Complaints will be addressed according to the Complaint Handling Guidelines in a professional, competent and timely manner.
Complaint Handling Guidelines
Scope and application
These guidelines apply to parents/guardians, students, visitors, volunteers, community members, employees and contractors of the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, except where issues are dealt in accordance with*:-* Suspension, Transfer, Expulsion, Exclusion Procedures 2012* Child Protection – Risk of Harm and Significant Harm and /or Allegations* Relevant CEO discipline procedures for employees (for serious complaints involving allegations of* misconduct/unsatisfactory performance by employees)* Enterprise Agreements/Awards* Anti-Bullying Policy for Students 2005* Criminal Jurisdiction
Generally student complaints will be processed through school based procedures relating to pastoral care or studentmanagement. The Catholic Education Office Complaint Handling Procedures may be used in matters assessed as moreserious in nature and involving an adult as one of the parties (e.g. a complaint by a student against a teacher, teacher against a student, or by a parent on behalf of their child).
Complaints relating to the areas of discrimination, harassment and bullying are dealt with according to these guidelines with reference to the Countering Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying Policy (2010).
DefinitionsThe person making a complaint is referred to as ‘the complainant’. The person about whom the complaint is made is ‘therespondent’. The ‘parties’ refer to both complainant and respondent. The person handling the complaint is the ‘complainthandler’, usually a team leader, principal or Director of School Performance. Persons who directly witness an alleged incident are referred to as ‘witnesses’.
Complaint optionsThere are informal and formal options for making and resolving complaints. The aim is to resolve most complaints informally where appropriate.
Assessment of a complaint is an important step in determining how a complaint will be handled.
Making an informal complaintWherever possible, complaints should be raised directly with the person concerned (unless this person is a child, in which case, it is usually more appropriate to contact the relevant teacher or member of the School Executive). Approaching the person who may be the cause of the complaint and letting them know the impact of their actions may be the most appropriate action. This provides the person with an opportunity to stop or change what they are doing and/or explain their actions.
Informal complaints may be received in a number of ways, including face-to-face contact, email, letter or phone.Completion of the Complaint Form is optional for informal complaints although all complaints should be recorded.
Options for resolving informal complaints
Resolving a complaint informally requires that parties identify the issues concerning their complaint, and agree on a resolution.
Informal options for resolution include:*Self-resolution – handle the issue personally*Assisted resolution – seek resolution with the help of a colleague, support person, school principal or team leader.Employment Relations may assist in some circumstances.
Making a formal complaintA formal complaint may be made when:* a complaint cannot be resolved informally* where you cannot approach the person directly or remain dissatisfied with their response* the seriousness of the issue warrants a higher level of formality
Options for resolving formal complaints
Formal options for resolving formal complaints are:*Intervention - developing a solution or agreement through discussion or correspondence with the parties.*Investigation Procedure – investigation procedure is used for a complaint relating to an alleged serious breach oflegislation, policy or procedure.*Mediation – a structured process conducted by a trained mediator aimed at resolution between the parties concerned.*System Improvement Procedure – used for a complaint that is about policies, procedures or systems rather than aperson.
All formal complaints are to be put in writing using the Complaint Form. For informal complaints, a record of the complaintshould be retained at the school or workplace.For school related matters, the form should be forwarded to the school principal. If the complaint relates to a principal, the form should be forwarded to the relevant Director System Performance.
Complaints received within the Catholic Education Office from employees should initially be referred to the appropriate Team Leader. If the complaint relates to a Team Leader, the Complaint Form should be forwarded to the relevant Director.
Complaints received by the Community Liaison Officer, Catholic Education Office will be logged, and forwarded as appropriate to the relevant Director System Performance.
Complaints relating to system policies or practices, or complaints that are perceived to have remained unresolved will beforwarded to a Director System Performance.
Complaints relating to the Executive Director of Schools should be forwarded to the Bishop, Diocese of Parramatta.
