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Survey shows greater focus required to support children in raising a complaint

A survey of WA state government organisations has found only 26 per cent described their complaints process as child-friendly and less than half include specific mention of children in their complaints policy.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People’s report Monitoring of complaints systems 2019 outlines the findings from a survey of 27 government agencies on how complaints from children are being monitored across government.

Commissioner Colin Pettit said the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had highlighted the importance for all organisations to have child-friendly complaint systems.

“Children and young people have the right to be safe and respected at all times, and it is essential that children are able to easily raise a concern when they need to and know that when they do, they will be listened to,” Commissioner Colin Pettit said.

“The majority of our 593,000 children and young people are regular users of government services, particularly schools and medical services or visiting state-owned facilities, and we also have children in contact with child protection and youth justice services,” Mr Pettit said.

The Western Australian government, through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), has agreed to national child safe principles, including principle six which states ‘processes to respond to complaints and concerns are child focused’.

Key findings from the 27 organisations who participated in the complaints survey:

• 1,169 complaints from, or on behalf of, children and young people were received in 2017-18, the majority regarding child protection and health.
• 374 of these could be identified as being directly from children and young people.
• 16 of the 27 organisations recorded if a complaint was from, or on behalf of, a child/young person.
• A complaints policy could be located on 10 of the 32 websites managed by the participating organisations.
• All government agencies invited to participate submitted a response.

The reasons for complaints received from or on behalf of children and young people were varied, covering education, accommodation, health and recreation – including concerns about treatment from professionals, having their views heard, quality of care and access to services.

“I thank all of the government organisations who participated in this survey for their considered and open responses,” Mr Pettit said.

“The survey results have been provided back to the participating government organisations and I will be working with them to provide individualised feedback on how complaints systems across government can better incorporate the needs of children and young people.

“While this complaints survey was focused on state government organisations, it is important to remember that all organisations working with children need to ensure that they have child-friendly complaints systems in place.”

A range of Child Safe Organisations WA resources and information on the new national child safe principles are available online.