Complaints Handling Policy

Document numberDOC2018/003
ApprovalExecutive Leadership Team
Policy OwnerExecutive Director, Corporate Services
Date Approved1.7.2018
Review Date1.7.2019

1          Policy Statement

1.1       All participants need to be supported to grow, develop skills and to participate in their social, school and community life. For children in care arrangements, carers often provide the majority of that support, which should be strengths-based, modelled on positive behaviours and which should incorporate appropriate discipline within a safe and caring relationship.

1.2       A participant’s behaviour may be developmentally appropriate and seen in children of a similar age. Other times, the behaviour may be impacted by factors such as trauma, disability, mental health, drugs and alcohol, or the environmental context.

1.3       When supporting participants who engage in at-risk or challenging behaviour, it is important to understand why they need to engage in the behaviour. Effective strategies can then be developed to reduce this need. Without effective strategies, the child or young person is at risk of being supported in ways that are restrictive, or result in their exclusion from everyday activities.

1.4       It is a requirement of the NDIS Safeguard Commission that all providers registered after June 2018 have sufficient measures to ensure that all complaints are addressed appropriately by providers and that participants are empowered to voice their concerns in a way which is confidential, fair and protected. This document seeks to give effect to this, and meet the obligations of providers under this framework. 

1.5       The safe care and connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with family, community, culture and country will be a key consideration when undertaking positive behaviour support with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children and families.

1.6       Child Safety is committed to respecting, protecting and promoting human rights. Under the Human Rights Act 2019, Child Safety has an obligation to act and make decisions in a way that is compatible with human rights and when making a decision, to give proper consideration to human rights.

2.         Principles

  • The safety, wellbeing and best interests of the child, both throughout childhood and the rest of the child’s life are paramount
  • AHS staff will act and make decisions in a way that is compatible with human rights and obligations under the Human Rights Act 2019
  • Participants, including those with disabilities have the same right to be supported in a way that is in their best interests
  • Participants will be supported in a way that takes into account their age, developmental level and cultural needs
  • Carers have a legal duty of care to take positive steps to protect participants when there is foreseeable harm
  • Participant’s have the right to protection from strategies that may constitute abuse, torture or inhumane and degrading treatment and high risk practices when supporting them to develop positive behaviours
  • The five elements of the child placement principle (prevention, partnership, placement, participation and connection) under section 5C of the Act, apply to processes, decisions and actions taken for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child.

3.         Policy Objectives

3.1       This policy aims to ensure that participants:

  • are supported to build and develop skills to maintain relationships and develop positive behaviours
  • are supported in environments that meet their needs and reduce the need for the child or young person to use challenging or at-risk behaviour
  • have access to appropriate specialist supports to assist with supporting their behaviour when they present with more complex or high risk behaviours
  • keep themselves and others safe with trauma-informed strategies.

4.         Scope

4.1       This policy refers to:

  • Children and young people subject to a care agreement, an assessment order, or an order granting custody or guardianship to the chief executive under the Act, including a temporary custody or transition order, and who are placed in a care arrangement under section 82 (1) of the Act, and
  • This document extends to all participants, whether they are engaged with, or considering to engage with AHS. This document will be updated from time to time in line with prevailing guidelines which are published by the NDIS Safeguard Commission.
  • This document is designed to assist people with disability, their families, friends, carers, advocates, workers and the public, information about to make a complaint in line with the expectations of the NDIS Safeguard Commission.

