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Annual Report 2020 - 2021

Complaints handling

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

We received 58 frontline complaints about wait times and customer service issues, and 148 frontline complaints about solicitor conduct (both in-house and private lawyers). These were handled at a local level and did not require a formal response or investigation.

We received 273 escalated complaints. These complaints required further investigation and often a further explanation or action was required.

We received 249 enquiries from third parties querying another person’s grant of aid.

We encourage all types of feedback. Complaints, compliments and suggestions help us improve the quality of the services we provide and identify risks. We received 74 compliments.

“My solicitor has always been patient with me. Her calm manner was just what was needed when I was frustrated. She used her knowledge to help me. With employees like her, Legal Aid will go from strength to strength.”

“I am beginning to see the light and feel positive about the future. Thank you so much for your help during the traumatic times I have had this year.”

Complaints Working Group

Key representatives from across Legal Aid NSW met on a monthly basis to identify and discuss complaints and areas of service improvement. This included the development of communications to manage transfer requests to improve client understanding of the process and reduce complaints about transfers.

Complaints training for staff

We developed a feedback and complaint training module to improve staff understanding of complaint handling processes. In addition, we worked with the Centre for Corporate Health and Legal Aid NSW Human Resources to develop training to support managers in understanding and responding to challenging client behaviour.

Frontline complaints

To increase recording of frontline complaints and improve our service delivery, we developed a resource to support staff to identify and record frontline complaints. There was a 45 percent increase in the recording of frontline complaints in 2020–2021.

Complaints response times

Our complaints policy has two performance targets for complaints response times:

  • 21 days, or
  • 30 days for complaints about private lawyers.

We report on any complaints outside of these response times to the Legal Aid NSW Executive on a monthly basis. With greater visibility due to the complaints management system, along with additional resources to manage private lawyer complaints, we consistently met the performance targets for complaints response times. We averaged only one complaint per month over the performance targets.

Grants – refusals 28 28
Grants – contribution policy 1 2
Grants – costs 4 1
Grants – section 25 or section 26 8 5
Grants – termination 5 8
In-house – customer service 27 11
In-house – conduct 56 80
Staff – conduct (other than in-house lawyer) 7 15
Policy or administrative processes 17 11
Private lawyer – conduct 118 38*
Private lawyer – section 41 2 1
Private lawyer – complaints about Legal Aid NSW 6 2
Independent Children’s Lawyer – conduct 37 15
Mediator – conduct 15 8
Funding allocations 22 2
Other 40 28
To be determined 35 18
Total complaints428273

*In 2020–21 the Private Lawyer Quality Standards Unit took over the management of complaints about private lawyers.

Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will integrate LawAccess NSW into the complaints management system.
  • We will roll out training to staff to improve their skills and confidence in managing challenging client behaviour.