In a life threatening emergency dial Triple Zero (000)

In a life threatening emergency dial Triple Zero (000)
ACT Public Hospitals

Canberra Hospital

5124 0000


Calvary Hospital

6201 6111

Mental Health

Call Mental Health Triage on

1800 629 354

(free call except from mobiles or public phones) or

6205 1065

Poisons Hotline

For a poison emergency in Australia call

131126

Drug and Alcohol Help Line

The Drug and Alcohol Help Line is available 24-hours, 7 days a week on

5124 9977

Health Protection Service

For after hours urgent public health matters including environmental health, radiation safety, food poisoning and communicable disease management phone:

(02) 6205 1700

healthdirect

24 hour health advice

1800 022 222

ACT State Emergency Service

Emergency help
during flood or storms

132 500


Feedback and raising concerns

In this section: Learn about how you can provide feedback, compliments or raise a complaint regarding services provided by CYPS or ACT Together in connection to the child in your care, including internal and external avenues to have a decision you disagree with reviewed.

Overview

The work involved in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children can be stressful, difficult, confronting and challenging for everyone involved. CYPS and ACT Together are committed to working in partnership with you, recognising the incredibly generous, valuable and necessary role you play.

During your involvement with CYPS and ACT Together, you have the right to express your views about the services and decisions it provides concerning the child in your care. They understand feedback helps contribute to continuous improvement of the services they deliver.

They want to hear if you think they:

  • have done something well
  • have made a mistake
  • have treated you badly or unfairly
  • have made a wrong decision
  • can do something better or differently.

In responding to your feedback, CYPS and ACT Together will follow the standards of:

  • respect – all complaints will be received respectfully
  • timeliness – all complaints will be acknowledged and managed to specific, agreed and published timeframes
  • transparency – all decisions will be explained in clear simple language (except where this may be restricted by law)
  • natural justice – all complaints will be afforded the principles of natural justice.

If you would like support or assistance to provide feedback or raise concerns, Carers ACT provides an independent Kinship and Foster Carers Advocacy Service. To find out more about this service, contact Carers ACT at:

P: 0447 632 067

E: kinshipfostercare@carersact.org.au
W: Carers ACTExternal Link

Additional advocacy support is provided below in ‘External oversight agencies’.

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How it works

The ongoing protection and wellbeing of children in care is incredibly important and taken seriously by everyone involved. CYPS is governed by legislation that instructs how it can operate, and both CYPS and ACT Together work within a robust and extensive framework to ensure legal processes and requirements are upheld. This happens through many internal activities, as well as external activities where needed. If you or the child in your care has a concern or complaint, you are encouraged to use the following avenues to help resolve any matters – this is also the escalation process CYPS and ACT Together primarily work to:

  • raise concerns with your case manager and Care Team
  • request a formal internal merits review of a decision
  • request a formal external review of a decision
  • seek advocacy support from an external body.

It is important to remember the Children and Young People Act 2008 requires all decision-making about children be based on the concept of ‘best interests of the child’ to ensure their needs are prioritised above all other considerations – including the needs of any involved adults. In making such decisions, the Act also requires case managers seek the views and wishes of the child involved, and acknowledge them in recording key decisions.

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Raising concerns with your case manager

If you or the child in your care have a concern or complaint, you should raise this with your case manager in the first instance. Decisions are best understood by those involved in making them, and issues and complaints can usually be resolved more quickly by dealing directly with those involved – that is, your case manager and Care Team.

Efforts should be made by everyone involved to ensure a productive and professional approach to the resolution of your issue. You may not always agree with a decision made by CYPS or ACT Together, but what is important to understand, is all decisions will be based on what is in the child’s best interests – sometimes what is best for the child in your care, is not always what you or the child want to have happen. It is important to realise decisions about the child you are caring for are made with the expertise and input of various people and groups, not by a single individual. Your case manager works in partnership with others, including you, to gain the necessary information to form decisions that then require endorsement at various levels.

