Issue Nine Keep Them Safe Website Manage your subscription

Keep Them Safe annual report lots achieved, but still a lot to do

From left: Justice James Wood; Kristina Keneally, Premier; Linda Burney, Minister for Community Services; Gary Groves, Director, NSW Police Force Child Wellbeing Unit. The Premier of NSW, Kristina Keneally, and Minister for Community Services, Linda Burney launched the first Keep Them Safe annual report, and announced new services to improve the safety and wellbeing of children at NSW Parliament House on 10 November.

The launch was well attended by representatives from the non-government and government sectors; frontline workers from NSW Police Force, Child Wellbeing Units (CWUs), and Family Referral Services (FRS); school principals; and medical practitioners from around the state.

The Premier took the opportunity to reaffirm the government’s commitment to implementing the reforms to the child protection system.

“While this Keep Them Safe annual report shows that we have made good progress, it’s important to acknowledge that there remains a substantial body of work to do,” she said.

“This is the type of work that requires a long-term view and a commitment from all parties to stay the course.

“As you who work in this field understand, there are no simple solutions to child abuse and neglect.”

The government announced two new FRS sites in New England and the Illawarra, which will give families the help they need to tackle issues before they reach crisis point, and the establishment of Whole-Family Teams in Lismore, Newcastle, Nowra, and Wyong to address parent/carer substance abuse and/or mental health issues.

A panel including Gary Groves, Director, Police CWU; Angie Weir, Manager, Dubbo FRS; Craig Smith, Principal of Woniora Road School in Hurstville; and Cheryl O’Donnell, Manager of Mission Australia’s community services in southern NSW discussed how their work had changed since the implementation of Keep Them Safe.

From left: Panel members Cheryl O’Donnell, Craig Smith, Angie Weir, and Gary Groves.All members agreed that the ability to now share information has had a positive impact; it has broken down silos, improved relationships among agencies, and increased collaborative working strategies that better support children and families.

Panel members provided touching examples of how they have assisted young people and families by working across agencies, and in particular with support from FRS and local non-government organisations.

“The new system is resulting in workers trying new things. In the past, agencies would always have sought permission from families before offering assistance. But there are now instances where Family Referral Services is reaching out directly to families after receiving referrals,” Ms Weir said.

The following stories came from the panel discussion at the launch of the Keep Them Safe annual report.

From the Dubbo Family Referral Service

A mother of five children was struggling to get out of bed each morning because she wasn’t coping with a death in the family. With the mother out of action, the children were not attending school.

Worried about the children, the school got in contact with the Dubbo Family Referral Service.

The school and the Service sent staff to check on the family. At first, mum wouldn’t open the front door, so the workers called out through the window, “Is there anything at all we can get for you that might make your day a bit easier?”

The answer that came was, “A garbage bin.” The children then asked for a hairbrush and basic household items, at which point mum opened the door.

The workers were then able to help the family get back on track – mum has been going to grief counselling and the children are taking part in recreational activities.

From the NSW Police Force Child Wellbeing Unit (NSWPF CWU)

A mother of three children was depressed and not coping on her own after her partner was convicted and jailed for domestic violence offences.

The NSWPF CWU checked the Wellnet database for background information on the family. They found that there had been child protection reports about the 18-month-old baby not being brought in for scheduled health checks.

The CWU contacted the Family Referral Service, which was able to work with the family and put the necessary support services in place.

The five-year-old child is now back at school, the three-year-old, who had delayed speech because of the trauma of witnessing domestic violence, is now getting speech therapy and the baby is now meeting developmental milestones.

Gary Groves, Police NSWPF CWU Director said, “I hope never to see that family in the statutory system but I can confidently say that without the changes that have occurred [under Keep Them Safe] that’s exactly where they would have ended up.”

From Woniora Road School, Hurstville

A Year 10 student had been missing from school and out of concern for his welfare, the school contacted the Department of Education and Training CWU.

The CWU discovered that the student’s mother had been a victim of domestic violence and had fled to a refuge with her children.

The school and other agencies were able to work together to put supports in place to help the student and his family.

He is now back at school and is sitting for his School Certificate.

