Rights and Complaints
Carers often have to access multiple service systems, which can be complicated and time consuming. When problems arise, it can be difficult to know where to turn. There are many options available for resolving problems with services.
Navigating service systems can be challenging. Many carers find it hard to get the information they need and do not feel respected or included by service providers. If this happens to you, you can speak up, and there are a number of resources and supports that can help.
The NSW Carers Charter and the Statement for Australia’s Carers outline in law what kind of support and recognition carers can expect when accessing services that are provided by or funded by government.
Unfortunately, neither of these laws create additional legal rights for carers that can be upheld at a court or tribunal. But they are important tools for holding service providers to account. If you have a problem with a service provider, you can usually find out from their website, or by asking them:
- whether the service you are using is government-run or government funded
- whether the NSW Government or the Australian Government runs or funds their activities.
Once you know this, you can look at what their responsibilities are under the NSW Carers Charter (for NSW Government-run or funded services) or the Statement for Australia’s Carers (for Australian Government-run or funded services).
When discussing an action or decision that you think was unfair with a service provider, you can ask whether they are aware of their responsibilities. Often, service providers are not aware, but may work with you to resolve the issue.
If you do not feel that your concerns have been taken seriously, you can always raise this with your local Member of Parliament (MP).
- For issues relating to services run or funded by the NSW Government, you can look up who your State MP is and how to contact them.
Although carer recognition legislation does not create legal rights, and cannot be enforced through specific complaints pathways, carers have a number of rights which can be formally upheld.
Knowing your rights is important, because it helps you understand what you can and can’t expect when you access services with or on behalf of the person you care for. When you know your rights, you are in a better position to stand up for yourself or the person you care for if a problem arises.
In partnership with the NSW Department of Communities and Justice, and as part of the NSW Carers Strategy: Caring in 2020 – 2030, Carers NSW leads the Carer Rights & Complaints Network, a working group made up of complaints agencies and peak organisations which focuses on helping carers to understand and uphold their rights.
In 2020 the Carer Rights & Complaints Network developed a series of ‘Know your rights’ fact sheets that explain the rights carers have across a range of different service systems, and how these rights can be upheld through making a formal complaint.
The fact sheets are available to download below:
We would appreciate your feedback on these fact sheets via this short survey so we can continue to improve them.
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.
- 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.
- Keep records: Keep all the documents you need together and sorted so that you can easily find what you want. Make notes (including the name and position of the person you spoke to, date and a summary of what was said) of your meetings and conversations so that you have an accurate record of what happened. Always ask for important decisions and information to be confirmed in writing.
- Persevere: Once you have reached agreement on what will be done, negotiate a reasonable timetable. Be prepared to follow up if nothing happens. Don't accept excuses for lack of action.
Let Carers NSW know
While Carers NSW does not provide individual advocacy to carers, we can give you information about where to go and what to do if you are not happy with your experience with a service or decision.
The Carers NSW Policy Team also collects case studies on systemic issues through our Policy Advice Form, where carers can raise issues or concerns about an experience they have had.