Issue Five Keep Them Safe Website Manage your subscription

Proclamation

On 24 January, Premier Kristina Keneally and Minister for Community Services Linda Burney joined several important guests from the government and non-government sectors at a media event in Newtown to announce the proclamation of the new child protection legislation and the commencement of one of the most comprehensive overhauls of child protection in the nation in recent years.

Premier Kristina Keneally and Minister for Community Services Linda BurneyThe main provisions of the Children Legislation Amendment (Wood Inquiry Recommendations) Act 2009 were proclaimed as amendments to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.

This event marked the raising of the mandatory reporting threshold from "risk of harm" to "risk of significant harm". This means that Community Services caseworkers will be freed up to focus on those cases that require statutory intervention, while those families who fall below the threshold will be better assessed and provided with more relevant support services from a range of government and community organisations.

Child Wellbeing Units (CWUs) in the four government agencies (Police, Health, Department of Human Services, Department of Education and Training) responsible for the largest percentage of reports to Community Services also began full-scale operations. CWUs will advise mandatory reporters on whether or not a child meets the new reporting threshold, and what to do to support families if they are below the threshold.

Other legislative changes to the reporting system include removal of criminal penalties for not reporting and the addition of two new grounds for reporting (relating to non-school attendance and cumulative harm).

Further legislative changes which commenced aim to simplify the Children’s Court process and make it more user-friendly and strengthen the framework for provision of out-of-home care. In particular, the out-of-home care provisions clarify legislative definitions and service classifications of statutory, supported and voluntary out-of-home care.

A small number of provisions in the Wood legislation have not yet been proclaimed. This includes provisions extending Working with Children Checks to additional categories of people. These provisions will commence on 31 March 2010 once the supporting regulations and guidelines are in place and affected groups have been advised of the changes.


NGO/Workforce development

Work continues on the creation of long-term plans to develop the child and family workforce, and build the capacity of the non-government sector to deliver on the NSW Government's commitments under Keep them Safe (KTS).

These plans will capture activities already underway that contribute to the development and support of the non-government sector, and the capacity of the child and family workforce. They are being progressed under a single project, which will ensure that the intersection between non-government organisation (NGO) capacity building and workforce development is recognised.

KPMG is leading this work and has developed a high-level discussion paper which presents a conceptual framework to guide the capacity building and workforce development activities, and identifies six key areas for focus:

  1. Developing partnerships between NGOs and government to support collaboration and planning.
  2. Aligning practice and services to outcomes.
  3. Reducing administrative burden to promote sector effectiveness and efficiency.
  4. Measuring outcomes and performance.
  5. Strengthening governance, management and leadership capacity.         
  6. Building a workforce with the right skills.     

As part of the project, KPMG is conducting a series of consultations with stakeholders during March 2010 to draw upon the views of the NGO sector, and experience in relation to the areas of focus to inform the further development of the Plans. The consultations include three different opportunities for NGOs to contribute:

  1. A short online questionnaire.
  2. Opportunity for direct email response to the discussion paper, which will be posted on the KTS website.
  3. Participation by key representative groups in a small number of targeted workshops, including specific consultations with Aboriginal and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) representative groups. Invitations to workshops are being distributed through the main representative groups and members of existing consultation arrangements in place for KTS and related activities.

Links to the discussion paper, online survey, and consultation information will be posted on the KTS website in early March 2010.


Family Referral Services

NSW Health is leading the establishment of Family Referral Services (previously called Regional Intake and Referral Services), which are intended to link vulnerable children, young people and their families, who may be in need of assistance but do not warrant statutory intervention, to local support services. Family Referral Services will be trialled in three regions initially to determine an optimal model for the statewide roll-out over the next 3-5 years. Two types of service will be piloted – a telephone referral service and an “augmented”, more active referral service.
 
Tenders for the three trials closed on 20 October 2009 and successful tenders were recently confidentially notified of their selection. Contractual agreements are currently being negotiated for a period of 14 months, including a two-month implementation phase. Organisations are expected to start the service early April 2010, and complete the pilot by the end of March 2011. The pilots will be based in Mount Druitt, Dubbo, and Newcastle and will be expected to provide a service with a regional focus. The pilot in Dubbo will provide a referral service responsive to the specific support needs of Aboriginal people.

An external consultant has been contracted to evaluate the pilots over 12 months and is currently developing an Evaluation Plan. An FRS Evaluation Steering Committee (ESC) has been established and will meet in March 2010 to consider the Plan for formal endorsement prior to start of the pilots.


