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Survey highlights the need to improve complaints systems for children and young people

A survey of 34 WA Government organisations has found only 16 per cent of agencies engaged in child related work met or exceeded more than half the performance indicators of a child friendly complaints system.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People’s report Monitoring of complaints systems 2021 outlines the findings from the survey on how complaints from children and young people are being managed across government.

Commissioner Jacqueline McGowan-Jones highlighted the importance of all organisations having child friendly complaint systems as part of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.

“It is vital that all children and young people know they can easily raise a concern and feel confident that they will be heard when they do,” Commissioner McGowan-Jones said.

“Children and young people make up almost a quarter of the population in Western Australia and are regular users of many government services including education, health, transport or recreation,” she said.

While the report indicates that no public sector agency has a complaint system that fully aligns with the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, many agencies used the process as an opportunity to commit to improvement and have identified ways to increase the child focus of their current complaints policies. 

Key findings from the 34 agencies that participated in the complaints survey:

  • 1,628 complaints from, or on behalf of, children and young people were received in 2019–2020.
  • Complaints generally related to education, accommodation, health and recreation.
  • 37 per cent of complaints could be identified as being directly from children and young people.
  • 22 of the 34 agencies recorded if a complaint was from, or on behalf of, a child/young person.
  • Only 18 per cent of agencies who fund non-government organisations to provide services to children and young people said they have a requirement for these organisations to have child friendly complaints systems.

“I’d like to acknowledge all the government agencies who participated in the survey and thank them for taking the time to reflect on how effectively they are meeting the needs of children and young people in this area,” Ms McGowan-Jones said. 

“I have provided individualised feedback to agencies and I am committed to continuing to support them to address areas of concern to ensure that the issues raised by children and young people are heard and acted on.

"Of particular importance is the need for all agencies to ensure that any non-government organisation they contract must also have a child friendly complaints system in place.”

This is the fifth complaints monitoring survey undertaken by the Commissioner for Children and Young People since 2010. The 2021 survey process was strengthened through consultation with a group of young people.

A range of Child Safe Organisations WA resources and information on the National Child Safe Principles are available online.