service delivery complaints in accordance with applicable Australian and Western Australian Public Sector standards
    • ensuring the timely assessment, investigation and finalisation of complaints at tiers one and two
    • ensuring that comprehensive records of complaints are maintained for the reporting of key themes, trends, and benchmarking to the Assistant Director General, Service Standards and Contracting
    • the appropriate redirection of complaints to tier one or to the Integrity Services Unit. This may involve the initial recording of complaint details and the electronic communication of these details to the appropriate section for investigation
    • the provision of strategic advice to the Executive Management Committee on critical issues arising from complaint trends, and
    • providing advice to clients about the option of referring complaints to external agencies including the Ombudsman.

    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.


    External complaint avenue – Ombudsman Western Australia

    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.