Annual report

Keep Them Safe Annual Report 2009–10The Keep Them Safe Annual Report 2009–10 is now available on the Keep Them Safe website. The report documents Keep Them Safe progress against the March 2009 Keep Them Safe: A shared approach to child wellbeing Action Plan, and highlights various Keep Them Safe initiatives implemented during the first 15 months of implementation, March 2009 to June 2010.

Two new Family Referral Service sites

Building on trials in Dubbo, Newcastle and Mt Druitt, two additional Family Referral Services (FRS)will be rolled out inTamworth and Wollongong.

FRS aims to support families who do not reach the threshold for statutory intervention, but would benefit from support services tailored to their specific needs.

The Government has allocated $38 million over five years for the staged roll-out of FRS in targeted locations across NSW.

“These services will reach areas with high numbers of child protection reports, particularly involving Aboriginal families,” Minister Burney said.

“They will link vulnerable children, young people, and families with support such as housing, child care, supported play-groups, drug and alcohol, and youth services.”

Whole-Family Teams established

The NSW Government will allocate $28 million over five years for Whole-Family Teams in Lismore, Newcastle, Wyong, and Nowra.

The teams, which include nurses, caseworkers, and counsellors, will provide case management and specialist family and individual intervention services.

“Whole-Family Teams will help parents struggling with drug, alcohol or mental health issues,” Minister Burney said.

“The Wood Inquiry highlighted that these issues are significant factors in calls to the Community Services Child Protection Helpline.

“In the last three months alone, 15 per cent of calls related to parental drug or alcohol abuse, or mental health problems.

“That’s why we are funding and delivering this program – to provide help for parents with issues that are affecting their ability to care for their children.”

Extra staff at NSWPF CWU

Child Wellbeing Unit case worker and police officer, NSWPF CWU. Since it began operating on 24 January this year, the NSW Police Force Child Wellbeing Unit (NSWPF CWU) has received more than 20,000 reports.

To tackle these reports, the NSWPF will recruit 10 additional CWU staff including seven full-time CWU assessment officers, two CWU team leaders, and one senior intelligence analyst.

Recruitment to fill these temporary positions will commence before the end of this year.

The NSWPF CWU refers vulnerable families to agencies that can give them support and assistance, where the reported concerns do not meet the threshold for statutory intervention.

Importantly, it monitors the effectiveness of referrals so that the government can gauge the impact that Keep Them Safe is having on the lives of children, young people, and their families.

GPs get child protection training

General practitioners (GPs) in Mt Druitt, Newcastle, and Dubbo, where there are Family Referral Services, are taking part in training on the Keep Them Safe reforms. 

The one-hour training package, developed by General Practice NSW in consultation with ECAV, commenced in October and will continue through November.

Training is being delivered by local GPs or GP-designated other healthcare providers and an AHS child protection trainer.

Training schedule:

NSW Outback (Bourke) – Saturday 23 October
Hunter Rural – Sunday 24 October
Went West – Friday 19 November
Dubbo Plains – Wednesday 24 November and Tuesday 30 November (Mudgee)
Central Coast – Wednesday 24 November

New project to build Aboriginal NGOs

A new Growing Partnerships project has been established to build the capacity of non-government organisations (NGOs) that provide services to Aboriginal children, young people, and families.

The project will foster partnerships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organisations, build cultural competency, and broaden child protection interventions so that they align with the Protecting Aboriginal Children Together (PACT) initiative, the Aboriginal Capacity Building Project (OOHC), and the AbSec–Community Services Memorandum of Understanding.  

Two project officers are being recruited – one from the Association of Childrens Welfare Agencies (ACWA), and one from the Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat NSW (AbSec) – to actively enrich, enhance, and develop existing and new relationships with the non-government sector.

Community Services will work in partnership with AbSec and ACWA to ensure that linkages to existing initiatives and frameworks are included, and benefits maximised.  

New training program to support foster and kinship carers

The NSW Government, under Keep Them Safe, will fund NSW Health to partner with the Alternative Care Clinic at Redbank House, which runs the only dedicated reparative foster/kinship carer training in NSW.

Together, they will develop a train-the-trainer program that can be rolled out to Community Services and NSW Health staff.

The training will support foster and kinship carers to meet the needs of children and young people in care.

Research shows that these children and young people have higher rates of physical, developmental, and emotional health issues than their peers in the general community.

One of the key objectives of Keep Them Safe is to improve outcomes for these children and young people.