5.         Definitions

ActMeans the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013.
Behaviours of ConcernChallenging, complex or unsafe behaviours that are of greater severity, frequency or duration and require more persistent or intensive intervention to address. Does not include low level, developmentally appropriate transgressions that test the boundaries of established rules, standards and norms but are relatively simple to direct and minimise through universal behaviour support strategies.
Behaviour Support PractitionerA person the Commissioner considers is suitable to undertake behaviour support assessments (including functional behaviour assessments) and to develop behaviour support plans that may contain the use of restrictive practices. Only practitioners who are considered suitable by the Commissioner can deliver these supports.
Behaviour Support PlanSpecifies a range of person-centred, proactive strategies that focus on the individual needs of a person, in order to build on their strengths; increase their opportunities to participate in community activities; and increase their life skills. It may include restrictive practices. It is developed by a behaviour support practitioner in consultation with the participant, their family and other relevant people, as well as the provider implementing the plan
BullyingAn ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more people who feel unable to stop it from happening.
Child or Young PersonA person under the age of 18. Where a school provides a service to students aged 18 years and older, the term ‘child and young person’ in this policy also applies to these students.
Complaints RulesMeans the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Complaints Management and Resolution) Rules 2018.
ConsistentDone in the same way over time. Consistent responses to behaviours of concern does not mean that all children and young people receive the same response. Behavioural responses are tailored to the specific needs of the child or young person.
ContinuumA series on a scale where the 2 opposite ends are distinctly different from one another
Exclusionary ResponseResponses that exclude children and young people from participation in the school setting or school activities, for example suspension, take home or being excluded from camps or other activities. Part-time programs are considered exclusionary when applied to children or young people who are able to be safely included in the school setting full time and where full-time attendance is in the best interests of the child or young person. Exclusionary responses can include restrictive practices that seek to remove control over a child or young person, for example, physical, environmental, psycho-social or seclusion. The overuse or unauthorised use of restrictive practices: is an infringement of human and civil rights can cause long term harm can further traumatise children and young people with developmental trauma.
Equitable or FairTreating children and young people without favouritism or discrimination in a way that reflects their learning and behavioural needs. Equity and fairness are not about treating all children and young people the same.
Informed ConsentMeans a person is provided with appropriate and adequate information in order to make a decision which they make freely and without unfair pressure or influence. Part of informed consent is that the person also understands the consequences of their decisions.
NDIANational Disability Insurance Agency, whose role is to implement the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
NDISNational Disability Insurance Scheme, which is a new way to support a better life for hundreds of thousands of Australians with a significant and permanent disability and their families and carers.
NDIS CommissionMeans the National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguards Commission.
NDIS ProviderA person (other than the NDIA) who receives: funding under the arrangements set out in Chapter 2 of the Act; orNDIS amounts (other than as a participant); ora person or entity who provides supports or services to people with disability other than under the NDIS; and who is prescribed by the NDIS rules as an NDIS provider. See s 9 of the Act.
ParticipantA client of AHS who is supported through a relevant government funded scheme.
Positive Behaviour Support (PBS)PBS is an approach to children’s behaviour that is built on the principles that positive behaviour can be learnt and that environments can be changed to support effective teaching and learning for every child. PBS involves a range of systems and practice elements at universal, targeted and intensive levels.
ProtectiveFactors that strengthen an individual’s capacity to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes.
Registered ProviderMeans a person or entity registered under s 73E of the Act, to provide supports and services to NDIS participants.
Restrictive PracticesAny intervention and/or practice used to restrict the rights or freedom of movement of people with disability, with the primary purpose of protecting the person or others from harm. This includes seclusion, chemical, mechanical, physical, environmental and psychosocial restrictive practices. (also refers to restrictive interventions).
Safe InclusionThe inclusion of all children and young people, including those who engage in behaviours of concern, in learning in the school setting to the fullest extent possible, while maintaining the physical and psychological safety of children, young people, staff and the broader school community
WorkerIncludes employees, contractors and people otherwise engaged for example, on a volunteer basis by an NDIS provider and people contracted by this provider.

6.         What is a Complaint

6.1       Broadly speaking, a complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with a support or service, including how a previous complaint was handled, for which a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected.

6.2       People can make a complaint to the NDIS Commission, either directly or via AHS about an issue arising out of, or in connection with our provision of supports or services. A complaint can be made about any NDIS provider and/or its workers, whether or not the provider is registered with the NDIS Commission. Although complaints should generally be raised directly with an NDIS provider in the first instance, people do not have to raise a complaint with a provider before approaching the NDIS Commission for help.

6.3       The NDIS Commission deals with complaints such as:

  • Whether services or supports have been provided in a safe and respectful way;
  • Whether services and supports have been delivered to an appropriate standard;
  • How an NDIS provider has dealt with a complaint about services or supports provided to an NDIS participant; and
  • How an NDIS provider has dealt with an advocate or carer of an NDIS participant

6.4       Anything which does not fall within the scope of this section, can still be made via this pathway and AHS will seek to ensure that the complaint is addressed to the appropriate respondent.

