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Annual Report 2015 - 2016

Complaint handling

Complaint handling at Legal Aid NSW is an integral part of our focus on improving client service.

Complaints help identify systemic issues

This year saw the introduction of six monthly reporting on complaint data to the Executive including information on systemic issues identified through complaints. Information on complaints and client service is now part of the staff induction process to drive a responsive complaints culture. Regular liaison meetings were initiated with the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner which improved communication around complaints about lawyers. See Table 3 below for details.

Data more accurately reflect complaint numbers

We received 378 complaints in 2015–2016 and 283 inquiries from third parties querying another person's eligibility for a grant of aid. See Table 3 below details.

A more consistent approach to recording complaints resulted in an increase in complaints in some areas. This is a positive outcome as it shows that the data is a more accurate reflection of complaint numbers and staff are more aware of the importance of the complaint handling process.

We also received 28 compliments and five suggestions about our staff and services.

Table 3. Number of complaints and inquiries—three-year comparison

Grants—eligibility inquiries* 246 184 283* 
Complaint issues
Grants—refusals 50 31 44
Inhouse—customer service 37 44 59
Inhouse lawyer 61 67 68
Staff (other than inhouse lawyer) 7 3 1
Policy and/or administrative processes 29 56 32
Private lawyer—conduct 57 43 68
Private lawyer—fees 13 16 15
Independent Children’s Lawyer—conduct 19 20 26
Mediator—conduct 6 14 20
Funding allocations 10 51 24
Other 37 15 21
Total complaints 326 360 378
Outcome of complaints
Upheld 16  18  19 
Partially upheld 22  28 
Not upheld 148  170  194 
Referred to other body 16  16  17 
Response to Minister’s office or Community Relations Unit 62  91  84 
Professional Practices Branch
Complaint—unknown outcome (eg s25/26) 72  25  24 
To be determined 0 17  28 
Total 326  360  378 
Time taken to close complaints
Within 21 days 60% 65% 65%
4–6 weeks 29% 22% 18%
7–12 weeks 7% 9% 6%
12+ weeks 7% 4% **11%

* Inquiries from third parties about grants to others are not categorised as complaints. Numbers of inquiries increased in 2015–2016 due to better recording.
** Due to staffing issues there was in increase in the percentage of complaints finalised in the 12 + weeks timeframe compared with previous years. This issue was identified and steps taken to improve the timeliness of responses which will be reflected in future reporting.

Icon for The year aheadThe year ahead

  • Raise awareness amongst all staff of our obligations under privacy laws and the GIPA Act and continue to provide ongoing advice and support to our staff in relation to those obligations.
  • Review complaint handling and feedback processes at all our offices.
  • Improve staff awareness about the value of feedback— complaints/compliments/suggestions—in driving service improvement.
  • Improve time taken to close a complaint.
  • Integrate complaint handling with the new Client Service Strategy.