Issue Two Keep Them Safe Website Manage your subscription

Commencement of Information Exchange Provisions

New laws applying to the exchange of information about children and young people commenced on 30 October 2009.  The new 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 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 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 circumstances.

Fact sheets, guidance, checklists and form letters to request and provide information are available on the Keep Them Safe website.

Child Wellbeing Units

The process of establishing Child Wellbeing Units, or CWUs, in four major Government agencies is progressing well.  Directors have been appointed and recruitment for other staff is well advanced in all agencies.  A database is being built to allow CWUs to share concerns about children and young people which are below the threshold of risk of significant harm. Cross agency training for CWU staff starts in mid November in preparation for Child Wellbeing Units becoming fully operational in January 2010.  This training will include a one day session on networking and representatives from PEAKS and NGOs will explain the role of their agencies in this session.

NSW Health is establishing three Child Wellbeing Units in Dubbo, Wollongong and Newcastle to align with existing NSW Child Health Networks. In addition, NSW Health is recruiting a Child Wellbeing Coordinator for each Area Health Service. The NSW Police CWU is located with the PoliceLink Command in Tuggerah on the Central Coast.  Assessment officers in the Department of Human Services CWU will assist mandatory reporters in Juvenile Justice, Housing and Ageing, Disability and Home Care from premises in Lidcombe, Sydney. The Department of Education and Training has established a CWU in central Sydney to provide advice and support to government school Principals, TAFE staff and other DET staff.  These four agencies currently make over 60% of reports to the Community Services Helpline.

From January 2010, the Community Services Helpline will provide improved feedback to all mandatory reporters when they call, and will indicate whether a report reaches the threshold of risk of significant harm.  The Helpline will record information about children and young people reported to them where the concerns are below the threshold, to assist in assessing cumulative risk.

If your agency does not have a CWU, from January 2010, you should use the Mandatory Reporter Guide to assess whether your concerns meet the threshold of risk of significant harm. If this threshold is met you must report your concerns to the Community Services Helpline.

If the risk of significant harm threshold is not met you may wish to discuss possible  actions with your supervisor, a colleague or someone else suggested by your agency as a suitable person to contact regarding child protection concerns. For assistance in identifying supports and services for the child and family you could access other resources e.g. Family Referral Service, if available, HSNet website, Families NSW website, DV line or a local referral or advice service.

Statewide Information Sessions

TAFE Cross Agency Briefings are being held throughout November and early December at over 550 locations across NSW for all key mandatory reporters from government and non-government organisations. These three hour sessions will provide an overview of the changes to the child protection system including information about Child Wellbeing Units, changes to the threshold of reporting to Community Services and new guidance on information exchange. Full day sessions will be held in locations with a high percentage of Aboriginal population.

A complete list of information sessions and online registration is available at . Apart from providing key information on Keep Them Safe, these sessions are a good opportunity to network with other mandatory reporters in your local area.

Regional Engagement Tour

Professionals across the State, whose work involves supporting the safety and wellbeing of children and families, seized the opportunity to learn more about the NSW Government's Keep Them Safe reforms as part of a six-week Regional Engagement Tour which wrapped up in Wagga Wagga on October 16.

More than 1500 people participated in information forums, held in 11 locations around the state to update Government and non-Government workers on Keep Them Safe and to promote a deeper understanding of what the reforms mean for services on the ground.

The tour was an initiative of the NSW Government in partnership with the non-Government sector and was coordinated by the Association of Children's Welfare Agencies (ACWA).

The thee-hour sessions, facilitated by Julie McCrossin, drew audiences from a broad range of Government and non-Government agencies engaged in areas such as health, housing, justice, police, disability, education, Aboriginal and community services, and were supported by senior Government and non-Government representatives, including NSW Community Services Minister Linda Burney.

The interactive nature of the forums stimulated keen audience participation and questions on a broad range of issues. ACWA has incorporated these issues in an evaluation report which is available soon on its website.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

The report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW recommended that more use should be made of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), both prior to, and during, care proceedings in the Children's Court.  Keep them Safe supported this recommendation. To implement the recommendation, the Government has established an Expert Working Party to consider possible ADR models for introduction in NSW, and report to Government on a preferred model or models by December this year. 

The membership of the Working Party is broad-based.  It includes representatives from relevant government agencies, the Children's Court, the Law Society and Bar Association, as well as leading practitioners and academics in the fields of ADR and care and protection. The Working Party has now met several times, and considerable work is also occurring outside these face to face meetings.

Family Case Management

The Family Case Management project responds to the Special Commission of Inquiry's recommendation that human services agencies identify "high end users" or frequently reported families and provide integrated case management for these families to reduce the risk of harm and increase family functionality in these families.

Stage 1 will be limited to 3 regions and aims to:

  • overcome typical barriers prior to wider roll-out,
  • share learnings across locations, and
  • develop a State-wide approach.

Regions and local sites were selected to cover a cross-section of metropolitan, regional and rural sites, as well as Aboriginal and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities. Stage 1 sites are:

  • South West Sydney - Greenacre, Green Valley/Miller and Fairfield
  • South East NSW - Bega Valley, Goulburn, Queanbeyan
  • Western NSW - Orange City, Leeton/Narrandera (this region will focus exclusively on Aboriginal families).

FCM Coordinators in each of the regions will help support and drive the implementation of the project. Recruitment of coordinators has commenced in South West Sydney and South East NSW, while in Western NSW a selective tender will go out to NGOs to host the Coordinator.

Workforce and NGO Capacity Building Plans

Under Keep them Safe we have made a commitment to develop long term (5 year) plans to build the capacity of the non-government sector to take on an expanded role in delivering services to children and families, and to build the skills and capacity of the public and NGO sector workforce.

The NGO capacity building plan will be developed alongside other activities to enhance the overall efficiency of the sector. This includes activities to reduce the regulatory burden that we place on NGOs through our funding administration arrangements, but also other major reforms underway in NSW where partnership with the NGO sector is critical, for example disability and community housing.

Building the workforce is integral to the capacity of the NGO sector: our focus will be on opportunities for joint training, networking and skill development, providing resources to NGOs to help with their own workforce planning, and investing in developing management and governance capabilities. There will be a focus on indigenous specific NGOs where we need to build up strong organisations to meet local needs.

We will continue to move forward with major workforce development activities for our own staff, particularly strategies to recruit and retain skilled caseworkers, to build the cultural competency of our staff particularly in supporting Aboriginal children and their families, and to ensure we are able to attract and keep skilled staff in rural and remote communities.

We have engaged KPMG to undertake this work, and consultation with NGO sector representatives will start in November 2009. The plans will be in place by mid 2010.

New Name for Regional Intake and Referral Services

The new name for Regional Intake and Referral Services is Family Referral Services. 

Non government organisations are to initially pilot Family Referral Services in Mount Druitt, Dubbo, and Newcastle with two types of service being piloted: a telephone service in all 3 locations; and an augmented service, in addition to the telephone service, in up to two locations. All pilots will have a regional focus in terms of their catchment area. All three pilots will provide a culturally appropriate service to Aboriginal people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds with the capacity to refer these client groups to appropriate available services. The service based in Dubbo will specifically focus on developing culturally appropriate referral pathways for Aboriginal children, young people and their families and fostering linkages with organisations that provide services specifically responsive to the needs of Aboriginal children, young people and their families.

An evaluation of these services will inform statewide rollout.

The request to tender to pilot Family Referral Services was issued on 14 September, with a closing date of 20 October.  NSW Health is currently reviewing the responses to the tender.

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