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Complaints Policy Document Number 5.2

1. Purpose

Dealing well with complaints helps Support Groups Queensland to maintain and improve service quality and ensure consumers have any issues resolved quickly and effectively. The procedures guide the organisation in responding appropriately and fairly to complaints.

2. Scope

This policy will apply to Management Committee, employees, volunteers and consumers.

3. Policy

Support Groups Queensland is committed to facilitating a consumer’s right to make a complaint, ensuring that :

  • All complaints are taken seriously;
  • Complaints are managed in an accountable, transparent and meaningful way;
  • Processes are effective and efficient;
  • We are responsive and customer focused; and
  • Privacy and confidentiality are ensured.

Receipt of a complaint will be acknowledged as soon as possible and complaints will be addressed promptly in accordance with their urgency. Where appropriate, our people will attempt to resolve the complaint at point of service in accordance with our complaints handling procedures.

Support Groups Queensland is committed to continual improvement to the safety and quality of the services it provides and the complaints handling process. Support Groups Queensland will demonstrate this commitment by seeking feedback from consumers about their satisfaction with the complaint-handling process and outcome, and ensuring that the complaints handling process provides reliable and accurate information to identify trends and eliminate causes of complaint.

Every complaint will be addressed in an equitable, objective and unbiased manner throughout the complaint handling process in accordance with the requirement of procedural fairness.

Complaints will be dealt with impartially with emphasis on solving the problem rather than assigning blame.

Complaints will be properly documented and handled promptly, fairly and objectively and in a confidential manner and complainants will not suffer any reprisals from making a complaint.

All members of community will have easy access to information about our complaints management process, and will be informed about avenues for further review if not satisfied with the outcome of a complaint.

Support Groups Queensland will take reasonable steps to ensure the complaints process remains flexible, and that no one is excluded from making a complaint, including provision for the anonymous lodging of complaints.

Access to the complaint handling process is free of charge.

4. Procedure
4.1 Consumers advised of their right to make a complaint

The Complaints policy will be publicly displayed at the Support Groups Queensland premises and available on-line and on request. Consumers are provided with information about their right to make a complaint or to appeal a decision, and the procedures that will be followed if they do.

4.1a How Consumers can make a complaint or appeal a decision

Consumers may make a complaint to any member of staff or the Management Committee by:

  • Telephone
  • Use of the Feedback Form
  • Email
  • Letter via the postal service.

Complainants who make an oral complaint will be offered assistance to clarify their concerns and put them in writing if they wish. If the complainant does not wish to record their complaint they are informed that their issue cannot be progressed, but that de-identified feedback is regularly reported to the Management Committee.

Complainants with a first language other than English will be offered the assistance of a translation and interpretation service for the purposes of communication in relation to their complaint.

The complainant may be supported by a representative of another organisation or advocate, as they see fit throughout the complaint process.

4.2 How staff and management will respond to a complaint or appeal
Step 1: Receiving the Complaint


For oral complaints, the person receiving the complaint will clarify the complainant’s issues of concern, the outcomes they are seeking and the complainant’s understanding of how the information they provide will be used and will complete the Record of Complaint/Feedback form.

Where a complaint is made to a member of the Management Committee, it will be immediately referred to the Coordinator. Complaints about the Coordinator will be handled by the President.

A Record of Complaint/Feedback form will be attached to the front of written complaints and hard copies of electronic complaints.

Step 2: Assessing the complaint

Each complaint will be investigated and assessed by the Coordinator who will decide the correct action to take.

The Coordinator (or President if the complaint concerns the Coordinator) will conduct an initial assessment of the issues raised by the complaint to determine the Complaint Level:

Complaint Levels

Serious: death or likely permanent harm to the complainant.

Major: assessed as being serious or significant, with a high level of risk or detriment to the complainant or to the organisation. These complaints may involve extensive investigation. Can be assessed as a high priority or urgent where the risk may result in serious or very significant consequences. 

