Empowering consumers and carers across Victoria

Safeguarding rights, upholding the mental health principles and empowering consumers and carers across Victoria

Dr Lynne Coulson Barr, Mental Health Complaints Commissioner.

Many people who contact our office are in need of a supportive process that helps them to clarify their issues and explore available options to address their concerns.

The Mental Health Complaints Commissioner (MHCC) was established under the Mental Health Act 2014 (the Act) to provide accessible, tailored and responsive complaints processes for addressing issues experienced by consumers, families and carers accessing public mental health services across Victoria, and to recommend improvements.

Commissioner Lynne Coulson Barr

This past year, we have seen a marked increase in new enquires and complaints made to our office compared to our first year of operation, as well as an increase in the number of service improvement actions taken in response.

The varied and often complex issues raised with our office reinforce our responsibility to assess every complaint in light of the Act, with a focus on safeguarding people’s rights and resolving complaints in ways that support their recovery and improve services for all Victorians.

The types of issues raised often relate to treatment, communication, and staff behaviour and attitudes. This indicates the need for services to focus on ways in which the principles of the Act, particularly supported decision making and recovery-oriented practice, can be embedded into all aspects of treatment and care.

Our office seeks to address barriers to making a complaint, including accessibility barriers that rural communities experience. We do this through engagement via our website and social media sites, as well as through face-to-face consultation, MHCC training sessions, presentations at key conferences and outreach initiatives with priority groups.

This work, as well as our engagement more broadly with consumers, families and carers, tells us that we need to continue working with services to create a positive complaints culture – an environment where people feel supported and confident to raise their concerns directly with services. Our goal is to see a much higher proportion of complaints raised directly with services than with our office as a result of people being able and confident to do so, and as a result of complaints being recognised, resolved and reported by services.

This is essential to achieving our shared goal of a system that sees complaints as an integral part of improving quality, safety, and most importantly, people’s experiences of mental health services.