6.5       Complaints may also be made by children or young people to the Department of Communities and Justice or OCG for any reason within the context of this policy in accordance with the methods outlined in s.8 of the document.

7.         Complaint Management Principles

7.1       The principles which AHS aspires to maintain in relation to complaint management, align with those of the NDIS Safeguard Commission.

  • Centred on participants: We are in the business of helping people with barriers and empowering them in all our actions.
  • Outcome focussed: We seek to ensure that all complaints which are made in relation to AHS, or other providers seek to have an outcome for the parties involved.
  • Simple and Transparent: We seek to create clear pathways by which to make a complaint, as well as a process which is clear to the parties.
  • Accountability: We take accountability for the delivery of our services and actions and demonstrate the highest level of responsibility for the outcomes of our actions.
  • Continual improvement: We see any concerns raised as an opportunity to continuously improve the way in which we engage with participants and provide services which meet their needs.

8.         How can a complaint be made?

8.1       A complaint can be made to the NDIS Commission by:

  • Phoning: 1800 035 544 (free call from landlines) or TTY 133 677. Interpreters can be arranged.
  • National Relay Service users: Deaf, hearing impaired or speech impaired TTY users: 133 677 then ask for 1800 035 544;
  • Completing a complaint form on the NDIS Commission’s website at;
  • In any other way that best meets the needs of the person making the complaint via AHS.

8.2       A complaint can be made to the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) by:

  • call the Complaints Unit on 1800 000 164 to talk directly with a complaints officer.
  • email the Complaints Unit at
  • complete the complaint form available on the DCJ website and fax it to (02) 9716 2196.
  • complete the complaint form and post it to: Reply Paid 63437.

8.3       A complaint can be made to the Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) by:

  • Post: NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian, Locked Bag 5100, Strawberry Hills NSW 2012.
  • Phone: 02 8219 3600.
  • Fax: 02 8219 3699.
  • Email:

8.4       A complaint can be made to AHS directly by:

  • Post: Suite 218 10-12 Flushcombe Road, Blacktown, NSW, 2148
  • Phone: 1300 147 899, in the event that the complaint needs to be made to the attention of a more senior officer, please call this number and request to speak with the Managing Director.
  • Email:

9.         Complaints Process

9.1       To make a complaint in relation to the services of AHS or another provider, via AHS the following process should be followed:

10.       Acknowledgement

10.1     As a part of your complaint you will receive an acknowledgement within 24 hours of making the complaint. This acknowledgement will advise you of the window of time in which your complaint can be expected to be:

  • Considered;
  • Provided to the relevant parties; and
  • If possible resolved.

10.1.1  Depending on the complexity of the complaint raised, additional time may be required for resolution, but in all instances AHS will endeavour to resolve concerns raised as effectively and efficiently as follows.

10.1.2  Prior to any further steps occurring the complaints officer of AHS will make contact with you to ensure that you are made aware of the next steps and you are empowered within this process to understand the process, provide input as to possible resolutions and provide any further information required.

10.2     Action Updates

10.2.1  AHS will endeavour to provide with updates as to the progress of the complaint as we either address the concern internally, or in liaison with external agencies receive updates as to information. AHS is an advocate for the transparent and timely processes and will endeavour to ensure that processes are addressed appropriately to whatever reasonable extent we are able.

10.2.2  These process updates will be made in liaison with the complainant and will be in a form that is appropriate and accessible to their individual needs.

10.3     Outcomes

10.3.1  Outcomes of complaints will be communicated to parties based on the most appropriate means by which this can be provided to the parties. This will be done so in liaison with the parties to the complaint to ensure the outcome is accessible to them.

10.3.2  As much information as possible will be provided as an outcome to the complainant in the interests of transparency, however information may be withheld to protect the confidentiality or privilege of parties.

10.4     Protections for Complainants

10.4.1  The identify and confidentiality of complainants will be protected wherever possible in the interests of ensuring procedural fairness and encouraging a culture in which complaints are made without fear of retaliation.

