Date of publication: April 2009 PDF document - DocSlides

Date of publication:   April 2009 PDF document - DocSlides

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ISBN 978 0 9805961 7 5 Publisher: Commonwealth Ombudsman, Canberra, Australia ID: 100129

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ISBN 978 0 9805961 7 5 Date of publication: April 2009 Publisher: Commonwealth Ombudsman, Canberra, Australia Commonwealth of Australia This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 , no part may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Australian Government, available from the Attorney-General’s Department. Requests and enquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the Commonwealth Copyright Administration, Copyright Law Branch, Attorney-General’s Department, National Circuit, Barton ACT 2601, or posted at http://www.ag.gov.au/cca. Other requests and enquiries can be directed to the Director Public Affairs, Commonwealth Ombudsman, GPO Box 442, Canberra ACT 2601; email ombudsman@ombudsman.gov.au; 072. This guide is available on the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s website, http://www.ombudsman.gov.au. Contents Terminology 1 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN and service delivery faults Good administration involves regular review of existing programs, and the lessons learnt from complaints can feed into that process builds on that extensive network by de�ning the essential principles for effective complaint handling The guide can be used by agencies when developing a complaint handling system or when evaluating or Above all, the purpose of this guide is to stress the We welcome discussion with Foreword 2 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING Introduction principles of fairness, accessibility, responsiveness, ef�ciency and integration planning, investigation, response, review, and consideration of systemic issues— managed by skilled staff will be less effective if an agency’s culture is antagonistic —CULTUR highlight weaknesses in an agency’s programs, policies and service delivery improve the agency’s accountability and transparency 3 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN rness, accessibility, The staff who handle complaints must be skilled in their role and have a positive attitude LY ncy’s programs and 4 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING client’s right to complain and that contains information about the complaint process 5 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN Element 1—Culture To provide a suitable remedy to a complainant tice should be given a remedy that will deal fully and �nally with the problem To maintain good relations with the public and build clients’ loyalty To evaluate and improve programs and services To inform decision making about future service delivery 6 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING the agency’s service charter, business plans Keep informed about the agency’s work 7 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN responsive to the agency’s Be aware of the agency’s complaint the agency’s business This person’s responsibilities should include the following: the agency’s complaint handling system and participate in complaint handling 8 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING is re�ected in the agency’s staf�ng formula Unless complaints are few in number, there must be an electronic system for entering, the complainant’s name—to track the progress of an individual complaint the staff member’s name—to conduct quality assurance reviews compliance with the agency’s recordkeeping practices 9 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN Element 2—Principles others decentralise or outsource the function Or there may be separate units for different three qualities—impartiality, con�dentiality and transparency another, there should be a good reason for this 10 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING ement of guarantee that a complainant will not be victimised or suffer negative treatment because they have not to be This usually means that complaint Except to the extent necessary, a complainant’s identity or personal number for each complaint—that is, a number that differs from other reference numbers Importantly, great care should be taken when making public information about 11 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN Transparency An agency’s complaint procedures should ensure that: promptly, with an Awareness he agency’s or another, are: 12 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING the agency’s timeliness standards for handling complaints limitations on the agency’s jurisdiction to handle complaints—including time limits Complaints are treated con�dentially, and there will be no adverse repercussions 13 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN a complaint is seen as insulting behaviour, and in others it may lead to unwelcome These and other barriers can be reduced if clients are told that complaints are welcomed, are handled con�dentially, and will be used by the agency to improve its services Vulnerable clients Intellectual disability, poor mental health and addiction are among the That person’s authority to act on the complainant’s behalf could need to be veri�ed if personal information is 14 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING It is the agency’s responsibility to act professionally when dealing with such problems unreasonable complainant behaviour, and they may need extra support unreasonable behaviour, including effective communication skills, is available in the An agency’s inability to manage unreasonable behaviour by complainants can tarnish its ence in the agency 15 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN an agency’s core business activities This means integrating the complaint system with the agency’s other be used to identify weaknesses in the agency’s services and lead to improvements, as maintains their focus on the agency’s reputation, which is central to success w to resolve a client’s 16 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING Two or more agencies may insight, wrongly deny responsibility, or are ill-informed about other agencies’ complaint ulate an activity, ernment organisation, the contract should stipulate how complaints from clients will be handled and reported As part of its continuing responsibility for ure for receiving and investigating complaints against the contractor 17 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN Element 3—People complainant’s expectations during the process re upset or angry, handler must be a good communicator, orally and in writing 18 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING effectively, others will come to trust that the complaint handler understands the problem cording