Appointment of an investigating officer
A school principal, Team Leader, Director System Performance or Executive Director of Schools may determine and appoint an investigating officer for a complaint. When required, Employment Relations can provide further advice relating to the investigation process.
The investigating officer is responsible for assessing, planning and managing an investigation process concerning theallegations to completion of a formal report containing both findings and recommendations. The implementation of the report’s recommendations is the responsibility of a nominated leadership position.
The investigating officer will:*assess if there is any conflict of interest*plan and implement an investigation process*complete report with findings to the complaint handler
The complaint handler will:*communicate with all parties, including the outcome of a complaint process*take action concerning the findings of the investigation*refer issues requiring system improvement to the relevant Director
Natural justice and procedural fairness
The principles of natural justice apply to all complaints.
Natural justice is also known as procedural fairness and applies in situations where a decision could potentially have adetrimental effect on the rights, interests or legitimate expectations of a person.
Procedural fairness requires that:1. The respondent is heard2. The decision is not biased3. The decision is based on relevant and reliable evidence
It is also important that complaints are dealt with in a timely manner and parties advised of the reason for any delays.Where an anonymous complaint is lodged, no action will be taken unless the allegation is reportable conduct and action must be taken in accordance with the NSW Ombudsman’s Act.
To maintain confidentiality in so far as that is reasonable all participants in the process, particularly the Complaint Handler,should restrict the information about the complaint to those who need to know.
All participants in the process also need to be informed of the importance of confidentiality and also that unfair repercussions or victimisation in any form is unacceptable and if evident could result in disciplinary action.
Access to support
The person who made the complaint and the respondent may access support. If meetings with the parties are held, the parties may have a support person present.
Students under the age of 18 who make a complaint are to be offered the support of an adult support person. This may be a parent, guardian, teacher or other significant person.
Guidelines for dealing with complaints may be adapted according to such considerations as the age of students, Englishcompetency and disability (for example, assistance may be given completing the Complaint Form).All employees participating in the complaints process may access a confidential counselling service which is made available by contacting the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) on 1800 81 87 28.
Complaint handlers will keep written records of the complaint resolution process and outcomes. Complaint records will be filed and stored appropriately.
Outcomes-resolution and remedy
If an allegation/complaint is substantiated, the complaint handler will determine appropriate resolution and/or remedyWhen determining an appropriate remedy the following factors may be taken into consideration:* the seriousness of the conduct* the complainant’s and respondent’s input concerning resolution* referral to previous cases and consequences
Decisions on appropriate remedies involving students will consider their age and involvement of, and consultation with,parents/guardians.
Remedies for substantiated complaints may include:* A written apology and/or a summary of action to be taken* Counselling and support* Mentoring* Ongoing monitoring of behaviour* Facilitated/mediated resolution* A formal agreement
In addition for employees:* Performance management* Workplace training
System improvement:* Review System or school procedures and implementation of changes if required
Ongoing monitoring* The complaint handler will determine appropriate ongoing follow up particularly where a complaint is substantiated.* This could include regular ‘check in’ with parties involved in the complaint and/or* Implementation of system improvement
Unsubstantiated or vexatious complaints* If the complaint is unsubstantiated - (did not occur or not proven) - the complaint handler will communicate thisoutcome to the parties concerned and determine further action if necessary.* If the complaint is found to be vexatious/malicious similar remedies for a substantiated complaint including a writtenapology could be implemented by the complaint handler. Conduct of this nature could result in disciplinary action in thecase of an employee.
Either the complainant or respondent/s may request a review of the process. The review will be undertaken by a personnominated by the Executive Director of Schools
A request for a review must be made within 10 working days from the date of the finding and detail the grounds for the review.
The person conducting the review will:* review all relevant material* make a recommendation to the Executive Director of Schools
Where a review has been requested, the finding that is being reviewed will be put on hold until the review is complete. Thereviewer will record action taken and communicate the outcome of the review to the Executive Director
The Executive Director will advise parties in writing of the outcome of the review and the status of the decision.
The decision of the Executive Director is final.