Moderate: assessed as having a moderate degree of risk or detriment to the complainant or to the organisation. These complaints may involve detailed investigation. Can be assessed as a high priority or urgent where the risk may result in important or significant consequences.

Minor/Minimum: assessed as having minimal risk or detriment to the complainant or to the organisation. These complaints involve minimal investigation. Can be assessed as a low priority or non-urgent where the risk may result in insignificant or unimportant consequences.

The assessment of this severity will be recorded on the Record of Complaint/Feedback form.

Where complaints relate to discrimination, sexual harassment, victimisation or vilification, complainants will be provided with a copy of the organisation’s Anti-Discrimination Policy and procedures.

Where complaints relate to privacy and data collection, complainants will be provided with a copy of the organisation’s Privacy Policy and relevant procedures.

Where a complaint about the service meets the definition of a “serious event”, the funding body, Queensland Health will also be advised, in line with privacy of the client.

Step 3: Responding to the complaint

The following action will be taken on the basis of the assessment of severity:

  • Serious: immediately referred via face to face, phone or email advised to the President
  • Major: immediately referred via face to face, phone or email advised to the President
  • Moderate/Minor: within the scope of their responsibilities, the person receiving the complaint will endeavour to resolve the complaint at point of service. The Coordinator will advise the Management Committee in writing of the complaint and resolution.

Where a Moderate or Minor complaint is resolved at point of service, the our person will take the following steps:

  1. Communicate the outcome of the complaints handling process to the complainant in an appropriate manner (by telephone call, email or in person);
  2. Confirm with the complainant that the complainant is satisfied with the outcome of the process;
  3. Document the action taken and the complainant’s satisfaction on the Record of Complaint/Feedback form; and forward all documentation to the Coordinator.

Within 2 days of receiving notice of an unresolved complaint, the Coordinator will contact the complainant to:

  1. Confirm their understanding of the complainant’s issues and the outcomes sought by the complainant;
  2. Advise the complainant of the next steps to be taken in the complaints handling process;
  3. Provide the complainant with a copy of the Complaint Policy, and Anti-Discrimination Policy and/or Privacy Policy if appropriate;
  4. Outline the expected timeframes for considering the matter; and
  5. If the complaint has been received in writing, acknowledge the complaint in writing.
Step 4: Investigating the complaint

The complaint investigator will investigate the complaint to identify the events that took place, the causes of the complaint, remedial action that should be taken and improvements that might be made.

Where a complainant names an individual, the person will be told the nature of the claims made against them.

The investigation will be conducted in accordance with the principles of natural justice. The views of the complainant and the staff or clients directly involved will be considered along with other relevant information.

At the conclusion of an investigation, the Coordinator will provide the President with a draft report which outlines the agreed facts, reasons for decisions, the underlying causes of the complaint and recommended improvements.

The Coordinator will ensure the complainant and any staff directly affected are provided with the agreed facts, reasons for decisions, the underlying causes of the complaint and recommended improvements.

The conclusions of the investigation will be discussed with the complainant and action that is to be taken by the organisation is agreed.

The organisation has identified three categories of outcomes arising from complaints:

  1. Outcomes that directly impact on a consumer or complainant such as:
  1. An apology;
  2. An amendment to a client record;
  3. Confirmation of information in writing;
  4. Referral to another service.
  1. Outcomes that improve safety and/or quality of service provision:
  1. Review and revision of policies and procedures;
  2. Review and revision of systems;
  3. Review and revision of information/publications.
  1. Referral of the information arising from the complaint to another agency, including:
  1. Allegations of criminal behaviour: Police
  2. Allegations of breach of professional standards by a registered health practitioner: appropriate registration board
  3. Risk to health and safety of a child: relevant state government department with responsibility for child protection

In circumstances where a complaint raises issues of a legal claim against the organisation, information will be referred to the organisation’s insurer. The organisation will make every effort to participate in an appropriate mediation or conciliation to address any such claims.

