Barnardos takes all complaints and allegations very seriously. Complaints about alleged abuse of children are acted on immediately and in many situations must be followed up by the NSW Ombudsman and Children’s Commissioner or the ACT Government. Barnardos also welcomes complaints where services have disappointed clients or carers so that we can review our programs and policies. 

Allegations of abuse

If you are concerned about the abuse of a child by a Barnardos’ carer, worker or volunteer, you should immediately contact the relevant Centre Program Manager or Senior Manager or the Chief Executive (welfare@barnardos.org.au). Barnardos is obliged to inform the NSW Ombudsman or ACT Government of serious allegations and they will oversee investigations.  Police and statutory departments may be involved.  The process will be explained to you personally at the time of the allegation.

General service complaints

This complaints procedure concerns service complaints which do not involve allegations of child abuse.  It aims to impartially assess the complaint in a manner which ensures there is adequate opportunity for all parties to present their case.  It also aims to ensure that clients have redress if they have been disadvantaged by a decision of a worker.  It provides an opportunity for the agency to identify and rectify problems in philosophy or management may be impeding our ability to assist clients.  The complaints procedure many not necessarily resolve a conflict.

Complaints can be sent, in writing or verbally, to any member of the organisation.  Clients and carers are placed in a difficult position when they complain, as their only contact with the organisation may be through the person about whom they wish to complain.  This difficulty may be compounded when literacy skills are poor and because of a sense of general ‘powerlessness’ which many clients feel.  Barnardos’ employees should bear this in mind when considering whether a complaint is being made and what action should follow.  Suppression of a complaint by a worker will be viewed seriously, particularly insofar as it provides important information on Barnardos’ policies and practices.

Initially, complaints should be open to conciliation, ie there should be an attempt by the people involved to understand and try to resolve the issues.  However, should the complaint not be treated satisfactorily in the client’s view, the matter should be referred to the appropriate supervisor. A complaint suggestive of poor welfare practice would inevitably warrant full investigation -  for example, a complaint suggesting rights of the client have been neglected or denied, or a complaint that a worker has operated outside Barnardos’ policies.

The agency must deal with complaints as speedily as possible; however we must balance the need for a fair hearing against other clients’ needs for service.  Every attempt should be made by the Centre Senior Manager to ensure that support is offered to workers who have had a complaint made against them.

At the initial conciliation attempt, the supervisor of the program will mediate between the complainant and the worker involved.  When a Co-ordinator or Program Manager is involved in the complaint, the Senior Manager of the service (centre) should mediate.  If possible, an agreed written report outlining the issues and resolutions should be put on file.  Where no resolution is reached, the matter should be referred to the next most senior level, eg. Centre Senior Manager or Chief Executive Officer, for further attempts at conciliation.  If conciliation still cannot be achieved, the complaint can be directed straight to external bodies such as the NSW Office of the Ombudsman or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

External complaints can be made by speaking or writing to NSW Ombudsman or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal if you believe that Barnardos has acted unreasonably –

  • In the way they provide or manage a service to someone
  • By not providing a service to someone
  • By withdrawing or changing a service to someone
  • By providing a service to someone that you believe should be receiving that service

A complaint may be about the conduct of Barnardos and/or the conduct of workers.

The Ombudsman defines a service provider as having acted unreasonably if their decision or conduct -

  • Does not conform to the relevant legislation or guidelines
  • Does not meet acceptable standards
  • Has a detrimental impact on a particular consumer or consumers of that service.

Further details:  www.nswombudsman.nsw.gov.au

Alternatively you can contact the Administrative Decisions Tribunal on www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au or telephone 9223 4677.