How to Manage Complaints in Childcare
Handling formal complaints can be a challenging aspect of running an early childhood education and care service. On the flip side, complaints and feedback can also provide an opportunity for critical reflection and signals to families and caregivers that their concerns are taken seriously.
From abiding by the relevant regulations to developing a complaints and grievances policy, read on to learn more about managing complaints within your childcare service.
Managing complaints under the National Quality Framework (NQF)
Whether you’re a long day care centre, a family day care operator or you provide after-school hours care services, if you’re an approved provider you’re obliged to comply with the National Laws and Regulations as well as State and Territory laws.
An approved provider of early childhood education and care services must ensure compliance with relevant legislation, including the Education and Care Services National Law (National Law) and the Education and Care Services National Regulations (National Regulations).
While there are several legislative requirements that apply to the management of childcare complaints, early childhood services must:
- Have policies and procedures in place for handling complaints,
- Notify the regulatory authority in writing within 24 hours of any complaints that allege that a serious incident has occurred at the service or that the Education and Care Services National Law has been breached, and
- Clearly display the name and telephone number of the person to whom complaints can be directed.
Implement a complaints policy
Introducing a clear and transparent complaints policy is essential for effectively handling feedback and concerns. It also provides a valuable tool for training staff members on how to address and resolve formal complaints.
Each early childhood education and care service should develop a complaint and grievance handling procedure that aligns with the specific needs of their service and the attending families. Information about the service’s policies for handling complaints should be easily accessible to families and can be provided during the enrolment process.
To help you create your own complaints policy, the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has provided advice on what can be included in an effective complaints policy:
- Strategies to deal with issues quickly,
- A clear outline of steps to follow at each stage of the process,
- A procedure for documenting discussions with the complainant,
- Options for raising concerns with the relevant party. For example, many informal concerns can be raised directly with and managed by the staff member involved,
- Clear details regarding how to make a complaint and who to contact to raise any concerns,
- Procedures for keeping the complainant informed of the progress of the complaint,
- Procedures detailing how complaints will be treated confidentially,
- Procedures for recording and evaluating the progress of the complaint,
- Procedures for evaluating the outcomes of the complaint and for providing recommendations for future policy or practice at the service, and
- Details for external agencies for a complainant to contact if they feel the service has not resolved their concerns, i.e. the relevant regulatory authority
How to manage a formal complaint
When it comes actually handling complaints, it’s important to remain calm. Concerned parties can often become emotional when they make a complaint, but acknowledging their feelings and showing empathy can help to diffuse strong emotions and resolve the complaint quickly.
Step 1: Acknowledge the complaint quickly
When making a complaint, parents and caregivers often want to make sure that their feedback or concerns have been heard by the early childhood education and care service. With this in mind, make sure you recognise that you’ve received their complaint as quickly as possible.
Step 2: Evaluate the complaint
Once you’ve received the complaint, you can evaluate the severity of the issue raised. Does the Regulatory Authority need to be notified or can it be handled by the early childhood service?
Step 3: Plan your response and investigate complaints
When it comes to reviewing the complaint, it’s important to make sure you have all the facts on hand. If you need further information, create a strategy for how you plan to gather the facts relating to the complaint.
Step 4: Respond to the complaint
Once you’ve wrapped up your investigations, it’s time to respond to the complainant and explain what was found and what was done to resolve the complaint.
Step 5: Follow up on any concerns
After the formal complaint has been resolved, it’s worth following up with the concerned parties to make sure they’re satisfied with the outcome or they may raise it further with external authorities.
Step 6: Reflect on areas for improvement
Complaints provide valuable information and feedback for self-assessment and critical reflection within care services. This is a key requirement of the NQF and can help to form the basis for continuous improvement.
Kangarootime’s all-in-one childcare management software allows you to store all of your important complaints handling policies, documents and reports in one handy place.
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