Complaints and suggestions for improvement policy

Governance Policy
Date: May 2020
 

Introduction

Vision Australia values complaints as a powerful means of feedback from its clients and members of the community. We are committed to being open and responsive to all feedback.

About this policy

The purpose of this policy is to outline how Vision Australia manages and responds to complaints, suggestions for improvement and compliments.

To whom does this policy apply

The Board and all levels of management and workforce at Vision Australia have a responsibility to understand this policy and actively observe the guiding principles.

Guiding principles

  • Complaints and feedback will be handled respectfully, confidentially, promptly, and with no adverse consequences for the complainant.
  • Vision Australia will ensure all complaints are investigated fully as part of our commitment to accountability, continuous improvement and transparency.
  • Our interactions with complainants will be based around actively listening, empathising, and acknowledging when our services were not the best they could have been.
  • Complaints and feedback will be monitored for all opportunities to improve our services.
  • An open disclosure process is used in resolving complaints on the occurrence that things go wrong.
  • The person providing the feedback determines how that feedback is categorised i.e. whether it is a complaint, suggestion for improvement or a compliment and we will respond to the feedback accordingly.

Policy

  • Complaints refer to issues of a negative nature brought to the attention of Vision Australia by clients and members of the community in order to bring about some kind of change or resolution.
  • Feedback refers to both suggestions for improvement and compliments. Suggestions for improvement differ from complaints as they specify possible changes for Vision Australia but do not involve an issue of a negative nature. It is always the choice of the person providing the feedback which category the feedback fits into.
  • Vision Australia provides multiple channels (such as a phone, mail, email or website form) for people to submit complaints and feedback. This ensures all people who wish to provide feedback are able to do so using a method they feel comfortable with.
  • Vision Australia ensures the means to make a complaint and the complaints process are clear and easy to understand. Vision Australia ensures all clients are aware of their right to complain and their right to have their complaint dealt with through a formal complaint resolution process.
  • Vision Australia addresses all complaints in a confidential manner. Only the people directly involved in making, investigating or resolving a complaint have access to information about it. De-identified information may be provided as part of reporting requirements set either by Vision Australia or as part of external contracts.
  • Vision Australia ensures all parties are informed of their right to have a support person or advocate present to assist or represent them during the formal complaints procedure. Formal complaints can be written or verbal. If verbal, the assisting staff member will document the complaint. Access to interpreters is available if required.
  • Vision Australia ensures any complaint is free of repercussions for the complainant. Vision Australia takes all necessary steps to ensure that there are no adverse consequences for anyone who makes a complaint.
  • Where there is a possibility of conflict of interest Vision Australia will ensure the investigation and management of complaints is conducted by a neutral party. Where this is not practicable Vision Australia may employ a third party investigator.
  • Vision Australia communicates with all relevant parties about the progress of the resolution of a complaint.
  • No detailed information regarding a complaint, such as the nature of the complaint or any staff members involved, will be kept on an individual’s client or staff file. All detailed information will be kept in the separate Complaints Register.
  • Information regarding complaints is stored according to all relevant record keeping regulations.
  • Vision Australia ensures all clients are informed of the existence of this policy and its related procedures at the commencement of receiving services. A copy of this policy and the relevant procedure must be made available to clients in their preferred format as requested.
  • Vision Australia recognises the right of individuals to approach an external agency if the formal complaints procedure has not resolved the issue to their satisfaction. Information on external complaints agencies is provided to clients.

Reporting

  • De-identified information on complaints is regularly reported to both the Board, the Leadership Team and to Service Excellence to inform them of trends and opportunities for improvement.
  • In the case of high and extreme risk complaints information is reported to the CEO to ensure sound governance. See below for more information about risk management.

Formal and Informal complaints

All complaints and feedback whether they are formal or informal should be lodged on the central complaints system that is overseen by the compliance team. This ensures that any trends or themes can be picked up and addressed in a timely manner.

Formal complaints refer to any issue of a negative nature which is brought to the notice of Vision Australia in order to bring about a change or resolution where:

  • A satisfactory resolution cannot be reached informally between the client and staff involved at the point of service and so requires escalation.
  • The issue is submitted through a formal complaint and feedback channel.
  • The reported issue suggests serious implications, such as a critical incident, abuse, bullying or harassment, incidents involving children, or other serious misconduct.

Each formal complaint is managed by an assigned responsible manager. Complainants are informed about the progress of their complaint. Formal complaints follow a formal complaints process. This process consists of:

  • Acknowledgement
  • Investigation
  • Resolution
  • Review

Informal complaints are any issue of a negative nature which is brought to the notice of Vision Australia in order to bring about a change or resolution which can be successfully resolved informally between the client and staff involved at the point of service.

The central management of all complaints is necessary to:

Suggestions for improvement

Vision Australia values suggestions for improvement. These suggestions are provided to the responsible manager and logged.

Compliments

Compliments received by Vision Australia will be passed along to the relevant staff member or department and logged.

Risk management

All complaints are assessed for risk to ensure the safety and wellbeing of complainants, the community, and that Vision Australia is complying with all legislative requirements. Complaints are monitored for risk across their lifespan and may be reassessed as more information is discovered through the course of a complaint investigation.

The risk assessment matrix and risk levels are defined in the complaint’s risk documentation (Appendix A).

Definitions

Informal complaint

Any issue of a negative nature which is brought to the notice of Vision Australia in order to bring about a change or resolution which can be successfully resolved informally between the client and staff involved at the point of service.


Formal complaint

Formal complaints refer to any issue of a negative nature which is brought to the notice of Vision Australia in order to bring about a change or resolution where:

  • A satisfactory resolution cannot be reached informally between the client and staff involved at the point of service and so requires escalation. 
  • The issue is submitted through a formal complaint and feedback channel
  • The reported issue suggests serious implications, such as a critical incident, abuse, bullying or harassment, incidents involving children, or other serious misconduct.

Suggestion for Improvement

A suggestion for improvement refer to an issue brought to the attention of Vision Australia to specify possible changes for Vision Australia but do not involve an issue of a negative nature.

Compliments

A compliment is a message brought to the attention of Vision Australia which praises some element of Vision Australia, such as staff or services.

Leadership Team

Vision Australia staff at a management level who are normally the head of a division and are responsible for the facilitation, monitoring, coordination and communication to Vision Australia staff within their area.

Vision Australia

Vision Australia, its controlled entities, any outsourced operations and contractors.

Client

An adult, or parent/guardian of a child, who is blind, vision impaired, deafblind or print disabled and who is currently receiving services or has received services from Vision Australia

Member of the community

Any person who is not a client and who is representing themselves, a community Organisation or company. Member of the community includes volunteers and donors.

Workforce

All employees, volunteers and unpaid staff, contractors / sub-contractors and any of their employees whilst engaged in work for Vision Australia, as well as consultants or consultants’ employees whilst engaged by Vision Australia and agents whilst acting on behalf of Vision Australia.

External Complaints Agency

An organisation which provides complaints services to a particular group. These agencies are often created as part of or relate to disability funding agreements.

Compliance Team

The Compliance Team is the group of staff working for the Chief Practitioner at Vision Australia.

Cross Reference

Complaints and Suggestion for Improvement Procedure.

Document control

Effective date: May 2020
Prepared by: Compliance team
Authorised by: Leadership Team
Document identifier: Vision Australia - Complaints and Suggestions for Improvement Policy
Next review: May 2022