Case studies - improving policy, procedures or service

20 May 2020 Case studies

The community expects public agencies to have policies and procedures to support and inform fair and consistent decision-making at all levels within government. This Office makes recommendations to agencies for improving policy, procedures or service.

Following are some case studies relating to improving policy, procedures or service in the 2018-19 annual report by the Queensland Ombudsman. 

Inadequate telephone access from youth detention centre

A young person at a youth detention centre complained to this Office that he was unable to telephone a public sector complaints agency from the centre.

The Office made enquiries with the centre and was advised that the telephone system could store a very limited range of numbers for each person and this included personal contacts and public sector agency contacts. Concerned by this response, Ombudsman investigators went to the centre and spoke to relevant staff. It was found that the telephone system could be used to store more numbers on a common auto dial list for all young people to access, in addition to the young person’s own list of personal contacts. A common auto dial list provides unlimited access to public sector agencies that a young person may need to contact.

The result

The Office made an informal recommendation to the centre that it add the telephone numbers of relevant public sector agencies to the common auto dial list. The centre accepted the recommendation.

Prisoner reimbursed for missing wedding ring

David was arrested and detained at a watch house before being transferred to a correctional centre. As part of this process, David’s property was collected to be transferred with him. Watch house records listed David’s wedding ring as part of that property. When David arrived at the correctional centre and asked about his property, the correctional centre informed him that there was no wedding ring in his property.

David lodged a complaint with the correctional centre's management. He was advised that there was no record of his wedding ring being processed upon his entry into the centre.

David subsequently complained to this Office. The investigation found that David’s wedding ring had been correctly accounted for and transferred with his property from the watch house to the correctional centre. This meant that the wedding ring had been misplaced while in the possession of correctional centre officers.

The result

When the correctional centre realised the error, it agreed to reimburse David for the cost of the wedding ring. David provided a description of the wedding ring and sourced a quote from a reputable jeweller. The correctional centre agreed to reimburse David $725 for the misplaced wedding ring.

Development approval leads to access problems

A small rural development was approved by council in the 1990s. Access to the development included culverts over an open drain but these collapsed during a recent cyclone.

The residents exhausted the complaint management systems of both the Department of Transport and Main Roads and the council. Both the department and the council believed reconstruction was ultimately the residents’ responsibility. The residents subsequently complained to this Office.

This Office's investigation found that when council assessed the initial development proposal, it purposely decided not to accept the department’s recommendations for access to the development from a newly constructed local road rather than from the main road. The council instead approved a temporary access from the main road, which included a gravel entrance leading to culverts spanning the open drain.

The investigation found that the 1990s development approval did not deal with moving beyond the approved temporary access to a permanent access.

The result

While the investigation did not find administrative fault by the council or the department, there was clearly a need and an opportunity for the parties to work together to resolve the access difficulties. The council and residents agreed to the Office’s recommendation for a staged approach to the matter.

Firstly, using its engineering expertise, the council would prepare preliminary design options for the culvert replacement and consult the residents on a preferred design. Based on the preferred design, the council would seek agreement with the department for the works. The council would then consult with the residents about funding options. Other issues relating to future maintenance and replacement would also be dealt with as part of the consultative process. This planned approach is now in progress.

Approval of university transfer request

Eli, an international student, complained to this Office about a university’s decision to refuse his request to transfer to another university.

The National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 (National Code 2018), which is established under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000, sets nationally consistent standards for the delivery of courses to international students.

Standard 7 of the National Code 2018 requires a university to have a policy and process for assessing international student transfer requests prior to the student completing six months of their principal course. Eli’s visa was conditional on completing the university’s pathway program and an undergraduate course at the university (principal course). Following completion of the pathway program, the student listed his course preferences. The university alleged that Eli had accepted its offer to study and had provided no other reason for the transfer request other than a change of mind, which was not allowed under the university’s policy.

This Office's investigation found that Eli did not accept the initial offer made by the university because that course was not his first preference. The university then made a second offer, this time to study his preferred course. However, this offer was sent to Eli’s overseas agent and he did not receive it. During this time Eli received an offer to study his chosen course at another university.

In light of the observations made by this Office that Eli did not accept any of the offers made by the university, the matter was reviewed and the university approved the transfer request.

Enrolment reinstated

Sunil, an international student, was advised by a university that it had decided to cancel his enrolment due to unsatisfactory performance.

The National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 (National Code 2018), which is established under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000, sets nationally consistent standards for the delivery of courses to international students.

Standard 8 of the National Code 2018 requires a university to monitor international students’ course progress to ensure they are in the position to complete the course within the expected duration. The university will notify the student of its intention to cancel their enrolment if the student continues to perform unsatisfactorily. The student can appeal the decision if the university’s process was not followed correctly or if the student can demonstrate that their poor performance was due to extenuating circumstances.

Sunil appealed the university’s decision and was unsuccessful. The university considered Sunil’s supporting evidence and decided it was in his best interests to take a break from his studies to seek medical treatment. The university determined that this break would give him the best chance to return to his studies and successfully complete the course. Sunil subsequently complained to this Office.

During the investigation of the complaint, Sunil provided further medical evidence, which disagreed with the university’s interpretation of the evidence and clarified he had capacity to continue studying while remaining under the care of his treating medical practitioner. The university acknowledged the new evidence and changed its decision, so Sunil was allowed to continue with his studies.

Last updated: Monday, 6 June 2022 3:34:39 PM