Page title

Intro

Contents

Purpose

This procedure details how the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC) responds to complaints. It complements DLGSC’s Complaint Management Policy

Scope

This procedure addresses complaints about the products and services provided by DLGSC to its customers and applies to all staff, contractors and volunteers engaged by the department.

Definitions

Complainant
is a person or organisation making a complaint.
A complaint

for the purpose of this policy is aligned to AS/NZS 10002:2014, (the standard) wherein a complaint is defined as an ‘expression of dissatisfaction made to, or about an organisation, related to its products, services, staff or the handling of a complaint where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected or legally required.’ A complaint is further defined below to ensure that the response to complaints is not duplicated and that the process does not become onerous and counterproductive.

This procedure deals with general complaints where:

  • there is not an alternative process in place that is linked to legislation and the agency’s core functions; or
  • an immediate resolution cannot be reached, and further investigation and actions are required.

An example of an alternative process is where complaints under section 5.105 of the Local Government Act 1995 and complaints under section 117 of the Liquor Control Act 1988 are dealt with in accordance with specific established procedures. The standard identifies certain matters that are not subject to these complaint procedures and they include:

Customer
is an external person or external organisation receiving advice, a service, accessing facilities, engaging in an interaction or business relationship, or any other person or organisation having an interest in the functions or activities of DLGSC.
Feedback
is opinions, comments and expressions of interest or concern, made directly or indirectly, explicitly or implicitly to or about DLGSC, its products, services, staff or its handling of a complaint.

Instructions

General complaints about DLGSC’s products and services are to be referred to the relevant business area and processed in accordance with these procedures. Details of the complaint must also be recorded in the General Complaints Register managed by Corporate Governance.

Receipt and initial acknowledgement of the complaint

Complaints submitted online

It is preferable that complaints be submitted through the DLGSC website using the online form under 'Complaints, compliments and suggestions'. An automatic acknowledgement will be generated. Complaints received this way will be forwarded to the relevant business area and to the Corporate Governance Team or for inclusion and tracking in the General Complaints Register.

Complaints submitted by other methods

Complaints may also be lodged with DLGSC staff, contractors or volunteers via email, fax, letter or telephone. Complaints from children and young people may be made in person and through a support person. The complaint recipient (the recipient) should ensure that all relevant information has been provided (see Acknowledgement section). The recipient should assess whether he/she has the skills, knowledge, authority and impartiality to deal with the complaint. If the recipient is not able to deal with the complaint, the recipient should either:

  • discuss the matter with their manager
  • encourage the complainant to submit a complaint through the DLGSC website
  • collate the details of the complaint and forward them to info@dlgsc.wa.gov.au for forwarding to the relevant business area.

Accepting or refusing the complaint

The recipient must assess whether the complaint falls within the scope of this Complaint Handling Procedure by reviewing the definition of a complaint on page two of this document. If it is not a matter that can be handled by this general complaints process, the complainant should be referred to a more appropriate process or a more appropriate body such as the Ombudsman (see the Western Australian Ombudsman’s Handling your Compliant for matters dealt with by the Ombudsman).

A complaint can also be refused where the recipient determines that the complaint is vexatious or trivial. If a complainant uses personal abuse, inflammatory statements or intimidation when communicating their complaint to DLGSC, their compliant will not be accepted.

If a complaint has not been accepted the recipient must advise the complainant accordingly in writing with reasons provided. The advice must include notice that the complainant has the right to request an internal review of the decision by a senior officer within DLGSC or by the Ombudsman. Prior to sending this advice the recipient must receive approval from their manager. The advice must also be provided to Corporate Governance Team for recording in the Complaints Register.

Acknowledgement

On accepting a complaint the recipient must ensure that the complainant has provided:

  • their personal and contact details
  • whether any special assistance is required by the complainant to properly interact with DLGSC
  • a summary of the complaint
  • details of the outcome sought by the complainant.

As soon as practicable and within 10 days, the recipient is to make initial written contact with the complainant to acknowledge receipt of their complaint. For complaints made by or on behalf of children and young people, the recipient is to make initial contact with the complainant as soon as practicable and within 3 business days.

Assessment of the complaint and advice to complainant

Initial assessment of the complaint

To determine how a complaint will be managed, it should be assessed in terms of:

  • severity
  • health and safety implications
  • complexity
  • impact on the individual, general public or DLGSC
  • potential to escalate
  • the need and possibility for immediate action
  • the outcomes sought by the applicant
  • whether other organisations or areas within the organisation need to be involved.

If the recipient is of the view that the complaint warrants immediate action, they should take the necessary steps to initiate such action.

Advice to complainant

The recipient must contact the complainant as soon as practicable providing:

  • the timeframe for dealing with the complaint
  • a reference number for the complaint
  • details of the DLGSC contact
  • an overview of how it is intended to address the complaint.

A copy of this advice is to be provided to Corporate Governance for recording in the General Complaints Register.

Investigating the complaint

The recipient is to ensure that there is no conflict of interest when dealing with the complaint. In the event of a conflict of interest, the recipient will refer the complaint to their line manager for actioning by an alternate party.

