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Early childhood services - complaints processes

Guidance on Child Safe Standard 7: Ensure that processes for complaints and concerns are child focused.


Standard 7 focuses on complaints processes that are child-focused, culturally safe and accessible to everyone.

Making a complaint can be challenging. Complaints are more likely to be raised when there are clear, well-communicated policies and procedures for concerns or allegations.

Empowering staff, volunteers and families to raise low‑level concerns will help them feel comfortable making a disclosure or reporting abuse. Children should also be empowered.

A complaint might reveal a bigger issue or prevent a situation from escalating.

Your complaints handling process must:

  • focus on children and their safety needs
  • be able to handle all kinds of complaints and concerns, including alleged abuse by adults and by children
  • be easily understood by all, including families with diverse languages and backgrounds
  • be easy to find, and include who to speak to
  • support investigations
  • help the service learn from their mistakes and feed into the continuous improvement process.

Using complaints to support continuous improvement

Services with school-aged children

Children attending OSHC services and holiday programs should be:

  • given age-appropriate material, using simplified language and visual aids such as flowcharts
  • empowered to give their views
  • consulted on complaints procedures, and offered an opportunity to provide feedback on their experience

Actions services must take to comply with Standard 7

Standard 7: Processes for complaints and concerns are child focused.

Services must comply with all of the following elements:

  • The service has an accessible, child focused complaint handling policy which clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of leadership, staff and volunteers, approaches to dealing with different types of complaints, breaches of relevant policies or the Code of Conduct and obligations to act and report (7.1).
  • Effective complaint handling processes are understood by children and young people, families, staff and volunteers, and are culturally safe (7.2).
  • Complaints are taken seriously, and responded to promptly and thoroughly (7.3).
  • The service has policies and procedures in place that address reporting of complaints and concerns to relevant authorities, whether or not the law requires reporting, and co-operates with law enforcement (7.4).
  • Reporting, privacy and employment law obligations are met (7.5).

How to comply - examples and ideas

    • Develop policies and processes that are:
      • child-focused
      • culturally safe
      • written for children at your age (under school age or school age)
      • use visual tools such as infographics, flowcharts and other images.
    • Make sure children know they can make a complaint about any kind of harm:
      • at the service or outside it,
      • by an adult or by other children,
      • including bullying or cyberbullying and all forms of abuse
    • Encourage children to raise concerns with a trusted adult if anything makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
    • Make sure children:
      • are protected from any risk while the investigation process is carried out (complete a careful risk assessment)
      • are heard, and that staff and volunteers take care to validate their experiences – what may seem small to an adult might not be to a child
      • are culturally safe.
  • Make sure your process is easy to access:

    • put your Complaints Policy on a public-facing website
    • have hard copies available at the service on the notice board
    • include information in the service enrolment pack.
    • name multiple people or positions that staff, volunteers and families can approach to raise concerns.
    • Make your complaints process easy to understand for all, including children:
      • Use accessible language, flowcharts or infographics
      • Create translations for non-native English speakers
      • Make a simplified version for children.
    • Provide information on all the steps involved:
      • What to expect the service will do when responding to a complaint
      • How the service will support complainants
      • Contact details for help and support services including translating and interpreting services.
    • Ask for feedback on the process:
      • Put up an anonymous, secure suggestion box. Review it regularly and act on suggestions.
      • Ask children, staff, volunteers and families about their experiences making complaints. Incorporate their feedback in your policies and the complaints process itself.
      • Commit to dealing with the source of the problem and follow through on this commitment.
    • Any staff and volunteers alleged to have abused children must be treated fairly, and given the right to respond to all allegations made against them.
    • Your complaints policy and procedure should cover how breaches of the service’s Code of Conduct will be handled, as well as what will happen to the staff member or volunteer while the complaint is being investigated.
    • Ensure your systems and processes are confidential, and that only authorised staff can access complaint records.


    • Inform the person making a complaint who will be told about their complaints.
    • Explain what happens after the complaint has been investigated, and check that complainants understand the proposed action.
    • Ensure a clear outcome for complaints. Communicate the outcome to all relevant people when it is finalised.
    • Report back to complainants to close the loop, where appropriate.


    • Let staff, volunteers and families know they can bring a support person of their choice to any interviews or meetings related to the complaint.
    • Offer counselling or support services to complainants as appropriate.
    • Explain the process when the complaint is about an adult (staff member, volunteer, parent or another adult) in line with the service's Complaints Policy.
    • Set out approaches for responding to harm caused to children by other children, including children displaying potentially harmful sexual behaviours and sexual offending.
    • Specify which steps need to be taken to make sure the process is fair for all people involved in a complaint.
    • Your complaints process should include all the types of behaviour that must be reported to police, child protection authorities and other government agencies or regulatory bodies in line with advice contained in PROTECT: Report child abuse in early childhoodExternal Link .
    • Outline the responsibilities service leaders have to act on complaints and concerns related to child safety and wellbeing, including the responsibilities of the child safety champions.
    • Nominated supervisors should have:
      • a detailed understanding of the complaints process
      • investigative or interviewing skills, or authorisation to engage people with these skills
      • high levels of rapport and engagement with children
      • ability to respond to children with diverse needs
      • willingness to work with police and child protection authorities
      • information on support services for people affected by complaints.
    • Make sure the service meets all recordkeeping, information sharing and privacy obligations.
  • The National Regulations and CS Regulations require all services to have a range of policies and procedures, including a policy and procedures on the handling of complaints.

    The policies and procedures must be:

    • readily accessible to nominated supervisors and staff members of, volunteers at, and family day care educators engaged by or registered with, the service; and
    • available for inspection at the education and care service premises at all times that the service is educating and caring for children or otherwise on request.

    Changes to policies and procedures must be notified to parents of children attending the service at least 14 days (or sooner if there is a risk to a child) before making the change if it will cause a significant impact on the service’s provision of education and care to any child enrolled at the service or the family’s ability to utilise the service.

    Element 7.1.2 of the National Quality Standard (NQS) requires services to have a policy for dealing effectively with complaints procedures and practices contributes to services’ ability to manage risk and enable the effective management and operation of a quality service.

    Find out how Standard 7 aligns with existing regulatory requirements, the NQS and the VEYLDF at Mapping the Child Safe Standards (DOCX, 96KB)External Link .

  • Standard 1 – culturally safe environments for Aboriginal children.

    Standard 5 – uphold equity and respect diverse needs.

    Standard 10 – review and improvement of child safety practices.


Reviewed 28 June 2022

Child Safe Standards

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