Solving problems and making complaints


Sometimes things are not as good as they should be.
Sometimes things go wrong.

Here are some tips for solving problems and making complaints.

  • Understand your service provider
  • Know how your service providers systems and process work
  • Get a copy of the feedback and complaints policy
  • Know your rights
  • Know your responsibilities
  • Know the standards your service provider should be meeting, e.g.
    • The Disability service standards
    • The Attendant care Industry standards
  • Know what a good service looks like, e.g. look at the descriptions in this web site.
  • Keep in regular communication with your Service provider

Signs of a good feedback and complaints process

Workers are responsive to immediate feedback within the day to day work.
As soon as issues emerge they are being discussed.
When in doubt workers have access to a supervisor or manager.
You and/or your family have a copy of the service provider’s complaints policy.

Signs of a feedback complaints process that is not working

Workers are not responsive to immediate feedback within the day to day work. They take it personally rather than see it as an opportunity for improvement.
There are long delays between raising an issue and getting it resolved.


Know your rights

As a service user, you have a right to expect that the services you receive will meet your needs.

Basic service provision should include:


You should always be treated by your service provider with respect, courtesy and honesty. This includes respect for your cultural, religious, and social needs and beliefs.

Individual needs

You should receive services in a way that addresses your individual needs. Your service provider should assess the level of help that you need, review this regularly, and change the service as your needs change.

Connection to family and community

If you are living in care, you have a right to maintain and develop close relationships with the people who are important to you, such as family, friends and advocates, where it is safe to do so. Services should support you to participate in the community.

Privacy and confidentiality

Services should respect your privacy and the confidentiality of the information that they have about you.

Safety and freedom from abuse

You should receive services in a safe environment, free from abuse of any kind.

No discrimination

No one should unfairly discriminate against you in the way you receive services, nor should you be subjected to harassment or exploitation.

Access to information

You have a right to information about the services you are getting in a way that you understand. For example, how you will receive your services, your choices, how your money will be managed, the expectations or ‘rules’ of the provider. You can ask any questions to help you become fully informed about the service provider.

Participation in decisions

You should be able to participate in decisions that affect your life and the services you receive. Your service provider should consider your views and preferences in a meaningful way, and clearly explain any decisions that it makes. You can ask the service to put the reasons for its decisions in writing.


It is OK to complain about the services you are getting, without fear of losing the service and without it affecting the way in which your service is delivered, or how you are treated. The service should tell you how it handles complaints, and should keep you informed about the progress and result of your complaint.


You are allowed to have a support person of your choice when you talk to your service provider about the services you are getting — for example, a family member, friend, advocate or Official Community Visitor (for people in full-time care).

Your responsibilities

As a service user, you are responsible for your decisions. You should respect service providers, staff and other service users.

Building a partnership with the service provider

Often when you get a service to help you, it can feel like you are just the ‘receiver’ of a service, and you play a passive role. However there are things that you can do to be a more active partner in the relationship with the service.

Getting on well with services is important to reduce stress for you and the service, and means you will be better able to communicate and get your needs met. If you have a healthy relationship with the service, it will certainly help you to resolve problems if they arise.

Some ways of improving the relationship may simply mean taking advantage of things already built into the way that the service operates. Other ways may include new ideas for both you and the service.

Here are just a few ideas:


  • planning meetings are good when you are new to a service, or want to change the service you are receiving
  • make a written agreement with the service provider about the service they will provide — what it includes, how often, who will provide it and when, what you can expect from the service etc.


  • make an agreement with the service provider about how you will communicate. Some issues to consider are:
    • Discuss methods. For example, is phoning always OK? When should it be in writing? Is faxing or email an option?
    • Discuss times. For example, don’t call me before 10a.m. as I am busy with children. Worker unavailable Mondays but another worker will be available.
    • What needs to be communicated?
    • Who communicates?
  • special communication needs. For example, translator, sign language interpreter
  • think about your communication style — remember a polite manner is more likely to be met with a positive response.


  • have a clear process for feedback on a regular basis
  • find out about the complaints policy and process of your service provider, and use it
  • where appropriate, give the service positive feedback. This can be a compliment, in a letter or even in a contribution to the service’s newsletter.


  • attend service open days, user forums or annual general meetings
  • keep a file on each service that you use, so information is kept together and accessible when you need it
  • keep up to date with changes affecting the service by reading its newsletters
  • make sure that you know the name and contact details of the relevant staff and managers. Keep them handy by the phone or on a notice board
  • participate in the service’s broad assessment/review processes. For example attend a focus group or fill in a survey and have a say about the service.

Communicating with services

Good communication means exchanging messages clearly — it is a two way process.

Building a positive relationship with your service providers can prevent misunderstandings and will help you get what you need from the service.

Good communication is very helpful if you have a problem with your service. Even though it is impossible to control other people’s communication, we can control our own communication style and responses to others.