1. Policy statement
All Justice Connect staff, including paid workers, volunteers, secondees and clinic lawyers (Justice Connect workers) are covered by and required to comply with this Complaints and Appeals Policy (Policy).
2. Principles of this Policy
Justice Connect is committed to ensuring that any person or organisation seeking to access its services or affected by its operations (help-seeker) or third party (e.g. a support worker or advocate for a help-seeker) has the right to lodge a complaint about the conduct of a Justice Connect worker or to appeal a decision of the organisation about the provision of legal assistance, and to have their concerns addressed in a way that ensures access, equity, fairness, accountability and transparency.
Justice Connect will maintain a complaints and appeals management procedure that:
- is simple and easy to use;
- is effectively communicated and promoted to all help-seekers and stakeholders;
- ensures complaints or appeals are fairly assessed and responded to promptly;
- is procedurally fair and follows principles of natural justice; and
- complies with legislative requirements.
Feedback (both positive and negative) is welcomed by Justice Connect, and this data is used to ensure continuous reflection and improvement of the organisation.
Internal complaints, where a Justice Connect worker makes a complaint concerning another worker, will be dealt with in accordance with Justice Connect’s Grievance and Complaint Policy and Procedure, and is not covered by this Policy.
3. Information for help-seekers and stakeholders
This Policy will be made available to help-seekers and other stakeholders on request. This Policy contains information on the following:
- how to make a complaint or lodge an appeal;
- the contact person for lodging a complaint or appeal;
- how the organisation will deal with the complaint or appeal, the steps involved and the timelines; and
- how the person will be informed about the outcome of their complaint or appeal.
4. Making a complaint
In accordance with this Policy, a person wishing to make a complaint may do so in writing or verbally in relation to:
- a decision by Justice Connect as to whether to provide assistance; or
- the conduct of a Justice Connect worker.
Complaints in writing sent via post should be addressed to the Justice Connect complaints officer:
- for New South Wales (NSW) matters, to PO Box 436 Darlinghurst NSW 1300; or
- for all other matters, to PO Box 16103 Melbourne VIC 8007.
Alternatively, complaints may be made to the Justice Connect complaints officer by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone or in-person. Please speak with an appropriate Justice Connect worker if you would like more information. For this purpose, complainants should initially speak with a Justice Connect worker who they consider to be their primary contact, or if more appropriate, a Justice Connect senior staff member responsible for that worker. Upon receipt of the complaint by the Justice Connect complaints officer, the person to whom the complaint is directed will be determined by referring to section 4.2 of this Policy, and the complaint promptly brought to their attention.
All formal complaints will at a minimum be addressed in line with this Policy. However, the specific complaints handling process may also be required to comply with different external requirements placed on individual programs of Justice Connect.
4.1 Complaints or appeals in relation to a decision about the provision of assistance
Where a complaint is in relation to a decision about the provision of assistance to a help-seeker, helpseekers may request an appeal of that decision.
The appeal will be considered by the relevant senior staff member (or Head, where the original decision-maker is a senior staff member), who will assess the appeal and either affirm the original decision or make a new decision about the provision of assistance, having regard to:
- the nature of the request for assistance;
- the eligibility criteria for assistance;
- the reasons for the original decision;
- any new information provided by the help-seeker; and
- any other relevant information.
Following the appeal, the decision should be clearly communicated by the reviewer to the help-seeker in plain language. Written reasons will not be provided in most cases.
For help-seekers who are dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeal or the way that the complaint was handled internally by Justice Connect, see section 4.4 of this Policy.
4.2 Complaints in relation to conduct of a Justice Connect worker
Justice Connect staff will be allocated to addressing complaints. This responsibility will be determined in line with the points below. In particular, where the complaint relates to the conduct of:
- a paid worker below the level of a senior staff member , or a volunteer, the complaint will be directed to the appropriate senior staff member in the relevant program;
- a senior staff member, the complaint will be directed to the Head of the relevant program;
- a Head, the complaint will be directed to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Justice Connect; or
- the CEO, the complaint will be directed to the Chair of the Justice Connect Board.
Where the complaint relates to a secondee or clinic lawyer, as part of directly managing the complaint, Justice Connect may also consult with the manager of the secondee or clinic lawyer at their employer law firm or organisation. Consultations of this nature will depend on the circumstances and will have the required consents. Complaints about the conduct of Justice Connect workers will be addressed in a timely manner, and will require the person responsible for managing the complaint to take the following steps:
- notify the Justice Connect worker of the complaint and its nature;
- investigate the complaint and provide the Justice Connect worker with an opportunity to respond to any issues raised;
- attempt to resolve the matter with the complainant as appropriate; and
- make a decision about the complaint, and use plain language to communicate this decision to the complainant (noting that written reasons will not be provided in most cases); and
- take any other action necessary to manage the complaint.
The person managing the complaint will be responsible for informing the complainant that their complaint has been received and providing them with information about the process and time frame, including with reference to this Policy.
The person responsible for managing the complaint must form a decision that is fair and reasonable in the circumstances, having regard to other relevant internal policies. A complaint under this provision 4.2 may be rejected without further consideration if the person responsible for managing the complaint determines that the complaint has been made in relation to an appeal under 4.1 and the matter has been dealt with appropriately under 4.1.
For complainants who are dissatisfied with the way that the complaint was handled internally by Justice Connect, see below at 4.4.
4.3 Complaints by third parties
If a third party, (e.g. a support worker or advocate for a help-seeker, or an other party) has a complaint, they can also complain under this policy. Third party complaints must clearly identify who is making the complaint (i.e. whether the third party is making the complaint or they are making the complaint on behalf of a help-seeker).
If the complaint is being made on behalf of a help-seeker, the third party must provide a written consent, signed by the help-seeker, stating that the complaint is being made on behalf of the helpseeker and providing consent for Justice Connect to discuss the matter with the third party.
If the complaint is being made by the third party on their own behalf, Justice Connect’s professional obligations, including confidentiality, will limit Justice Connect response to the complaint (i.e. no confidential help-seeker information will be disclosed in responding to the complaint). This should be made clear to the complainant in responding to the complaint.
4.4 Referral of help-seeker complaints about legal service delivery to Legal Services Commissioner
If the complaint is from a help-seeker and relates to legal service delivery, where a complainant remains dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeal or the way that their complaint was handled by Justice Connect, they should be informed that they can make a complaint either by phone or in writing to the Legal Services Commissioner from the appropriate state or territory.
The appropriate Legal Services Commissioner is based on the jurisdiction of the Justice Connect worker lawyer involved in the complaint, which include:
5. Record keeping
Justice Connect will keep a record of all complaints or appeals and how they have been managed in complaints log.