However, if after discussing your concerns with your case manager or Care Team you or the child are still not satisfied with a response, you can make an official complaint through the relevant complaints team who will investigate your issue. The contact points are:

Agency

Section

Phone

Email

CYPS

Community Engagement and Client Services

6207 5294

cyf@act.gov.au

ACT Together

General Manager

6110 2200

feedback@acttogether.org.au

In making a complaint, whether directly to your case manager or through a complaints team, you can expect a process that involves:

  • listening to what you have to say
  • staff doing their best to understand stated concerns or issues
  • investigating your concerns in a fair and impartial manner
  • staff doing their best to resolve issues or fix the problem, understanding this is not always possible
  • acknowledging any mistakes or errors CYPS or ACT Together may have made
  • providing clear explanations for decisions, unless limited by law
  • ensuring you are encouraged and supported to make a complaint in a way that is comfortable for you.

CYPS and ACT Together will respond to complaints in line with their complaints handling and management policies and processes. These state staff must:

  • seek appropriate confirmation if someone complains on your behalf
  • investigate complaints in a timely manner and in line with the principles of natural justice
  • acknowledge any mistakes or errors that have been made
  • ensure all decisions, including those occasions where you may not lawfully be entitled to certain information, are explained clearly and simply.

Your complaint will be dealt with in a confidential manner and discussed only with the people directly involved in managing and responding to it. As part of the investigation into your complaint, the details of your allegations may be discussed with the specific staff in line with natural justice principles.

If you need assistance during the complaints process, Carers ACT provides an independent Kinship and Foster Carers Advocacy Service that can provide you with support.

To find out more about this service, contact Carers ACT at:

P: 0447 632 067
E: kinshipfostercare@carersact.org.au
W: Carers ACTExternal Link

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Review of decisions

Decisions regarding a child’s care are always made with best intentions having considered all available information.

If you are dissatisfied with a decision, it may be possible for it to be reviewed. The Children and Young People Act 2008 outlines the types of decisions that can be formally reviewed. Any review, whether formal or informal, must give consideration to the best interests of the child to whom the decision relates. It is recognised, undertaking a review can bring uncertainty and unintended consequences that may adversely affect the wellbeing and development of the child.

It is important to remember your case manager is available to speak with you whenever you have questions or concerns – they should be your first point of call. Reaching out to your case manager is especially important for understanding which review mechanisms might be available, and why.

Internal merits review of decisions

There may be times during your involvement with CYPS or ACT Together when you would like to have a decision that has affected you or the child in your care reviewed by the area responsible for making it – this is an option available to you as a person affected by the decision. A request to have a decision reviewed is not the same as a complaint.

Such a review is conducted internally – that is, within the responsible agency. There are though some decisions that are also able to be reviewed by an external reviewer through the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal. See ‘External review of decisions’ below for more information.

To have a decision reviewed internally, your first step should be to understand the basis for the decision. To obtain this understanding, contact your case manager and ask for a written explanation regarding the decision you are questioning.

This written decision statement will explain:

  • the decision that was made
  • who made the decision
  • on what basis the decision was made and the evidence considered
  • how the effect of the decision is in the child’s best interests.

Once you have the statement, you can:

  • request a meeting with your case manager to discuss the decision
  • request an internal merits review, also referred to as a ‘Review of the Decision’, (where eligible).

If you have met with your case manager and are still unhappy with the decision, you can escalate your concerns by seeking an internal merits review of the decision. This is where the decision is reviewed by another person within the relevant agency, who was not directly involved in making the original decision. The reviewer is usually a more senior person, and re-examines the decision by stepping into the shoes of the original decision-maker to determine if they would come to the same or a different conclusion. In reviewing a decision, the reviewer may do one of the following:

  • confirm the decision made by the original decision-maker
  • amend the decision made by the original decision-maker
  • set aside the decision under review and make a new decision.

