Making complaints

You have the right to complain if you are concerned about the services delivered to you or the person you care for. Complaints can clear up misunderstandings and help you get the support you are entitled to.

Throughout your caring journey, you may experience times where you have not been given the appropriate level of service or support from service providers. Being able to respond by making effective complaints to service providers is an important skill to have, as it ensures that your needs are met, your choices respected and your rights upheld.

Complaints can help professionals and organisations make sure that their services are working for the people they help.

You may feel uncomfortable about making a fuss and worry that it will make things difficult with a service you depend on, and you may even feel that you will not be able to use the service any more. However it is important to know that legally a service cannot hold it against you if you complain.

How to complain effectively

Understand your rights
You have rights in relation to the services and supports provided for you and so does the person you care for. Some rights are protected by law and others are written down in the service charters, guidelines and policies that direct how organisations operate. Ask for copies of any documents that might tell you what your rights are.

Rights of service users usually include:

  • The right to be treated with respect and courtesy
  • The right to be informed and to be consulted
  • The right to be part of decisions made about your care
  • The right to receive good quality services
  • The right to privacy and confidentiality, and to access all personal information kept about you by the service
  • The right to have another person of your choice support you and advocate on your behalf
  • The right to access an interpreter in your preferred language
  • The right to have your comments valued and to make a complaint if you are not happy with the services you receive

Know what you want
Know what you want to achieve - perhaps an apology, a change to the way a service is delivered, a different person to work with, a refund or compensation. Complaints that include suggestions about how things might be done better are more likely to be listened to and acted upon.

Be assertive
Good communicators are clear and honest about what they want but they also listen carefully and consider other perspectives. Things may be done a particular way for reasons that you hadn't considered. Try not to sort out problems when you are angry. It also helps to direct your anger at the issues rather than making a personal attack.

Talk to the people involved first
Many problems are the result of misunderstandings and can be easily sorted out by raising your concerns with the individual or service provider. Try to stick to the facts and provide examples and reasons why you were not happy with the service. Despite this being an informal discussion, it is vital that you are assertive and make it clear what the problem is and how you would like it resolved. It is also important to make a record of the conversation and when it happened. This is because, if you are unable to resolve the issue at this level, you will need to pursue this further.

If you do not believe your concern is being taken seriously, show that you are prepared to take it further. Ask to speak to a more senior staff member like a team leader or manager.

Making a formal complaint

All services should have a formal complaints procedure. There may be a particular person you need to talk to, a form you need to fill in or you may be asked to put your concerns in writing.

A formal complaint will usually include:

  • A description of what happened (when, where and who was responsible)
  • A description of who was affected, how they were affected, and how they felt
  • Suggestions about how you would like the service to deal with the problem
  • A date that you would like a response by

Taking things further

If you have tried complaining to a person or organisation and do not feel that you have received a suitable response there are a number of organisations who can help you to follow up your concerns.

In NSW

In Australia

Concerns about medical professionals

If you have concerns about a medical professional you can contact their regulatory body:

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Carers NSW acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land, Elders past and present and all Aboriginal people.