10.4.2  All complaints which are made to AHS, whether they are in relation to our organisation or another provider will be assessed and accompanied by a risk assessment which makes a determination as to the impact to continued service delivery. This will be done in consultation with the parties to the complaint.

10.5     Continuous Improvement

10.5.1  Following resolution of a complaint, AHS will engage in quarterly complaint review sessions facilitated by the complaints officer, internally and if appropriate in consultation with complainants and consider the following:

  • What was the complaint about? What service, policy or procedure did it call into question?
  • What was the experience for the person who made the complaint, or for any affected participant? Were the issues resolved for them?
  • What information did the complaint provide that will allow us to identify and improve those services, policies and procedures and our organisation as a whole?
  • How effectively did we communicate with the person who made the complaint, any affected participants, affected staff and other stakeholders?
  • Do people using  our services, their families, carers and friends require more or improved information about their rights and the complaints process? Does the person who made the complaint feel more comfortable about speaking up in the future?
  • Does anything need to change in our complaints handling system or approach to dealing with complaints?
  • Do staff require further training?
  • Did the handling of the complaint reflect our stated values and expectations for complaint handling? Or, was the complaint perceived as something negative that needed to be dealt with as quickly as possible?

10.6     Children and Young People Assistance Pathways

10.6.1  To assist children and young people with making any concerns or complaints known, AHS will ensure to provide the following assistance:

  • During induction and onboarding processes children and young people, their families, guardians and any other relevant stakeholders will be provided with a copy of this policy and have the document explained to them to ensure that they fully understand their rights and ability to make complaints to the relevant agency
  • Participants will be encouraged to advise support workers, or AHS directly in the event that they would like to make a complaint and will be provided assistance to make the complaint in a way which fully expresses their concerns
  • AHS will partner with an advocacy body whose details will be provided to all participants, and this advocacy body will be available to support participants in making their concerns known and feeling supported through this process.

10.7     Appealing Complaint Outcomes

10.7.1  In the event that a participant does not agree with an outcome with respect to any decision made by AHS, they are entitled to request a review by the organisation on the following bases:

  • There has been some error in the way in which information has been interpreted; or
  • There has been a perceived conflict of interest through the involvement of any individual in the investigation process who has had material involvement in the complaint that could reasonably considered to have affected their objectivity; or
  • There has been some breach in procedural fairness which undermines the outcome of the complaint; or
  • The outcome is considered to be excessively harsh or unfair in the circumstances.

10.7.2  In the event that this additional review does not grant the outcome the participant is seeking, or they feel that the complaint would more appropriately be addressed by an external agency, then they should proceed to make contact with the agencies listed in s.8 of this document.

11.       Record Keeping

11.1     As a registered NDIS provider we must keep and maintain appropriate records of all complaints received. This will include, where appropriate:

  • Information about the complaint;
  • Any action taken to remediate or resolve complaints, and 7 National Disability Insurance Scheme (Complaints Management and Resolution) Rules 2018, s 10(1). NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission 12; and
  • The outcome of any action taken.

11.2     Records will be kept for 7 years from the date the record was made.

12.       Mandatory Reporting Obligations

12.1     AHS is obligated to report incidents which are of the following nature to the relevant agency:

  • The death of a participant;
  • Serious injury of a participant;
  • Abuse or neglect of a participant;
  • Unlawful sexual or physical contact with, or assault of, a participant;
  • Sexual misconduct committed against, or in the presence of, a participant, including grooming of the participant for sexual activity; and
  • The unauthorised use of a restrictive practice in relation to a participant.

12.2     This does not preclude our obligations to notify other relevant authorities in reporting suspected crimes to the police or other relevant authorities.

13.       Revision History

VersionAmendment dateAmendments
DOC2018/003 – v.011.7.2018Document Creation
DOC2018/003 – v.021.7.2019Annual review and amendment
DOC2018/003 – v.031.7.2020Annual review and amendment
DOC2018/003 – v.041.7.2021Annual review and amendment
DOC2018/003 – v.0520.1.2022Review and amendment to incorporate matters relating to children and young persons for potential grant of VOOHC status