to an agency’s More complex or disputed complaints can require skills or legal or specialist knowledge are needed Complaints on speci�c topics—such as sexual harassment, If those skills are not available in an agency, temporary One key to effective recruitment is conveying a strong message that complaint handling is an important organisational activity and that this is re�ected in career and promotional Training of complaint handling staff must occur at multiple stages and in many ways be trained in the agency’s complaint handling policies and procedures agency’s business in complaint handling in all areas of government and industry, there is much to be learnt 19 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN Training objectives are best achieved if there is a structured training program with a consistently, while those that are complex or unexpected might need more skilled 20 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING for complaint investigations within the agency, to accept feedback from the complaint ency’s systems and 21 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN embody the �ve fundamental principles of fairness, accessibility, responsiveness, The aim is to ensure that complaints are dealt in the agency’s complaint system ective can ghout be an important tool in managing the complainant’s expectations Written acknowledgement can be bene�cial but is not always necessary raight away, it could be more ef�cient to explain orally how the complaint will Similarly, can sometimes be acknowledged at the same time as advice on the Element 4—Process ACKNODG the complaint and if there are any to the complainant any customer service 22 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING not clear initially to either the complainant or the agency, and clari�cation is needed The In organisations that receive a large number of complaints the initial assessment is usually performed by an intake screening unit Further preliminary assessment by other specialist mptly, will become y to transfer the complaint nt to approach a different organisation This can be frustrating for complainants and can delay the resolution of a To minimise that risk, an agency should ensure that this stage of the process Sometimes an agency can meet the client’s expectations Often what an apology, a refund of money paid, or compensation In other cases the complainant might have an altruistic 23 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN mplainant’s investigation This is especially important if the investigation cannot be completed by A common cause of inef�ciency and delay in complaint investigation is that responsibility for investigating a complaint is passed from one of�cer to another, without adequate handover or planning 24 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING Impartiality� Each complaint should be approached with an open mind, and the facts Con�dentiality� Transparency� rocess law, which public sector agencies must also observe during complaint investigation The administrative law To accord natural justice, a complainant should be given an opportunity to comment The evidence available to the investigator might be scant, inconclusive or evenly balanced, and this should be explained ently, 25 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN should deal with each concern or grievance raised in the complaint Many complainants fully examined or �nally ns agencies can staff member was dealt rier to transparency and scussed in Providing Information on Code of Conduct Investigation Outcomes to Complainants� , an apology, changing or reconsidering a decision, expediting action, removing a debt or penalty, and providing investigating of�cer, this should be noted and explained An explanation should similarly If appropriate, the complainant can also be invited to contact the investigating 26 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING igation staff—for example, andled through a telephone discussion with the investigating of�cer’s supervisor or another senior staff member It is not ant of the investigation’s If a complainant is dissatis�ed with an investigator’s �ndings or decision, a review ncy’s website or in its investigator’s view The option of cision should be A plaint to an external body Resolving a person’s grievance is not the last step in effective complaint handling The person’s complaint might point to a systemic administrative problem in the agency—that is, an administrative defect that either has occurred in other cases or could be repeated ncy’s recordkeeping Delay in resolving a person’s complaint might suggest a need for greater ts of the agency or with A review of the agency, rather than with the complaint handling unit managers in an agency, as discussed in Element 27 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN Element 5—Analysis and what improvements it might make The information can point to problems with an agency’s services or program delivery or to a need to improve how complaints are handled To capture these broader considerations, agencies should ensure that complaint issues Complaint information can provide a picture of weaknesses in existing programs, policies, This is, however, only possible if good records are kept the characteristics of the complainants—for example, whether they are businesses, rticular demographic weakness in the agency’s processes or that raise questions about integrity or The reports should be part of the agency’s normal business activity 28 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING e taken in the Effective root-cause analysis of complaints information—how did this particular problem happen?—should be carried out by a team of people in the agency who have a range agency, as discussed in Section complaints relating to a speci�c policy, while local managers will be interested in agency’s business More The system’s ports to be produced Agencies should regularly review and analyse their complaint handling systems to gauge It can identify 29 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN Summary CULTUR Staff at all levels understand and comply with the agency’s policy on complaint 30 COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMPLAINT HANDLING Dealing with complaints is part of an agency’s core business, so that complaint Agencies recruit complaint handling staff who are good communicators and who are Temporary employment is considered where specialist complaint handling skills are 31 COMPLAINT HANDLING BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN dissatis�ed with the agency’s response LY BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE TO COMPLAINT HANDLING Better Practice Guide 1, April 2009 BETTER PRACTICE GUIDE TO COMPLAINT HANDLING www.ombudsman.gov.au 1300 362 072

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