It is anticipated the program will be up and running by October 2011 and then progressively rolled out state-wide.

Plan to build NGO workforce and capacity ready to go

The Workforce Development and Capacity Building Plan has been finalised and will be implemented over a five-year period commencing 2010–11.

This is being led by a steering committee comprised of non-government organisation (NGO) peak organisations and government representatives and chaired by the Council of Social Service of NSW (NCOSS) on behalf of the Federation of Non-Government Agencies (FONGA).

The committee is currently deciding on the areas of priority for the 2011 roll-out of the Plan.

The Plan recognises the need for collaboration between government agencies and the NGO sector and respects the autonomy of non-government organisations (NGOs).

It has a strong focus on targeted activities to support the needs of Aboriginal NGOs, including the development of meaningful local partnerships; improving early intervention and prevention service delivery in regional and local Aboriginal communities; improving cultural proficiency for staff supporting Aboriginal children and young people, their families, and communities; and strategies to improve Aboriginal employment.

Fundamental to the success of Keep Them Safe is a respectful, intelligent, and real collaboration between NGOs and NSW Government agencies.

Successful community sector and government workshop

The South West Sydney Justice and Human Services Regional Managers Cluster and the Macarthur NGO peak, Sector Connect, recently hosted a Keep Them Safe consultation workshop in Campbelltown to discuss key local issues relating to implementing Keep Them Safe across South West Sydney.

Over 100 people from 45 different agencies registered to attend the workshop, which focused on Aboriginal service delivery, government and non-government networking, workforce development, and systemic issues.

The workshop resulted in over 100 recommendations aimed at enhancing government agencies’ and NGOs’ abilities to implement Keep Them Safe locally.

The second workshop for South West Sydney, which will focus on Bankstown, Fairfield, and Liverpool, was hosted by government agencies and the Western Sydney Community Forum at the end of November.

Collaboration in Action in the New England North West

Trisha Moore KTS Regional Program Manager talking with HSNet training participants in Tamworth. The New England North West Keep Them Safe Regional Project Manager partnered with the HSNet Business Development and Communications Manager to deliver training to 19 NSW Government, Federal Services, and non-government employees in the New England North West.

Six sessions were delivered during October to five centres with over 65 people attending.

Participants benefitted from gaining a better understanding about identifying and responding to clients’ key issues and processes for referrals to appropriate services and worked through a number of scenarios.

The Keep Them Safe Regional Implementation Group is delighted with the number of organisations who attended as it is important to encourage human service agencies to use one service directory across the New England North West.

Introducing regional project managers

Regional project managers (RPMs) work with justice and human services agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) to support regional delivery of the Keep Them Safe Action Plan. In this issue, we continue our introductions with the North Coast, Dubbo, and Coastal Sydney RPMs profiled.

Merryl Wilson – North Coast

Prior to joining the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Merryl worked for many years with Housing NSW where she helped develop government and non-government partnerships to assist people with complex needs to access and maintain stable housing.

Merryl is a social worker who has worked in child protection, youth support, and sector training services.

Following the sunshine, she moved from Melbourne to the North Coast Hinterland many years ago, and is very happy to have done so.

Roger Petheram – Western Region (Dubbo)

Roger has worked as a family therapist, family court counsellor, child protection worker, and extensively in the mental health and disability fields. More recently he spent a number of years with the Royal Flying Doctor Service where he managed the Service's Bases at Dubbo and Bankstown. Roger has taught social work at Sydney University and the University of New South Wales and continues to teach the Diploma of Counselling for TAFE in Mudgee, Dubbo, and Orange on weekends. Roger has qualifications in social work, sociology, and teaching, and in security and investigations. He lives in Dubbo with his wife Rosemary and has three adult sons.

Charith De Silva – Coastal Sydney

Charith has worked in the statutory child protection field for over 25 years, both in the UK and Australia. He has been a caseworker at Manly, Bondi, and Metro Central Community Service Centres, and was the Casework Manager of the Kogarah Joint Investigation Response Team. Charith worked on developing the Housing and Human Services Accord with the Strategic Policy Unit of Housing NSW and is committed to collaborative and shared approaches to meeting the needs of children and families with complex needs. Charith has three boys aged 20, 17, and two who beat him at everything!

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