Family Case Management

The Family Case Management (FCM) 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.

FCM Coordinators have already been recruited for SW Sydney and SE NSW and are employed with ADHC and Housing, respectively. In South West Sydney and South East NSW, local groups are working to identify and engage families in FCM.

We are now pleased to announce that Mission Australia has been contracted to employ and support the FCM Coordinator in Western NSW. This will be an identified Aboriginal position responsible for driving project implementation, supporting group activity, tracking FCM progress, supporting the evaluation, and engaging with local communities. Recruitment for this position will commence shortly.


KTS Support Line

As reported in Issue Four, the NSW Government has established a telephone support line to assist non-government organisations (NGOs) with the changes under Keep Them Safe (KTS). It is called the KTS Support Line and is a transitional service for the first six months of the new system that will be reviewed to identify future need.

The KTS Support Line is staffed by trained child protection caseworkers and has now been in operation for four weeks. It operates from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. The phone number is 1800 772 479.

The Support Line is for mandatory reporters in NGOs (including non-government schools) and General Practitioners. It is providing assistance in using the new Mandatory Reporter Guide, in determining whether a matter meets the significant harm threshold, and in understanding the changes under KTS. It is also assisting NGO mandatory reporters with referral pathways for cases that fall below the threshold, including providing information about how to access HSNET (the Human Services Network Service Link Directory) and details for referral services.

To date, the majority of callers to the Support Line have been from community organisations.


CWU Update

Child Wellbeing Units (CWUs) are now operating in Health, Department of Education and Training, Police and Department of Human Services. These units have been set up in response to the recommendation by Wood to “unblock” the Community Services Helpline, which was receiving too many reports which did not warrant statutory intervention.

Approximately 100 staff have been recruited to work in CWUs. These staff have backgrounds in child protection work and have attended a cross-agency training course in preparation for their new roles.

In the first weeks of operation, all CWUs have provided support to their mandatory reporters in using the Mandatory Reporter Guide and determining which matters to report to the Child Protection Helpline. Staff in CWUs are also assisting mandatory reporters to identify appropriate local services for referrals. The volume of calls received by Child Wellbeing Units in the first two weeks of operation have been as expected, with gradual increases as mandatory reporters become aware of the changes to the child protection system.

A common database (WellNet) has been developed to improve sharing information about at-risk children between CWUs, and provide limited information about children and young people known to Community Services. WellNet has been implemented in all CWUs without any significant issues, and information is being exchanged and referrals made as planned.


Regional Project Managers

Keep Them Safe includes strategies to address specific rural issues, such as actions to address workforce issues in rural and remote areas. Regional and/or rural locations have also been chosen for a number of Keep Them Safe actions involving pilots, such as Family Referral Services, Family Case Management projects and trials of Aboriginal service models.

Keep Them Safe Regional Project Managers are being appointed in each region to work with justice and human services agencies and non-government organisations to support regional delivery of the action plan. The recruitment process for these positions is almost complete and staff are taking up their positions in February and March 2010.


Frequently Asked Questions

The Keep Them Safe website now has a comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions grouped into topics such as Mandatory Reporters, Threshold/reporting, Information Exchange, Agencies working together, etc. These questions have come from a variety of sources, including the Regional Engagement Tour and the TAFE Information Sessions, and have been designed to provide a quick understanding on a wide variety of subjects.

Evaluation

Keep Them Safe is one of the most significant multi-agency reforms undertaken in recent years by the NSW Government in the human service and justice sectors.  Importantly, Keep Them Safe included a commitment to progressively evaluate implementation of the action plan over its five years and the effects of the new child protection system on outcomes for children, young people and their families.

The Social Policy Research Centre (UNSW), together with the Australian Institute of Family Studies and Griffith University, has been engaged to develop the overall Evaluation Framework for Keep Them Safe and commenced work in January 2010.  The evaluation framework is being designed so that the overall impact of the $750 million Keep Them Safe expenditure can be assessed and monitored. In addition to the overall effectiveness of Keep Them Safe, the framework will allow the Government to evaluate the relative impacts of the different programs and their inter-relationships. Once the framework has been agreed, systematic evaluation of different aspects of Keep Them Safe can begin.

The project is being overseen by a Project Reference Group including representatives from government agencies and non-government organisations. It includes Aboriginal members and academics.

Consultation with key agencies and stakeholders has commenced with the Framework expected to be completed by end April 2010. A draft of the evaluation framework will be made available on the Keep Them Safe website as soon as it is completed (expected mid-March 2010) and comments will be invited, so watch this space!


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