Counselling Service User Complaints
The purpose of this policy is to augment the Blue Knot Foundation Complaints Policy to support the effective resolution of complaints related to the organisation’s counselling programs. This includes the National Counselling and Referral Service and the Blue Knot Helpline and Redress Support Service. The aim is to optimise the delivery of quality counselling services.
A clear and accessible complaints mechanism is essential for quality assurance of the counselling programs, as well as for upholding the rights of service users, counsellors and all Blue Knot staff.
The Blue Knot Foundation Complaints Policy applies to all service users, staff and contractors. It outlines the way that complaints are managed.
Blue Knot treats all complaints seriously. It encourages feedback as part of its ongoing quality improvement process. Complaints help identify issues with service delivery and ways they can be addressed.
This policy focuses specifically on complaints related to its counselling services. The Blue Knot counselling programs are committed to a positive complaints culture. It is a supplementary policy which recognises that all complaints need to follow due process. This complaints process is consistent with the rights-based principles embedded within the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It provides a foundation for quality complaints frameworks.
A well-handled complaint shows the complainant that their concerns have been taken seriously. In the context of complex trauma and/or traumatic transference, service users may express anger and be critical of a counselling service and/or a specific counsellor. This can make it hard to establish when a complaint needs to be formally registered and investigated. A hasty or defensive response to complaints may heighten, rather than soothe a heightened service user. All counsellors need to use professional judgement to determine how to `hold’ the interpersonal space when the dynamic becomes challenging.
This policy guides members of the counselling teams around managing complaints and responding to feedback from service users. When engaging with feedback or a complaint it is important to always:
- Listen deeply to the issues raised
- Not be defensive
- Provide a safe space in which feedback, criticism and complaints can be safely expressed.
- Paraphrase what you have heard to the person and ask them to clarify the issues further if needed
- Approach the issue with compassion, curiosity and a desire to understand the service user’s perspective.
- Empathise with the person’s distress or criticism
- Assess if and when to apprise the service user of the complaints process
- Check with the person if they would like to make a formal or informal complaint or provide feedback
- Take the feedback/complaint seriously and let the person know that it will be well investigated
- Follow due process in a timely manner
- Treat everyone fairly, regardless of their presentation or the number of times they have lodged a complaint
Who can make a complaint?
Anyone can make a complaint about our counselling services. It is important to remember that any complainant has the choice to have a support person with them. People with disability have a right to have a representative, family member or friend make a complaint on their behalf.
What might a Service User complain about?
This may include the following related to any aspect of the service:
- General dissatisfaction with the service
- A belief that they were denied fair access to our services
- A belief that they have been excluded from decisions involving them
- Perceived breaches of confidentiality and privacy
- Feedback about how we might improve our services
If possible, encourage the service user to talk to the person with whom they have an issue. This is important for everyone, but especially for people who have experienced trauma. It is also important for every service user to be able to safely raise their concerns and have the opportunity to resolve the complaint and repair the relationship rupture if possible. This outcome may not be possible for a range of reasons including the nature of complex trauma and its impacts.
What should be included in a complaint?
To effectively assess, investigate and resolve a complaint it is important to obtain as much information as possible. This includes:
- A description of the problem/issue
- The ways the problem/issue has impacted the person
- How the service user thinks the problem/issue can be addressed
- Any information or evidence that supports their complaint
- The desired outcome or resolution
- The method by which the service user would like to be contacted about the complaint (e.g. return telephone call, email, letter or no response needed)
- Remember to obtain permission to leave a message if they would prefer a return telephone call
Making a complaint
Clients of the Blue Knot Foundation (ABN 49 072 260 005) (Blue Knot, us, we, our) have the right to a fair and transparent process for making a complaint.
If you wish to lodge a complaint about Blue Knot or any of its services or staff members, you can complete the webform here.
If you would rather speak to someone at Blue Knot about your complaint, you can call and ask to speak with a member of the Leadership Team to which your complaint relates. At times a member of the Leadership Team might not be available right away and will need to call you back. If you are comfortable to do so, please leave your contact details and the relevant person will make contact with you within five (5) business days to take your complaint.
The Leadership Team for each of our services can be contacted as follows:
- National Counselling and Referral Service – 1800 421 468
- Helpline and Redress Support Services – 1300 657 380
- For all other services and business areas – 02 8920 3611
Blue Knot endeavours to respond to all complaints fairly and in a timely manner.
Once you have made a complaint, a member of our team will contact you and advise you of information such as next steps, expected timelines, alternative resources and any other information related to your complaint or our complaints handling process.
We aim to investigate and, if possible, resolve all complaints within twenty (20) business days of receiving the complaint. If we can’t meet this timeframe, your contact will explain the reasons for the delay and an alternative timeframe for resolution.
Where it is possible and appropriate, we will try and address your complaint directly with you.
All complaints received by Blue Knot are treated on a confidential basis unless we are required to make a mandatory notification by law.
Depending on the nature of your complaint, you may choose to further raise your complaint with the relevant Privacy, Health or Community Commissioner or Complaints Office in your State or Territory.
Last reviewed: July 2023