To be eligible for an internal merits review of a decision, you must be the person affected by the decision, or a person with a guardianship or parenting responsibility for the child about whom the decision was made. A simple disagreement with the decision on its own is not enough to trigger a review.

For a decision to be reviewed, your concerns about the decision should be related to one or more of the following:

  • the decision is based on an error of law
  • the decision is based on an error of fact
  • the decision is based on an error of policy
  • the decision is based on incomplete information
  • the decision is based on an incorrect interpretation of the information
  • the decision goes against higher principles, such as human rights or child welfare
  • highly unusual circumstances exist
  • new information exists that was not available at the time the decision was originally made.

Examples of decisions that may be reviewed include:

  • a decision to change the school the child attends
  • a decision to not approve financial support
  • a decision to move a child from your care
  • a decision about the frequency of contact between the child and their birth family.

To request an internal merits review of a decision, contact the relevant complaints area listed in the previous section. They will be able to tell you if your concern meets the eligibility criteria and if so refer your request to the appropriate area within CYPS or ACT Together for the review to be conducted.

External review of decisions

Some decisions have an automatic right of external review by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT). If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of an internal merits review of a decision, you may be eligible to make an application to ACAT for a further review to be conducted. Applications to ACAT can be made in respect to reviewable decisions as defined by section 839 of the Children and Young People Act 2008. In reviewing a decision, ACAT will be guided by administrative law principles that promote government decision-makers having legal responsibility and accountability for decisions made, and for the decision-making process.

Reviewable decisions by ACAT include, but are not limited to:

  • refusal to approve a person as an approved carer
  • refusal to renew a person’s approval as an approved carer
  • refusal to authorise a person as a kinship carer
  • refusal to authorise a person as a foster carer
  • refusal to approve a place operated by an approved residential care organisation as a place of care.

You may seek an internal merits review of the decision in the first instance. If you would like to progress an application to ACAT for a decision to be reviewed externally, you may wish to seek legal advice first.

The Public Advocate ACT is also able to make an application to the Childrens Court regarding some matters should they believe a decision made is not in the child’s best interests.

It is recommended you seek independent legal advice about this process. More information about the role of the Childrens Court is in ‘Guiding legislation and policies’.

If you would like assistance, Carers ACT provides an independent Kinship and Foster Carers Advocacy Service that can provide you with support. See ‘Supports and services’.

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External oversight agencies

CYPS and ACT Together recognise people who use their services, including carers, are free to make complaints directly to external oversight agencies, such as the Human Rights Commission, and support their right to do so.

It is preferred that you first try to resolve your matter directly with CYPS or ACT Together before approaching an external oversight agency. However, you have the right to seek external assistance at any time.

The role of the ACT Human Rights Commission is to resolve matters and promote the rights and welfare of people in our community, including children in care. The Human Rights Commission Act 2005 states a person may complain to the Human Rights Commission about a service for children if they have formed a view that the service is not being provided appropriately.

The Commission’s focus in complaint handling is on supporting parties to resolve matters informally where possible by facilitating communication between parties, or with active assistance by providing alternative dispute resolution responses.

The ACT Human Rights Commission includes the responsibilities of the:

  • Public Advocate and Children and Young People Commissioner
  • Discrimination, Health Services, Disability and Community Services Commissioner

Contact details are included in ‘Supports and services’.

The Public Advocate and Children and Young People Commissioner

In the ACT, the roles of the Public Advocate and the Children and Young People Commissioner are performed by the same person. Their role is to protect and promote the rights and interests of people who are vulnerable, or whose condition or situation makes them potentially vulnerable to abuse, exploitation or neglect. This includes:

  • advocacy and support
  • monitoring and providing oversight of services and systems
  • engaging with and listening to the views of children
  • improving services for all children
  • holding government to account.

