Management Matters – Serious Incidents & complaints


A serious incident is any event involving:

  • The death of a child at the service or following an incident whilst being in care;
  • Injury, trauma or illness of a child where the attention of a medical practitioner was sought or should have been sought or the child attended hospital or should have attended;
  • Emergency services attending the premises or should have attended;
  • A child who appears to be missing or cannot be accounted for;
  • A child who appears to have been taken or removed from the service contravening authorisations;
  • A child who is mistakenly locked in or out of the premises.

If one of these incidents occurs, what do I do?

These serious incidences must be reported to the Department of Education within 24 hours of either the incident occurring or the Approved Provider becoming aware of the incident.

Notification can be made in the form of a phone call to 1800 619 113, an email to or faxing your services incident form to 8633 1810. You will need to forward the SI01 form to Department of Education at a reasonable time after making this initial notification.

What do we do about incidents that are considered ‘non-serious’?

If an incident does not fit the above criteria, it is deemed a non-serious incident. For example, if nothing more than general first aid was applied after a child’s accident, this is non-serious. Services would follow their general procedures for recording this such as on an accident form or on a near-miss register.

The only time a non-serious incident is to be reported to Department of Education is in the instance that it poses a risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of a child or children in the service. This is generally applicable to situations that have happened to, or impacted on the operation of the service, rather than an incident that has occurred directly to a child. An example of circumstances that are considered non-serious but need to be notified would be where parents may be unable to get to a service to collect their children because the service is in a flood affected area with flood water rising. The form used is the NL01 Notification of Complaints and Incidents (other than serious incidents).

We have received a complaint, what now?

If your service has received a complaint that alleges the safety, health or wellbeing of a child or children was or is being compromised whilst at the service, you are required to notified to Department of Education within 24 hours of the complaint being received or of the Approved Provider becoming aware of the complaint. The form used is the NL01 Notification of Complaints and Incidents (other than serious incidents).

The service is required to have a complaints handling procedure in place. The most effective strategy for managing complaints is to have a current policy and procedures that have been developed or reviewed in consultation with parent users. Parents should be aware of and able to access the policy and procedures at all times and be given key policies on enrolment.

The service’s complaints handling procedure should detail:

  • The steps that will be followed at each phase of managing the complaint.
  • Strategies to deal with the issue in a timely manner
  • The relevant parties for complaints e.g. Nominated Supervisor
  • Processes for maintaining confidentiality.
  • Ways of documenting discussions between the complainant and the service.
  • Information about how a complainant can contact and raise their concerns with service management if they need to.
  • Procedures for keeping the complainant informed of the progress of the complaint.
  • Methods for recording and evaluating the progress of the complaint.
  • A process for evaluating the outcomes of the complaint and for providing recommendations for future policy or practice at the service.

This resource has been produced by Network of Community Activities using funding provided
by the NSW Department of Education Sector Development Grants Program.