Media release - Management of Child Safety Complaints

Ombudsman presents report on the management of child safety complaints

19 July 2016

Queensland Ombudsman Phil Clarke today presented his report on the Management of child safety complaints to the Honourable Peter Wellington, Speaker of the Queensland Parliament for tabling.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found that the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services is not capturing all child safety complaints, due to inadequate complaint recording processes at its Child Safety Service Centres.

It found a significant, unexplained reduction in the number of child safety complaints since the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian (CCYPCG) was disbanded in 2014.

The Ombudsman’s report does not address notifications received by the department about harm or risk of harm to a child. These matters are not considered complaints when first received.

The investigation identified the need for greater collaboration between the department and the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), to ensure that serious issues identified by OPG Community Visitors are handled as child safety complaints by the department.

The investigation also found that the department had failed to publish information about complaints received and resolved, despite a legal requirement to do so under the Public Service Act 2008. The department has since published this data.

The Ombudsman decided to investigate the management of child safety complaints in the wake of significant reforms to Queensland’s child safety system, stemming from the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry, led by the Honourable Tim Carmody, QC.

The inquiry returned oversight of child safety complaints to the department, with oversight by the Queensland Ombudsman.

Mr Clarke launched an investigation in September 2015 to determine whether the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services had a robust child safety complaints system.

‘The public needs to have confidence in the department’s ability to investigate complaints to ensure the state’s most vulnerable children are protected,’ Mr Clarke said.

‘My investigation revealed serious shortcomings, including a significant number of child safety complaint issues that have seemingly been lost since the CCYPCG ceased operation.’ 

Mr Clarke has made five recommendations, including that the department improve its complaints management system and develop protocols with the OPG to decide when a matter should be considered under the department’s complaints system.

‘The number of complaints about child safety issues received in Queensland should not be a controversial topic and should not be open to debate,’ Mr Clarke said.

‘An effective child safety complaints system should be accessible, responsive, objective and fair with transparent and comprehensive reporting.

‘Properly managing complaints helps ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the child safety system in Queensland and allows individual concerns to be resolved.

‘I believe that the recommendations made in this report will lead to a stronger system for managing child safety complaints into the future’.

The Queensland Ombudsman is an independent officer of the Parliament.

The Ombudsman ensures public agencies make fair and balanced decisions for Queenslanders by investigating complaints and conducting own-initiative investigations that tackle broader, systemic concerns.

The Ombudsman can investigate complaints about state government departments, local councils and publicly-funded universities.

The Ombudsman can make recommendations to rectify unfair or unjust decisions and improve administrative practice.

Management of child safety complaints: An investigation into the current child safety complaints management processes within the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services was tabled on 19 July.

Media contact: Communications Officer on 1800 068 908.