Issue Four Keep Them Safe Website Manage your subscription

Introduction

This newsletter outlines changes to come into effect on 24 January 2010 following proclamation of amendments to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 made by the Children Legislation Amendment (Wood Inquiry Recommendation) Act 2009.

These new changes mean that a range of agencies other than Community Services will have a responsibility for responding to children and young people who may be at risk or in need. For the more serious concerns, Community Services (the body in NSW vested with powers under legislation) will continue to use their statutory powers to help children and their families.


Message from Minister Linda Burney

January 24 is the start of our new child protection system. This system is underpinned by Commissioner Wood's recommendation that responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of children must be shared across government and the community. Due to the commitment and hard work of many people across government and non-government agencies, new systems and policies are in place, laws have been changed and new tools created. 

All these things are fundamental but they are not enough on their own. The key to success is a change in mindset and a new way of working among all those who come into contact with children. If a child needs help, but not statutory intervention by Community Services, the priority is to work out what can be done to assist that child. By intervening early we may be able to prevent a situation from escalating to the point where it does become a case for Community Services. Now that barriers to exchanging information have been removed, agencies can share information that may help a child at risk and I encourage you to do so.

I would like to thank everyone for their dedication to faithfully implementing Commissioner Wood's recommendations and the Government's response, Keep Them Safe. I remain absolutely committed to seeing through this reform and bringing about major improvements in the safety and wellbeing of children in NSW.


New threshold for reporting to the Child Protection Helpline

On 24 January 2010, the mandatory reporting threshold will be raised. All reports to the Child Protection Helpline must now meet the threshold of "risk of significant harm" as opposed to "risk of harm". This change has been introduced to ensure children and young people needing the protection of statutory intervention receive this from Community Services, while children and families who need other forms of support and assistance are given this from a range of government and community organisations without reporting to Community Services.

From 24 January, where mandatory reporters suspect a child or young person is at risk of significant harm, they should make a report to the Child Protection Helpline on 133 627 (as is current practice). However, where mandatory reporters have concerns for a child or young person that do not meet the significant harm threshold, they (or their agency) should offer and coordinate assistance to the child or young person, or make a referral to other services. The Human Services Network (HSNET) is also available to identify services that are in the local area that may assist families.


Mandatory Reporter Guide

The new Mandatory Reporter Guide, developed by the US Children's Research Center, is now available on the Keep Them Safe website. The guide has been designed for mandatory reporters to assist in determining whether concerns about a child or young person reach the new threshold of risk of significant harm.

The Mandatory Reporter Guide will indicate to users whether a report should be made to Community Services. Where this is not the outcome, the Guide will indicate whether consultation with a Child Wellbeing Unit (for mandatory reporters in the four key reporting agencies, Human Services, NSW Health, Education and Training, and Police) or another professional is appropriate. For NGO mandatory reporters a Keep Them Safe Support Line has been established and its contact details are outlined in this newsletter.

The Mandatory Reporter Guide is available as a PDF, which can be printed out, and also as an interactive online version that allows users to easily navigate the various stages of the reporting process.

The Keep Them Safe website now also has a Mandatory Reporter Guide presentation by Dr Raelene Freitag of the Children's Research Center, which provides detailed information on the Mandatory Reporter Guide using some theoretical case scenarios.


KTS Support Line for Non-Government Mandatory Reporters

The NSW Government has established a telephone support line to assist NGOs with the changes under Keep Them Safe (KTS), specifically with the introduction of the new reporting threshold. 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 will operate 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays), from 25 January 2010. The phone number is 1800 772 479.

The Support Line is for mandatory reporters in NGOs (including non-government schools) and General Practitioners. It will provide 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 will also assist 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.

It is difficult to predict the demand for the service, particularly in its early stages. The aim is to answer calls within three minutes; however, there may be some delays if the demand is greater than anticipated and callers are encouraged to be patient.


Child Wellbeing Units (CWUs)

CWUs have been established and will be operational from 24 January in the four government agencies (NSW Police, Department of Education and Training, NSW Health and the Department of Human Services) that make up the largest percentage of child protection reports. Trained staff in CWUs will assist mandatory reporters in their agency to use the Mandatory Reporter Guide and ensure that all concerns that reach the threshold of risk of significant harm are reported to the Child Protection Helpline.

