Client Complaints, Grievances and Feedback Policy

1. Purpose

1. This Policy is to ensure that all complaints are handled fairly, effectively, efficiently and consistently across The Learning for Life Autism Centre Inc (Learning for Life) in a timely manner. This policy provides procedural operational guidance to staff, and for clients who want to make a complaint, on the key procedures and expectations for the feedback and complaint handling system.

2. Learning for Life believes that all complaints, feedback, and grievances provided by our Clients are an important opportunity to improve the quality of our services. Through this Policy Learning for Life ensures that our Clients, their families, carers, advocates and members of the public are aware of their right to complain and the procedure to follow to lodge their complaint, feedback or grievance. All complaints, feedback, and grievances shall be treated confidentially, where possible, and Learning for Life shall take all reasonable measures to ensure complainants are protected from reprisals and/or victimisation.

2. Policy Statement

1. This service will:

  • Provide clear procedures for making and dealing with complaints at the service.
  • Comply with all legislative requirements.
  • Investigate all complaints, dealing with them as soon as practicable.
  • Attempt to resolve the complaint to mutual satisfaction of those involved.

2. This service is committed to:

  • The resolution, where possible, of complaints to the mutual satisfaction of those involved.
  • Fairness and equity in dealing with disputes, complaints and complainants.
  • Compliance with all legislative and statutory requirements.
  • Keeping confidential, where practicable, the information provided by any person involved with a complaint.

3. Learning for Life understands and supports person-centred and family-centred approaches to delivery of services and recognises the central role of families in peoples’ lives. This approach may include inputs and evaluations from families, friends and carers. Feedback received assists continuous improvement and contributes towards enhancing service delivery.

4. Learning for Life is committed to working collaboratively together with Clients to continue to deliver a high standard of therapeutic services that meet the needs of Clients and their families and ensures that the Client participates fully in their family and community life.

5. When managing complaints, Learning for Life shall take a focus on identification of risk and the prevention of errors in order to reduce the potential dissatisfaction and harm to Clients.

6. Learning for Life shall give all Clients access to lodging complaints, feedback, and grievances without fear of retribution or victimisation and shall ensure that all received complaints, feedback, and grievances are considered, appropriately referred and actioned upon.

7. Learning for Life shall engage employees and contractors that have the right skills and training to meet the standards prescribed by this Policy.

3. Scope

1. This policy applies to the staff, volunteers, parents/guardians and any other person involved with Learning for Life.

2. All complaints received by this service will be dealt with under this Policy except for:

  • Complaints relating to sexual and other forms of harassment or relating to equal opportunity, which will be dealt with under the Equal Employment Opportunity, Bullying and Harassment
  • Complaints related to industrial or employment matters, which will be dealt with in accordance with specific staffing policies and the requirements specified under relevant awards, industrial agreements or legislation.
  • Complaints between members of the association or a member and the Board relating to the operation of the incorporated association, which will be dealt with under the grievance procedure in the service’s Constitution.

Where a Complaint received relates to a reportable incident under another policy (such as the Duty of Care & Incident Policy and Child Safe & Vulnerable Persons Policy), the Complaint will still be addressed under this Policy in addition to the other relevant policy being followed for the handling of the underlying incident.

4. Definitions

Client means, for the purpose of this policy:

(i) a child who is enrolled in a Learning for Life program and, in relation to information provided or a complaint or feedback made, that child’s parents or legal guardians.

(ii)  where Learning for Life is providing a service under a service agreement with an educational institution or private organisation, that institution or organisation.

Complaint means any verbal or written grievance from a Client, staff member, volunteer or other person involved with the service.

5. Communication

1. This Policy shall be communicated to existing Clients on its commencement and to new Clients on the commencement of their service.

2. This Policy shall be communicated to all staff and volunteers of Learning for Life on its commencement and to new staff members on the commencement of their employment in compliance with Recruitment and Induction Policy and Training and Registrations Policy.

3. Learning for Life shall provide relevant information and training to all staff and volunteers about this Policy and its application.

4. This Policy is available in easy read and pictorial format.

6. Background and Relevant Legislation

Relevant Legislation that is applicable to Learning for Life in the context of complaints is:

  • Associations Incorporation Act (Vic) 1981;
  • Accountability Principles 2014;
  • Australian Human Rights Commission Act (Cth) 1986;
  • Child Employment Act (Vic) 2003;
  • Child Wellbeing and Safety Act (Vic) 2005;
  • Children, Youth and Families Act (Vic) 2005;
  • Commission for Children and Young People Act (Vic) 2012;
  • Constitution of the service;
  • Disability Services Act (Cth) 1993;
  • NDIS Practice Standards – Worker Screening Rules 2018;
  • NDIS (Quality Indicators) Guidelines 2018;
  • Privacy and Data Protection Act (Vic) 2014;
  • Privacy Act (Cth) 1988;
  • United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD);
  • Working with Children Act (Vic) 2005.