Early resolution

Ideally the complaint will be resolved by talking to the complainant to see if some form of mutually acceptable resolution can be achieved. Where resolution is reached, the agreed action must be documented and communicated to the Corporate Governance Team. In this event it may be unnecessary to continue with the investigation unless there are systemic issues that require further examination outside of the complaints process.

Investigation

The recipient should define the issues to be investigated and develop an investigation plan. The investigation should be carried out by gathering sufficient reliable information to enable the issue to be properly addressed by proving or disproving matters relevant to the issue. The investigation should be conducted in an objective and unbiased way following the principles of procedural fairness. The Western Australian Ombudsman’s Guidelines on Complaint Handling contain detailed guidance for responding to complaints.

If the recipient determines that they will not be able to arrive at a decision within the prescribed timeframe, they must contact the complainant to negotiate a new timeframe for dealing with the complaint and inform the Corporate Governance Team accordingly. This information is then recorded in the General Complaints Register.

The personal information of the complainant and anyone who is the subject of the complaint should be kept confidential and only used for the purposes of addressing the complaint.

It is important that the recipient keeps the complainant informed throughout the process and provides an up-to-date status to the complainant upon request, and at least at the time of pre-set deadlines.

When responding to a suspicion or allegation of harm or abuse from a child or young person, the recipient must listen and be respectful, believe what the child or young person is saying and take the disclosure seriously. The recipient, with the support of their manager, should report concerns where there is a concern for the wellbeing of a child or young person to the Department of Communities Central Intake Team or WA Police if a child is in danger.

Decision

The recipient must confirm any decision with their line manager before communicating the outcome to the complainant. The recipient must also refer any matter to their line manager that requires disciplinary action, relates to a suspicion or allegation of harm or abuse from a child or young person, training/upskilling or a review of programs and policies. Where practicable, consideration is also to be given to extending any remedy to other affected customers who did not complain.

The recipient is to advise the complainant in writing of their decision, including:

  • the actions taken in response to the complaint
  • the outcome of the complaint
  • the reasons for any decisions that have been made
  • the proposed remedy (if appropriate)
  • the process available to them if they are not satisfied with the response provided (see Internal review section).

For complaints made by children and young people, the recipient may alternatively advise the complainant of their decision verbally in person or over the phone. The recipient may also liaise with and advise a trusted adult and advocacy organisation. The recipient may be required to communicate using a translator or interpreter to aid the child or young person.   

Internal review of complaints

The Corporate Governance Team is responsible for receiving requests for internal review (either from the complainant or through the recipient) and will determine whether they have enough information from the complainant to warrant proceeding with a review.

The Corporate Governance Team will:

  • determine the most appropriate person to undertake the review, subject to a conflict of interest test
  • contact the complainant to acknowledge receipt of their request for an internal review and provide the name of the reviewing officer and timeframe for the response
  • provide the reviewing officer with details of the internal review request, all information relating to the original complaint and the timeframe for completion.

The reviewing officer will:

  • review the information provided and seek more information from the original recipient if required
  • make a decision on the review request as soon as possible and within 60 days, or 15 days if the complaint is made from or on behalf of a child or young person
  • provide notice of the decision to the complainant in writing (including information about the option of seeking further review from the Ombudsman)
  • take any action necessary as a result of the complaint
  • provide the Corporate Governance Team with a copy of the decision.

Corporate Governance is to record the details of the review decision in the General Complaints Register.

Closure

The recipient will ensure all information relating to the complaint is appropriately recorded and stored. The recipient must provide details of the decision to the Corporate Governance Team as soon as practicable after the complaint has been addressed and resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant, for recording and closure in the General Complaints Register. An assessment of the complainant’s satisfaction with the process will be determined by Corporate Governance via a questionnaire which will be recorded and followed up if necessary.

Records management

Business areas and officers processing complaints are responsible for storing records of their investigations and decisions securely in either project/administration, personnel or access-restricted TRIM files as appropriate and in accordance with the Department’s Records Management Policy and Record Keeping Plan. This includes keeping file notes and other records of any conversations, interviews, or other proceedings.

Corporate Governance is responsible for maintaining the General Complaints Register and storing general records about complaints and complaint data, in an access-restricted TRIM file.

Review of complaints data

Each quarter, Corporate Governance will collate the complaints data as follows:

  • the number and nature of complaints (including those referred to the Ombudsman)
  • the outcomes of complaints and any remedies provided and actions taken
  • compliance with prescribed timeframes for a response
  • satisfaction of complainants with the process
  • any recurring issues or themes. 

Corporate Governance will identify:

  • any non-compliance with legislation, department policies, or any other compliance issues identified during the complaints process
  • any deficiencies in the department’s services or processes identified through the complaint process
  • any opportunities to improve the complaints management process.

Corporate Governance will collate the data and report any significant findings to Corporate Executive on a quarterly basis. 

Legislation and regulations

Department policy and procedure

  • Complaint Handling Procedure
  • Code of Conduct
  • Child Safeguarding Policy
  • Child Safeguarding Framework
  • Fraud and Corruption Control Plan (under development)
  • Public Interest Disclosure Policy
  • Record Keeping Plan
  • Customer Service Charter.

Other related documents

Page reviewed 16 March 2022