26 September 2023

Guide to make complaint handling easier

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Public Service staff who find themselves dealing with someone considering self-harm can now access new guidelines to help them reduce the risk of harm to themselves and others.

Released by the ACT’’s Ombudsman in her role as Ombudsman for the Commonwealth, Guidance for complaint handlers on dealing with risks of harm is recommended for public service complaint handlers who could find themselves dealing with someone considering self-harm, suicide, or harming someone else.

“These guidelines provide practical suggestions to give complaint handlers confidence in dealing with these situations and advice on processing the event afterwards,” the Ombudsman said.

Sh said the Guide’s four sections covered responding to someone at risk of self-harm or suicide; responding to someone who indicated they posed a risk of harm to someone else; tips for supporting employees who had dealt with the risks; and some printable quick reference guides.

“Any indication that a person intends to harm themselves or others must be taken seriously, assessed quickly and responded to appropriately,” the Ombudsman said.

“Generally, staff responding will not be mental health professionals, so it is not appropriate to try and guess whether the risk is genuine,” she said.

“Our focus in this Guide is addressing the specific behaviour, meaning someone’s observable conduct and what they are communicating, not the person’s motives for their behaviour.”

The Ombudsman said the new Guide focused on ensuring that the complaint handlers had the tools to respond to the behaviour in a sensitive way.

She advised PS staff to ask a direct question about a complainants’ intention if they had indicated that they may harm themselves, and gather as much information as possible to inform appropriate referral or intervention if there was an imminent risk of self-harm or suicide.

“Unless there is a risk to your own safety, try not to leave the person on their own,” the Ombudsman said.

The 17-page Guidance can be accessed at this PS News link.

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