On completion of the investigation and subsequent discussions with the complainant, the complaint will be closed. The Manager will ensure that the Complaints Register is updated.

4.3 Appealing the organisation’s response

If no agreement is reached about what action is to be taken, or the complainant is unhappy with the organisation’s response, mediation may be entered into. Additionally, the complainant will be provided with information about relevant complaints agencies including (where applicable):

The Office of the Health Ombudsman, Queensland – Phone: 133 646; website:
The Queensland Human Rights Commission – Phone: 1300 130 670; website:

4.4 Unreasonable complaints

Where the organisation has concerns that the complainant’s actions are unreasonable, the complaints process will be handled in accordance with the Commonwealth Ombudsman procedural guide.

4.4a Anonymous Complaints

Complaints can be made anonymously to the organisation. Any complaint made, where there is no information identifying the complainant, will be forwarded immediately to the Coordinator for assessment. The Coordinator will determine the extent to which it is possible and necessary to take action on the complaint.

A complainant may also wish to make a complaint, but for their details to be withheld. Complainants who wish to have their details withheld will be advised that their complaint will be considered subject to any limitations that arise from the necessity of keeping their details confidential.

4.5 Confidentiality

Personally identifiable information concerning the complainant will be used where needed for the purposes of addressing the complaint within the organisation.

  • Where a complaint relates to the actions of specific staff members those staff may be advised of the identity of the complainant if it is necessary to properly assess and/or investigate the complaint.
  • No reference to the lodging of a complaint will be made on a consumer’s case history record.
  • Non-identifying information will be collated for the purposes of monitoring and reviewing the quality and safety of service provided by the organisation and the complaints handling process.
4.6 Record Keeping

The Coordinator will document activities associated with dealing with a complaint in the form of file notes, telephone notes, emails and correspondence. For each complaint, the Coordinator will enter information into the organisation’s Complaints Register against the allocated Complaint Number. The following information will be recorded:

  1. Who is documenting the complaint and the date of documentation
  2. Date complaint received, who received the complaint
  3. Complainant profile (client, representative, advocate etc.) or noted as Anonymous
  4. Nature of complaint
  5. Summary of complaint issues
  6. Type of action taken on the complaint
  7. Outcome of complaint
  8. Whether the complainant was satisfied with the outcome
  9. The advice given to the complainant about the outcome of the complaint
  10. Date complaint finalised
4.7 Complaints review for service improvement

All complaints will be analysed to identify systematic, recurring and single incident problems and trends. Information arising from complaints will be used to help eliminate the underlying causes of complaints. Information about complaints and appeals will be kept in the organisation’s master filing system and de-identified information will be used to enhance service delivery as part of our continuous improvement plan.

Supports Group Queensland will compile and assess information about the types of complaints and appeals we have received and the outcomes, and will use this information to identify issues and to improve our services through our continuous improvement processes and review of our policies and procedures.

The Coordinator will prepare reports for the Management Committee including, but not limited to:

  1. The number and type of complaints received for the month and the year to date;
  2. The average time, the shortest time and the longest time taken to resolve a complaint;
  3. A summary of the outstanding complaints;
  4. A summary of any serious and major complaints and the action taken or proposed to be taken on those complaints; and
  5. An analysis of any systematic or recurring problems or trends arising from complaints data.

The Committee will receive and consider the reports under a standing agenda item for Committee meetings, and make recommendations to the Coordinator about action required to rectify systemic and recurring problems. The Coordinator will provide additional information or submissions to the Committee as necessary. The Committee will make a record of decisions or action taken.

4.8 Staff skills and development

All staff and Management Committee members may access appropriate professional support to effectively manage a serious or major complaint.

5. Related Policies, Procedure and Associated Documents
Policy context: This policy relates to:  
Standard/Indicator/Category Department of Community Standards 5 – Feedback & complaints
Associated Polices & Documents Complaints by Clients
Client Service Charter
Legislation or other requirements Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)
Relevant Associated Forms Your Rights and Responsibilities Info Sheet
Feedback Form