Where concerns do not meet the new threshold, information about the child or young person will be entered on the new CWU database, WellNet. This information will be visible to staff in other CWUs, which will assist in assessing cumulative risk of harm.  CWU assessment officers will help mandatory reporters to identify services available within their own agency or in other organisations which could support the family.


Other legislative changes

As well as raising the reporting threshold to risk of significant harm, related legislative changes commencing at the same time include removal of criminal penalties for not reporting, the addition of two new grounds for reporting and the establishment of an alternative reporting process (through Child Wellbeing Units operating in the four government agencies that make the largest percentage of child protection reports).

The first of the new grounds indicating that a child may be at risk of significant harm refers to parents or carers who have not made proper arrangements and are unable or unwilling for their child(ren) to receive an education. The second new ground for reporting recognises cumulative impact by indicating that a series of acts or omissions when viewed together may establish a pattern of significant harm.

Other legislative changes commencing on 24 January 2010 aim to simplify the Children's Court process and make it more user-friendly, again in response to recommendations that came out of the Wood Inquiry. The legislation also strengthens the framework for provision of out-of-home care by clarifying legislative definitions and service classifications of statutory, supported and voluntary out-of-home care.

The Keep Them Safe website has further details on the new legislation.


Voluntary Out-of-Home Care

The Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in New South Wales recommended that legislation be introduced to better safeguard the interests of children and young people in voluntary Out-of-Home Care (VOOHC), many of whom have disabilities.

VOOHC refers to those situations where a parent of a child or young person voluntarily makes arrangements with an appropriate organisation for the placement of the child or young person in out-of-home care.

The new legislation commencing on January 24 provides for the VOOHC system to be progressively rolled out over the next 12 months, in consultation with agencies and representatives of parents and other carers of children and young people in VOOHC.

The Children's Guardian, which has a statutory mandate to promote the best interests of children and young people in all forms of out-of-home care, will have independent oversight of the VOOHC system.

The new VOOHC legislation is designed to assist children and young people and their families by improving intake, assessment, care planning and agency coordination, and supporting ongoing parental and child/young person involvement in VOOHC care planning.

In particular, children and young people in longer-term VOOHC will benefit from care planning that meets their needs and that promotes a supported return to family living, where possible.

Organisations can provide or arrange VOOHC if they are:

  • a designated agency that has been accredited by the Children's Guardian to provide or arrange out-of-home care, or that is participating in the Children's Guardian's Quality Improvement Program; or
  • an organisation that is registered with the Children's Guardian.

Information about the VOOHC system is available on the NSW Children's Guardian website. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions will be posted at this website from the first week of February.

The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 and the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2000 may be accessed at www.legislation.nsw.gov.au.

If you have any questions about the VOOHC regime, please call the Children's Guardian's switchboard on (02) 8219 3600 and ask to speak to a Voluntary Out-of-Home Care officer, or email the Children's Guardian at voohc@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au.


Family Referral Services

Family Referral Services (FRS) are intended to assist the support needs of vulnerable children, young people and families whose circumstances will not warrant statutory child protection intervention under the new threshold. FRS will link children, young people in need of assistance, and their families with the most appropriate support services in their local area.

The service will be piloted over a 12-month period in Dubbo, Mount Druitt and Newcastle and surrounding areas. Contracts are currently being negotiated with the organisations selected via a tendering process to pilot two service models: a telephone referral service and an augmented service with capacity to conduct face-to-face referrals with some case management and access to support supplemented via the use of brokerage funding.

Organisations will be given two months' lead-time to implement the service with a phased implementation beginning in February 2010, with a view to full operation of the services in March 2010. The three pilots will be thoroughly evaluated over the 12-month period to determine the optimal service model for statewide roll-out.

For procurement reasons, we are unable to make any announcements in regards to catchment areas and contact details for the services prior to contracts being signed with the successful organisations. 


Keep them Safe 1 Farrer Place Sydney New South Wales 2000
Phone (02) 9228 4062 Fax (02) 9228 3522 Email contact_us@dpc.nsw.gov.au
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