Better practice complaint handling guidelines suggest that an effective complaint handling system makes it easy for people to complain. Services that make their complaints systems accessible to anyone can help build peoples’ confidence and trust that their concerns will be taken seriously.
The number of people in Australia entering aged care with special and diverse needs is on the rise. In 2012, the Australian Government released national aged care strategies for people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) backgrounds. These strategies aim to ensure the delivery of aged care services, including the handling of complaints, is appropriate and inclusive of the needs of these groups.
Steve Power is a Social Isolation Project Manager with the Victorian aged care provider, Benetas.
Steve also leads the Older Persons Social Inclusion Taskforce (OPSIT) that looks at national initiatives that have been successful in overcoming social isolation in older people. Launched in February 2012, OPSIT is made up of representatives from across Australia who are passionate about social inclusion for older people.
Here, Steve shares some of his insights into the concerns and needs of socially isolated aged care recipients and makes suggestions for how service providers can make their complaint processes more accessible.
Developing good internal complaint processes can allow service providers to manage many issues quickly and efficiently. Effective internal complaint systems can also support ongoing relationships with care recipients and their families.
To assist aged care service providers in establishing effective internal complaint processes, we’ve developed the evidence-based Better Practice Complaint Handling Toolkit (the toolkit).
The Australian Government released two strategies in late 2012: the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Ageing and Aged Care Strategy, and the National Ageing and Aged Care Strategy for People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Backgrounds (the Strategy).
Both strategies will guide the Aged Care Complaints Scheme (the Scheme) in communicating about its services to, and in responding to complaints from, older people from a range of diverse backgrounds.
In this blog, we discuss the strategy supporting older people from CALD backgrounds. To read more about the strategy supporting older LGBTI people, please see our LGBTI blog post.
The Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) launched the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Ageing and Aged Care Strategy (the Strategy) on 20 December 2012.
The Strategy will guide the Australian Government’s support for the aged care sector to deliver care that is sensitive to and inclusive of the needs of LGBTI people, their families and carers. It will also inform the Government’s funding priorities by assisting DoHA to implement the activities related to the Older Australians from Diverse Background stream in its Living Longer Living Better age care reform package.
Whether you are concerned about your own or someone else’s care and services, you may reach a faster and sustainable resolution by working with the service provider. This two part post explains the different ways you can work though concerns with a service provider and how the Aged Care Complaints Scheme (the Scheme) can help.
In the first part of this post we discussed the benefits of sharing concerns directly with your service provider. However, sometimes trying to resolve your complaint this way doesn’t work out. When this happens, we can help.
This post aims to help clarify what concerns the Aged Care Complaints Scheme (the Scheme) can and can’t assist with. Anyone can raise a concern with the Scheme.
What we can do
When you first contact the Scheme we will gather as much information as possible about your concern. This will help us to understand all of the issues and your expectations. Read our post on what to expect when you first contact the Scheme for more information.
We can examine complaints relating to a service provider’s responsibilities under the Aged Care Act 1997 or under the contractual funding agreement for Commonwealth HACC services. Examples of concerns we can assist with include:
- health and personal care, for example infection control, personal hygiene
- communication, for example information and internal complaints processes
- personnel, for example conduct and training
- physical environment, for example safety, security, cleaning and call bells
- financial matters
- facility equipment
- activities, choice and comfort.
In a small number of cases, we may not be able to take action even when a complaint relates to a concern we can examine. For example, we may not take action if the matter is subject to legal proceedings or a coronial inquiry, or if the person receiving care does not want the complaint to be examined.
If you lodge a complaint with us and we can’t help you, we will try to identify who can. We can refer these to other organisations such as the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency Ltd, professional registration boards or other complaints bodies.
What we cannot do
There are some things we are unable to do. For example, we are unable to:
- say who should make financial, legal or health decisions on behalf of a care recipient
- comment on industrial matters such as wages or employment conditions
- provide legal advice
- ask service providers to terminate someone’s employment
- investigate the cause of death (this is the role of the coroner)
- determine whether or not a specific event occurred (especially if we receive conflicting accounts of the event)
- provide clinical advice about what treatment a person should be receiving.
If your complaint relates to issues we can examine, we will conduct a detailed assessment. Read our post on assessment of complaints for more information.
If you have any questions about what we can and can’t assist with, please post them below.
If you have a concern or complaint that you have not been able to resolve by talking with your service provider, you can contact the Aged Care Complaints Scheme (the Scheme).
When you contact us, we’ll let you know if your complaint falls within the range of issues that we can examine. If it does, we will work with you and your service provider to resolve your complaint as quickly as possible.
To do this, we may:
- resolve it quickly without a formal process (early resolution)
- refer your complaint back to the service to examine within a set time frame (service provider resolution)
- help you and the service provider discuss the issues and reach an agreement that resolves your concern (conciliation). This may involve a few phone calls, informal discussions and/or formal meetings. We will document the process and provide written feedback to you, the care recipient (if you are raising the concern on behalf of someone else) and your service provider
- investigate your complaint (investigation). Investigations can be simple, for example gathering information and discussing the issues with both parties. They can also be more complex, involving visits to the service, analysing records and conducting interviews. Feedback is provided to everyone throughout an investigation, unless you remain anonymous. The Scheme will write to both parties to advise the outcome of the investigation.
In cases where we are unable to achieve a resolution to your complaint, we may ask you and the service provider to enter into a formal mediation process. We are not directly involved in mediation. Mediation does have a cost, which both parties would need to discuss.
While resolving your complaint through the approaches above we may:
- consult professionals about clinical or technical matters
- ask for information from you, the service provider or other people
- visit the service involved
- review any relevant information given to us
- refer an issue to another organisation if they can more appropriately deal with it.
To help us achieve the best possible resolution to your complaint, we have put together some tips for raising a concern effectively.
Our focus is on reaching the best outcome as quickly as possible. The more formal resolution options may take longer. When you call us, we will talk with you about the different approaches and what to expect.
If you have any questions or comments about how we resolve complaints, please leave them below.