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Annual Report 2018 - 2019

Complaint handling

An open and efficient complaints process helps us improve our services and remain accountable to the people we serve.

We received 507 complaints in 2018–19 and 198 enquiries from third parties querying another person’s grant of aid. For more details, see table on the facing page.

We encourage all types of feedback. Complaints, compliments and suggestions help us improve the quality of the services we provide, and identify risks.

This year we received 91 compliments and suggestions – more than double the number of compliments we received in 2017–18.


"I would like to thank my lawyer from the bottom of my heart. She helped me see my son again.”

"The whole experience was made so much easier as my lawyer always made sure I knew exactly what was happening and what to expect.”

Supporting our staff to resolve and learn from complaints

During 2018–19 we implemented a range of measures to address a need for training identified in external audits of Legal Aid NSW complaint management processes, encourage more clients to share their feedback, and allow us to better tap into client insights.

Updated resources for clients

We updated a feedback brochure and poster for display at all Legal Aid NSW offices to encourage clients to provide feedback.

OBJECTIVE: A highly capable workforce

Training staff across the state

We provided training at 23 Legal Aid NSW offices to help staff better understand how to respond to a complaint, including when and how to escalate a complaint, and how to respond to unreasonable client behaviour. Managers’ feedback indicated that the training significantly improved their confidence in dealing with complaints.

A toolkit to equip staff

We developed a complaints toolkit including process maps, template letters, guidelines and frequently asked questions to support staff who may receive or respond to complaints.

OBJECTIVE: Responsive business processes

Quicker complaint resolution and better data

We developed a new complaint management system that went live in June 2019. The complaint management system offers a single, central place for staff across Legal Aid NSW to record and manage complaints and feedback from clients and external parties.

For the first time, complaints can be recorded and tracked by location, and individual divisions have a bird’s-eye view of all live complaints relating to their clients. Automated reminders and improved data collection will enhance our ability to resolve complaints quickly and improve services. The system will help us capture meaningful complaints data to identify trends and manage risk.

Number of complaints and enquiries: three-year comparison

 2015–162016–17 2017–18* 2018–19*
Grants – eligibility enquiries 283 260 238 198
Grants – refusals 44 40 - -
In-house – customer service 59 45 - -
In-house lawyer 68 101 - -
Staff (other than in-house lawyer) 1 5 - -
Policy and/or administrative processes 32 15 - -
Private lawyer – conduct 68* 78 - -
Private lawyer – fees 15 18 - -
Independent children’s lawyer – conduct 26 29 - -
Mediator – conduct 20 13 - -
Funding allocations 24 7 - -
Other 21 29 - -
Total complaints 378 380 401 507
Outcome of complaints
Upheld 19 23 - -
Partially upheld 28 28 - -
Not upheld 194 220 - -
Referred to other body 17 1 - -
Response to Minister’s office or Community Relations Unit 84 45 - -
Professional Practices Branch 0 0 - -
Complaint – unknown outcome** 24 40 - -
To be determined 12 23 7 23
Total 378 380 401 507
Time taken to close complaints
Within 21 days 65% 74% - -
Four to six weeks 18% 16% - -
Twelve weeks 6% 9% - -
More than 12 weeks 11% 1% - -

* Due to limitations of our previous complaints management system, a detailed breakdown was not available for 2017–18 or 2018–19. Detailed data will be available for 2019–20.

** For example, where a third party complains about the provision of a grant to a client, and we cannot disclose information in response to the complaint due to the operation of section 25 or 26 of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW).

Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will complete the rollout of our new complaints management system and provide further training to staff.
  • We will develop strategies to better identify systemic issues and scope improvements to services using the detailed reporting functions of the complaints management system.