13June2024

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Feedback Requested - Unreasonable Complaints Policy

Formal consultation has commenced on a new CFA Policy to cover 'Unreasonable Complaints'.

The proposed draft policy is available for download from the bottom of this page.

For the purposes of consultation, CFA has provided the following background information on why this policy has been developed:

 


CFA is committed to ensuring that appropriate processes for managing legitimate complaints are in place in respect of all aspects of CFA’s operations and, as you know, CFA continues to work on improving the accessibility and transparency of our issues, resolution, and complaints management processes.

Unfortunately, from time to time, CFA has been subject to complaints that it considers unreasonable. ‘Unreasonable complaints ’can take several forms. One example is a circumstance in which an original complaint has been addressed in accordance with correct process and been subject to relevant (and potentially multiple) review processes, but the complainant continues to be dissatisfied with the outcome or the approach taken. Another is a situation in which a person disagrees with a proper decision made by CFA in accordance with its legislative responsibilities and the person makes inappropriate, repeated, sustained and/or escalated requests for an alternative decision. In both examples, repeated complaints continue and/or escalated behaviour may be directed towards CFA staff members or volunteers,
including verbal abuse, threats, intimidation or harassment.

Unreasonable complaints might be directed towards any CFA member (either staff member or volunteer) and arise from several sources (staff member, volunteer, a former member, or members of the public) depending on the nature of the issue and area of CFA’s operations.

Although we believe they constitute only a very small proportion of the total number of complaints that CFA receive, when they do occur they have a significant organisational impost and detract from CFA’s capacity to address more legitimate matters. In the most extreme
circumstances, unreasonable complaints can constitute a workplace health and safety risk to CFA members and/or constitute illegal behaviour.

We are seeking to ensure that there is a clear framework in place for defining and managing those circumstances in which a complaint might be considered ‘unreasonable’ that can be clearly communicated to members and the public and ensure it is applied consistently across CFA.

CFA is committed to ensuring that all complaints are taken seriously, that appropriate complaint processes are correctly followed and that complainants continue to have access to services from CFA where this is relevant. However, the draft policy seeks to balance this with the need to ensure that CFA staff and volunteers are not subjected to unreasonable behaviour on an ongoing basis, particularly where such behaviour may constitute a risk to health and safety.

We have identified that the absence of a formal policy on how unreasonable complaintswill be managed by CFA has created some uncertainty for those who have experienced sustained and/or repeated adverse behaviour from a complainant about when and how such matters should be escalated and/or will be managed. Nor is there clarity for complainants themselves about the actions that CFA will consider when a complaint is considered unreasonable.

In developing the policy, CFA has largely followed the model policies of the Victorian and NSW Ombudsman’s offices for dealing with such matters and drawn on other recommended resources/examples as needed. Where relevant, we have endeavoured to ensure that the
policy is contextualised to CFA’s operating environment.

Importantly, the policy seeks to build on the foundations of our Behavioural Standards by providing further clarity on how CFA will respond to unreasonable behaviour, including from non (or former) members, and the potential consequences to servicing arrangements.

The Ombudsman’s offices variously use language such as ‘unreasonable’, ‘querulent’ or ‘vexatious’ depending on the type of complaint and nature of the complaint. CFA’s draft policy is encompassing of each of these.


 

Members are encouraged to review the proposed draft policy and provide any feedback/suggestions/amendments including indicating support/non-support for the proposed policy.

Feedback can be provided by individuals, brigades and groups.  

All feedback is used to inform and influence formal VFBV positions as well as used to influence CFA positions and thinking during the deliberative process. If we need to use your feedback to demonstrate or illustrate the views of members, your personal details will not be shared with CFA, and feedback will always be de-identified to protect your privacy.

We encourage members not to wait until deadlines to provide feedback, but rather provide it as early as possible which will give us a chance to conduct further research that may assist us being able to advocate more strongly for your desired outcome.

 

All members are welcome and encouraged to provide feedback. If you have any questions, please contact your local State Councilor or VFBV Support Officer in the first instance.

 


 

How to provide feedback:

It would be preferred that members provide feedback ASAP, so that it can be received incrementally, allowing us enough time to consolidate, identify trends and research issues raised by members. 

Feedback can be provided via:

  1. Emailing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

  2. Your local VFBV District Council or your local VFBV Support Officer

  3. By Post: 9/24 Lakeside Drive, Burwood East VIC 3151

  4. By Fax: (03) 9886 1618

Feedback does not need to be long or detailed, but if you do have the time to make substantive comment that is always welcome.

If you generally support a principle or policy, then a quick note letting us know would also be helpful. Similarly, let us know if you do not support it, or which aspects of it you don't support.

Where indicating non-support, it would be helpful to understand the key reasons why, and even a couple of brief bullet points would be adequate. Likewise, if you would prefer to provide a more detailed response, or mark-up and suggest changes to the documents, that is welcome also.

Your feedback will assist us form a VFBV position and response to the proposed changes and help us advocate on behalf of CFA volunteers. Please consider getting involved, and providing us your feedback ASAP.

Please remember to provide feedback in support as well as against. If we only hear from those who are against, it can be harder to determine the general comfort level of members with the proposals.

Read 4589 times Last modified on Friday, 01 December 2023 15:04
CFA Volunteers are the unpaid professionals of our Emergency Services. VFBV is their united voice, and speaks on behalf of Victoria's 60,000 CFA Volunteers.

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