Resolve the issue yourself

Before making a complaint to the Ombudsman you should complain directly to the agency concerned. These tips may help you to resolve your complaint with the agency.

If you are not satisfied with their response lodge a complaint.

Focus on resolving the main problem

Even though you may be feeling angry and frustrated it is important you stay calm and cooperate with the person assessing your complaint.

Take a few moments to identify the specific issue you want to complain about and think about what you believe could be done to address it. Be realistic and practical about your desired outcomes.

Do not get distracted by minor details.

Give the agency enough detail to understand and resolve the problem.

Telephones are ok, but writing is more effective

Most people prefer calling to writing, as it is easier and quicker. However if you are dealing with a large agency or if the complaint is complex, it is usually best to write (either by email or letter).

Calling can be useful if it is not clear where, or to who you should direct your complaint. It can help to clarify the issue and possibly resolve the problem.

If you decide to call:

  • ask for the name of the person you speak to and for their position title. (Staff are required to give you some means of identifying them)
  • tell them about your complaint, ask if they can help and what they intend to do. Keep notes of the conversation including the time and date of the call. It is also best to follow up in writing.

Unless it is an urgent problem, or the matter can easily be resolved over the phone, it is best to write. Your letter will be answered, and it is more likely to be handled by the right area or person within the agency.

What to include in your complaint

Whether you write or call, set out your complaint as clearly and briefly as possible.

Be specific, stick to the main facts and don’t go into excessive detail.

If detail is necessary set it out in a logical order including:

  • a description of your issue, incident or decision
  • relevant dates and times
  • details of phone conversations or meetings
  • any steps you may have already taken to sort out the problem
  • what outcome you would like to see as a result of your complaint.

Always include your name, contact details and attach copies of relevant documents. If you write a letter make sure it is signed.

State what you want

Having explained the problem, state what action or outcome you would like to see as a result of your complaint.

Politeness is always helpful. Make it clear that you are giving the agency a chance to fix a mistake or an omission. Avoid becoming abusive, aggressive or blame an individual for the situation.

Make sure the outcomes you request are not unreasonable. If they are realistic and within the power of the person you are complaining to, you are more likely to reach a resolution to your problem.

Keep records

Keep copies of all correspondence you receive and send, as well as other important documents or notes. This includes details of phone calls.

You may need to send additional letters or provide more information. If you need to refer your complaint to the Ombudsman it helps to have records and evidence that back up your claims.

Don’t give up

If nothing happens, phone the agency to ask about the progress of your complaint.

If no progress has occurred or if the agency cannot or will not explain how things have progressed then write again.

Make it clear you will not be ignored and that the problem will not go away unless it is properly resolved. If you are unable to sort out the matter after making reasonable efforts to do so, you should consider contacting the Ombudsman.