7. Quality Assurance

1. Learning for Life shall deliver services in accordance with its lawful obligations, rules and regulations that set standards such as:

  • Support for Clients to meet their aspirations and to participate in the community;
  • Respect for the Clients’ right to choose;
  • Non-Discrimination;
  • Culture of Respect.

2. All staff of Learning for Life shall be subject to regular performance reviews as indicated in Performance Management and Disciplinary Policy which shall support the practice of providing feedback and goal setting for continuous improvement.

3. Individual Client programs developed for each Client in accordance to the Individual Programs Policy shall be reviewed at least annually, allowing for feedback and amendments to match the Client’s wishes.

4. This Policy shall be read in consultation with Code of Conduct and the relevant ethical guidelines for each discipline in which staff is employed at Learning for Life. The Code of Conduct and ethical guidelines outline professional standards and guidelines to support practitioners in providing high quality healthcare to Clients.

5. In order to assess whether the policy is achieving the values and purposes set out under the policy statement above the Board will:

  • review the Complaints and Feedback Register submitted at each board meeting to understand the types of Complaints coming in and whether satisfactory resolutions are being achieved; and
  • take into consideration feedback on this Policy from staff, volunteers, parents/guardians and the Best Practice Subcommittee (including any survey responses to staff, volunteer or Client surveys).

8. Principles for Receiving, Handling and Assessing Complaints

1. Clients of Learning for Life have a right to lodge their feedback, complaint, grievance or dispute about the services or the way they are delivered at any time during or after receiving services using any available means for lodging this feedback.

2. For the purpose of achieving the best outcome possible Clients are encouraged to include the following information when providing feedback or making a complaint:

  • detailed description of the matter of the feedback: persons involved, location, date, time, sequence of events and their results;
  • actions that the Client would like Learning for Life to take to resolve the complaint;
  • preferred means of communication between the Client and Learning for Life in regard to the feedback, investigations and actions taken.

3. All complaints will be treated seriously and investigated, regardless of whether they are being investigated by an external organisation.

4. Learning for Life shall respond promptly and fairly to any feedback requiring follow-up action or investigation.

5. Those involved with a complaint will have the opportunity to present their point of view.

6. Complaints to the service will be investigated as soon as practicable after being received.

7. Learning for Life shall take reasonable action to attempt to resolve any complaints, grievances or disputes by consulting with Clients, staff and management.

8. Staff issues or positive feedback shall be addressed with the staff members in question promptly to encourage everyday practice reflection and self-development.

9. Where resolution of a Complaint provides for an increase in service offerings, these shall be considered against budget and staff expertise.

10. A record of all complaints will be maintained in a register a report provided to each Board meeting, on the number and nature of any complaints received since the previous report.

11. Management of complaints shall be conducted in a confidential and courteous manner according to the Confidentiality and Privacy Policy without any form of retribution against the Client. Details of the feedback, investigations, reports and outcomes shall be recorded and managed in a confidential manner and stored securely in accordance with Confidentiality and Privacy Policy and a Complaints and Feedback Register maintained.  Records shall contain:

  • Details of the initial feedback received from the Client;
  • Communications with the Client regarding the matter;
  • Staff members responsible for addressing the matter;
  • Investigations;
  • Actions taken;
  • Outcome and whether and how the outcome was reported to the relevant authorities and parties.

12. Complaints about incidents that require reporting shall be reported promptly to the relevant authorities (such as the Department of Human Services, NDIS, VDW, Victoria Police, etc) or the relevant professional body (if applicable) as outlined in the Duty of Care and Incident Management Policy, Occupational Health and Safety Policy and Data Breach and Response Policy.

9. Advocacy and Translation

1. Clients have the right to have:

  • an advocate or representative; and/or
  • a translator,

to assist them in making a Complaint or providing feedback.

2. Where a Client expresses a wish for an advocate or representative or translator to assist them, Learning for Life shall assist the Client in accessing and contacting an advocate or translator.

3. Advocates, representatives and translators can and should be involved in the management of a Complaint at the request of the Client.

10. Process for Receiving and Handling Complaints

1. Where a staff member or volunteer receives a complaint they must:

  • where the complaint is received verbally, document the complaint in writing;
  • where the complaint is unclear or has the potential to be misunderstood, encourage the complainant to put their complaints in writing in order to make the terms of the complaint as clear as possible;
  • inform their manager and the Practice Manager as soon as practicable after the Complaint is received, including advising whether the Complaint has been resolved (and if so how) or whether further steps are required;

2. Upon receipt or notification of a Complaint, the Practice Manager will:

  • promptly include the Complaint in a Complaints and Feedback Register;
  • if the complaint is clinical in nature or relates to the program and service being provided to a Client, inform the Clinical Director;
  • if the complaint is administrative in nature or relates to invoicing, inform the General Manager.

3. Upon receipt of the complaint, the Clinical Director or General Manager will ensure the complainant is contacted (by phone or email) to acknowledge the Complaint, to attempt to resolve the Complaint and/or obtain further information and advise who will be handling the Complaint.

