Understanding Complaints with the NDIS Commission Complaints Commissioner - video transcript

To begin, I acknowledge the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures and to elders past, present and emerging. We're joining you today from the country of the Burramattagal people of the Dharug nation in Parramatta, New South Wales.

My name is Sian Leathem and I'm the Complaints Commissioner. The Complaints Commissioner assists the NDIS Commissioner by ensuring that the complaints and reportable incidents received by the Commission are dealt with effectively, and critically   that people with disability, their carers, families and advocates have their voices heard and concerns addressed.

Complaints are a really important way that the Commission can understand what's happening on the ground for people with disability and importantly it's a way in which we can help ensure we're improving the quality and safety of supports and services to people with a disability.

We take complaints from anybody about services and supports provided to people with disability, so that can come from a participant themselves or perhaps their carer, a family member, or even a neighbour, or a support worker. We can take complaints over the phone, we can take complaints that are lodged online, or people even can send us an email and it doesn't matter who the complaint's received from as long as it's about somebody who's receiving services and supports under the NDIS.

We try to understand what the complainant's concerns are and what the outcome is that they're looking from raising the complaint and then we try and work with the complainant and the service providers to see if we can come up with a satisfactory resolution or outcome. They should expect to be listened to, they should also expect to be treated with respect and they should expect to be communicated with effectively about what it is we can and can't do in the Commission and what we can offer them by way of resolution.

The NDIS code of conduct sets out clear principles to govern the provision of services and supports to people with disability irrespective of whether they're a registered or a non-registered provider. The code of conduct requires service providers to respect individual rights including things like autonomy and privacy and also ensuring that they respect the choice and control of people with disability In the provision of services and supports. The code of conduct also requires them to act promptly on concerns that might be raised by people with disability, their families or carers.

When it comes to service providers we appreciate that there are lots of different types of providers providing a whole range of different services and supports, so we will work with them to understand what their view is about the circumstances that have led to the complaint, whether there are any problems or barriers that might be creating issues in the way in which they deliver services and supports and see if there's some resolutions or options they can suggest to try and have the complaint resolved.

Our focus is very much on the person with disability and trying to come up with a satisfactory resolution to their concerns and complaints, obviously it depends on the nature of the complaint, the type of response or intervention that's required, so if it's a relatively straightforward matter that can be resolved with some effective communication we will see if we can try and facilitate that outcome. If it's something that's more serious or perhaps a systemic issue then there are other types of interventions the Commission might make including escalating it to our compliance team or possibly our investigation team and the type of resolution will depend very much on the circumstances of the complaint.

We understand that it can take courage and sometimes people are anxious about making a complaint about their services or supports that they receive, so we try and make sure that we listen effectively and that we make the process as easy as possible for them to participate in. I encourage service providers to look at complaints as an opportunity to improve their services and the safety of the supports that they provide.

The information that you garner through complaints can provide you with some really good insights into where it is that you might need to give some attention as a service provider or how you   might improve your communication with the people that you're actually providing services to, so I would tell service providers to actually embrace the opportunities that are given by complaints and to work with the Commission to see if we can come up with a mutually acceptable resolution. Service providers can work together with the Commission to try and find a resolution to complaints.

We've got a range of resources that we've made available on our website to help service providers understand what it is that they might do in terms of their own processes practices and procedures to improve the quality and safety of their services. The Commission also supports through various different grants the development of other resources and tools to assist service providers in complaint handling.

All registered providers are required to have an internal complaints process and the reason this is important is it often gives them early warning if there's an issue or a concern that might be impacting their delivery of services and supports, that means you can actually address issues before they become entrenched or systemic problems so it can be a really useful early warning system.

Our core promise to complainants and service providers is that they will be listened to, that they'll be treated with respect, that we will act fairly and impartially and that will be focused on finding a resolution.