Advocacy, Rights & Change

Advocacy, Rights & Change

Caring can become easier when the people and organisations that support you or the person you care for understands your needs.

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Make a complaint

You have the right to complain if you are concerned about the services delivered to you or the person you care for. Complaints can clear up misunderstandings and help you get the support you are entitled to.

You may feel uncomfortable about making a fuss and worry that it will make things difficult with a service you depend on. You may even feel that you will not be able to use the service any more.

Remember that complaints help professionals and organisations make sure that their services are working for the people they help. Legally, a service cannot hold it against you if you complain.

How to complain effectively

Understand your rights

You have rights in relation to the services and supports provided for you and so does the person you care for. Some rights are protected by law and others are written down in the service charters, guidelines and policies that direct how organisations operate. Ask for copies of any documents that might tell you what your rights are.

Know what you want

Know what you want to achieve – perhaps an apology, a change to the way a service is delivered, a different person to work with, a refund or compensation. Complaints that include suggestions about how things might be done better are more likely to be listened to and acted upon.

Be assertive

Good communicators are clear and honest about what they want but they also listen carefully and consider other perspectives. Things may be done a particular way for reasons that you hadn't considered. Try not to sort out problems when you are angry. It also helps to direct your anger at the issues rather than making a personal attack.

Talk to the people involved first

Many problems are the result of misunderstandings and can be easily sorted out. Discuss your concerns first with the person responsible. Try to stick to the facts and provide examples and reasons why you were not happy with the service.

If you do not believe your complaint is being taken seriously, show that you are prepared to take it further. Ask to speak to a more senior staff member like a team leader or manager.

Making a formal complaint

All services should have a formal complaints procedure. There may be a particular person you need to talk to, a form you need to fill in or you may be asked to put your concerns in writing.

  • A formal complaint will usually include:
  • a description of what happened (when, where and who was responsible).
  • a description of who was affected, how they were affected, and how they felt.
  • suggestions about how you would like the service to deal with the problem.
  • a date that you would like a response by.

Taking things further

If you have tried complaining to a person or organisation and do not feel that you have received a suitable response there are a number of organisations who can help you to follow up your concerns.

Head to our service listings to find the right organisation escalate your complaint.

Speak up for yourself and others

Advocacy is about speaking up in support of your rights and the rights of the person you care for. It is about negotiating to make sure that you get the practical, financial and emotional support you need.

Carers often feel that the service system is a maze, that professionals work against them and that they have to battle for every tiny gain.

It’s a lot easier to organise the services and supports that you need, and to make sure that they work for you if you approach people informed and prepared to negotiate.

Work in partnership with professionals

As a carer you provide much of the day to day care needed by the person you care for. You have a unique and deep understanding of their needs and it is important that the professionals who support you acknowledge your expertise and work in partnership with you.

Successful partnerships

Successful partnerships are based on:

  • mutual respect
  • recognising common goals
  • appreciating the expertise each side has to offer
  • trust and shared decision making

How to negotiate successfully

Contact our advisory line for information, advice and support to help you to advocate on your own behalf or on behalf of the person you care for.

Approach the right person or organisation

Who you approach will depend on the particular issues you want to raise. It can sometimes be difficult to decide where to begin. If the first person or organisation you approach cannot help, ask them for advice about where to go next.

Know your rights

You have rights in relation to the services and supports provided for you and so does the person you care for. Some rights are protected by law and others are written down in the service charters, guidelines and policies that direct how organisations operate. Ask for copies of any documents that might tell you what your rights are.

Learn about the situation

Try to understand the issues. If you find professional jargon confusing ask for things to be explained in language that you are comfortable with. Repeat things back in your own words so that you can be sure that you have understood.

Know what you want

Know what you want to achieve – perhaps for a new service to be made available to you or to change the way a service is delivered. Be clear and open about your ideal outcome but also consider where you might accept compromise. Be prepared to give way on points that are not important.

Have a meeting plan

Make sure that you are given enough time to deal properly to your concerns. Write down a list of your questions and concerns and create a plan of what you want to talk about.

Be assertive

Good communicators are clear and honest about what   they want but they also listen carefully and consider other perspectives. Things may be done a particular way for reasons that you hadn't considered. Try not to sort out problems when you are angry. It also helps to direct your anger at the issues rather than making a personal attack.

Keep records

Keep all the documents you need together and sorted so that you can easily find what you want. Make notes (including the name and position of the person you spoke to, date and a summary of what was said) of your meetings and conversations so that you have an accurate record of what happened. Always ask for important decisions and information to be confirmed in writing.

Persevere

Once you have reached agreement on what will be done, negotiate a reasonable timetable. Be prepared to follow up if nothing happens. Don’t accept excuses for lack of action.

When negotiations fail

If you still feel your issues are not resolved, you may need to take things further.

Download our How To Make a Complaint flyer to find the right organisation to speak with.