4. If after having made contact with the Complainant:

  • the matter is resolved by the Clinical Director or General Manager, they must notify the Practice Manager, relevant program supervisor for that client and the reporting staff member. The Practice Manager will enter the resolving details into the Complaints Register; or
  • the matter is not resolved by the Clinical Director or General Manager, they must forward the written complaint to the Executive Officer or request the complainant to put the Complaint in writing addressed to the Executive Officer.

5. Upon receipt of a complaint, the Executive Officer will:

  • determine whether the complaint should be dealt with under this Policy, another of Learning for Life’s policies or under the grievance procedure of the service’s constitution and whether the complaint relates to a notifiable incident for the purpose of needing to notify the National Disability Insurance Commission, the Victorian Disability Worker Commission or any other regulatory or professional body;
  • if the complaint falls under the scope of this Policy, refer the Complaint to the Best Practice Subcommittee for assessment;
  • if the complaint falls under another policy of the Learning for Life constitution, follow the processes in that relevant Policy or constitution; and
  • if the complaint constitutes a notifiable incident, notify the relevant authority prior to referring the complaint to the Best Practice subcommittee (or following the processes relevant in the other policy or constitution).

11. Subcommittee Assessment of Complaint

1. The Board delegates authority to the Best Practice Subcommittee to deal with the Complaints referred by the Executive Officer as set out in this Policy.

2. If any member of the Best Practice Subcommittee is materially involved in the complaint, they will step aside from participation in assessment, investigation and management of the complaint to avoid any possible conflict of interest.

3. Having received the unresolved Complaint, the Best Practice Subcommittee will:

  • Meet as a subcommittee to deal with the complaint as soon as possible;
  • Consider the nature and the details of the complaint;
  • Inform the complainant of the procedure for dealing with the complaint;
  • Give the complainant the opportunity to meet with them to discuss the complaint and to provide additional information where relevant;
  • Maintain appropriate records of the information and data collected;
  • Respect the confidential nature of information relating to the complaint. Complaints will be handled in a discrete and professional manner and all written information relating to the complaints will be stored in electronic files which ensure access is limited only to those on the Best Practice Subcommittee and the Practice Manager; and
  • Investigate the Complaint and gather relevant information

4. In assessing and investigating the Complaint, the Best Practice Subcommittee will:

  • Meet or speak individually with all witnesses to any alleged incident, giving right of reply to the person or persons against whom the allegations are made in relation to any accusation or information relating to an alleged incident;
  • Reviews relevant information and documents;
  • Obtains any information or documentation that will assist them in trying to resolve the complaint; and
  • Seeks advice, where appropriate from individuals and organisations that may be able to help resolve the complaint.

5. Not all feedback, complaints, disputes or grievances will require an investigation, but where an investigation is necessary, it shall be undertaken in accordance with the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness and, if applicable, the provisions of the internal Performance Management and Disciplinary Policy. any such investigations conducted shall follow the the following process:

  • Collection of evidence (this may involve direct observation, collation of documentation relating to the complaint, interviews with parties to the complaint, etc.);
  • Assembling and considering the evidence;
  • Comparing the findings with relevant standards, protocols or guidelines, whether national or local, to establish the facts, draw conclusions about causation and make recommendations for actions to minimise risk;
  • Development of an improvement strategy with prioritised actions, responsibilities, timescales and strategies for measuring the effectiveness of actions; and
  • Implementation of the improvement strategy and progress tracking, including the effectiveness of actions.

The investigation process shall be tailored to the Client’s needs and/or disability and, where possible and appropriate, the Client shall be kept informed of the progress of the investigation and its outcome and offered support during this process.

12. Resolution Stage

1. The Best Practice Subcommittee will wherever possible endeavour to resolve the Complaint by mutual agreement of the parties involved.

2. In the event that the complaint is resolved, the Sub-committee will report this Practice Manager for inclusion in the Complaints and Feedback Register.

3. In the event that the complaint has not been resolved to the satisfaction of the parties involved or particular decisions require Board approval, the Best Practice Sub-committee will refer the matter to the Board of Learning for Life.

4. Where an issue is referred to the Board, the Best Practice Subcommittee will provide a report and include relevant information they have gained in investigations and consultations relating to the complaint.

5. The Board will review the report and any recommendations from the Sub-committee and makes a decision on the action, if any, to be taken, including relevant review mechanisms.

6. The Best Practice Subcommittee, will advise the complainant and other relevant parties, of any decisions they (or the Board) have made relating to the C Where appropriate the Best Practice Subcommittee, will set in place relevant review mechanisms and/or procedures to monitor progress.

13. Dispute Resolution

1. Where a Client is not satisfied with the outcome of the Complaints management process, they may seek external representation to assist with the resolution of complaints.

2. The Victorian Disability Services Commissioner is an independent oversight body resolving complaints and promoting the right of people with a disability to be free from abuse.

3. Staff may assist Clients in accessing and contacting the Victorian Disability Services Commissioner by accessing their website on https://www.odsc.vic.gov.au.

14. NDIS Quality & Safeguards Commission

In addition to providing feedback or making complaints to Learning for Life, Clients are also able to contact the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission to make complaints in the following ways: