New laws applying to the exchange of information about children and young people commenced on 30 October 2009. Chapter 16A of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 clearly prioritises the safety, welfare, and wellbeing of a child or young person over an individual's right to privacy.
Chapter 16A allows government agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) who are prescribed bodies to exchange information that relates to a child's or young person’s safety, welfare or wellbeing, whether or not the child or young person is known to Community Services, and whether or not the child or young person consents to the information exchange. (Up until now information exchange has generally only been possible where the information was sent to or received from Community Services.)
Chapter 16A also requires prescribed bodies to take reasonable steps to coordinate decision making and the delivery of services regarding children and young people.
The legislative changes are in response to the Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW, which found that the capacity of agencies to exchange information about concerns for the safety, welfare, and wellbeing of children and young people is essential to ensure interagency cooperation and the provision of services to best help a child or family. For example, sometimes it only becomes clear that a child or young person is at risk, or has been harmed, when information from a number of sources is combined to create a complete picture about the child or young person and their specific circumstances.
Factsheets, guidance, checklists, and form letters to request and provide information are available on the Interagency Guidelines website.