In particular, the Public Advocate has broad functions and powers under the Human Rights Commission Act 2005, the Children and Young People Act 2008 as well as with criminal matters relating to youth justice. They may undertake individual advocacy if requested by a child, their birth parent or their carer if they believe a child is in need of care and protection or if requested to do so by a court or tribunal. They may also be heard in a proceeding concerning a child as permitted under the Court Procedures Act 2004. These proceedings may include care matters or youth justice matters.

The Public Advocate also has oversight of a range of decisions made by the Director-General, and therefore CYPS and ACT Together. The Children and Young People Act 2008 requires the Director-General to provide the Public Advocate with decision-making information for each child in the Director-General’s care. For example, the Public Advocate receives copies of all applications for Care and Protection Orders (whether an amendment, revocation or original application), Annual Review Reports and requests to transfer orders interstate. The Public Advocate provides feedback but cannot change the decisions made.

Should the Public Advocate believe it is necessary to extend, amend or revoke a Care and Protection Order, they are able to make a direct application to the ACT Childrens Court without consultation with the Director-General, birth parents, carers or other child representatives.

The Discrimination, Health Services, Disability and Community Services Commissioner

In the ACT, the roles of the Discrimination, Health Services, Disability and Community Services Commissioners are performed by the same person. The Commissioner independently handles complaints about:

  • unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment and vilification
  • health services
  • disability services
  • services for older people
  • services for children and young people.

The combination of roles gives the Commissioner the ability to identify and advocate for systemic issues that affect vulnerable groups in the ACT community across a range of settings. In addition to complaints handling, the Commissioner also has responsibility for:

  • promoting awareness of rights and obligations provided under the Human Rights Commission Act 2005 and the Discrimination Act 1991
  • improving service provision and outcomes for people protected by the Acts
  • using Commissioner-Initiated-Consideration powers to address systemic issues
  • promoting an understanding of and compliance with the Acts.

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Advocacy and advice

Anyone can be an advocate. Advocacy means speaking on behalf of another person to ensure their voice is heard on issues important to them. This can include ensuring their views and wishes are genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their life, and their rights are protected and defended.

Advocacy can be informal or formal. As a carer, you advocate informally every day for the child in your care. You do this when you speak up during medical appointments, school meetings, phone calls or emails.

Where more support is needed, you may seek formal advocacy. There are various organisations who provide advocacy and advice to ensure views are heard. They can assist you by talking through your concerns, attend meetings with you and help to write letters to those involved.

It is important in all circumstances to remember your obligations to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the child in your care.

Kinship and Foster Carers Advocacy Service

The Kinship and Foster Carers Advocacy Service, delivered by Carers ACT, provides free independent advocacy support to negotiate and resolve difficult matters for carers of children in care. This service can assist you with specific goals or short-term issues, while also developing your skills to advocate for yourself.

The Foster and Kinship Carers Advocacy Service may be able to help you:

  • understand your rights
  • have your views heard and acknowledged
  • engage with CYPS, ACT Together and others involved
  • communicate effectively through correspondence, phone calls and meetings.

For more information about the Kinship and Foster Carers Advocacy Service:

Birth Family Advocacy Support Service

The Birth Family Advocacy Support Service, delivered by the Australian Red Cross, provides independent information and support to birth families. This includes kinship carers as the service recognises the unique situation of kinship care.

The Birth Family Advocacy Support Service may be able to help kinship carers:

  • understand the child protection system
  • access targeted services and supports
  • communicate effectively with CYPS, ACT Together and others involved.

For more information about the Birth Family Advocacy Support Service:

Foster Care Association of the ACT

The Foster Care Association of the ACT is a voluntary organisation that helps with information, referrals and advice. It provides peer support and advocacy to all carers – both foster and kinship.

The Foster Care Association of the ACT may be able to help you:

  • access support and friendship among carers and carer families
  • link with services and supports
  • access information and resources.

For more information about the Foster Care Association of the ACT:

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