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On Sunday 24 January 2010, the main provisions of the new Children Legislation Amendment (Wood Inquiry Recommendations) Act 2009 will begin. This legislation underpins the Keep Them Safe reforms. The legislation was passed in April 2009, a month after Keep Them Safe: A Shared Approach to Child Wellbeing was released, but commencement of the majority of provisions was delayed until new systems and support tools were in place.

One of the key legislative provisions commencing on 24 January is the raising of the mandatory reporting threshold. What this means for mandatory reporters is that from 24 January 2010, reports to the Child Protection Helpline need to 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 2010, where mandatory reporters suspect a child or young person is at "risk of significant harm", they should make a report to Community Services' Child Protection Helpline on 132 111 or 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

A new guide for mandatory reporters to assist in determining whether concerns about a child or young person reach the new threshold of "risk of significant harm" has been developed and is now available on the Keep Them Safe website.

The guide has been developed by the US Children's Research Center after extensive consultation with mandatory reporters in government agencies and non-government organisations. It consists of a number of decision trees including:

  • Physical abuse
  • Neglect supervision
  • Neglect shelter/environment
  • Neglect food
  • Neglect medical care
  • Neglect mental health care
  • Neglect education, not enrolled
  • Neglect education, habitual absence
  • Sexual abuse child
  • Sexual abuse young person
  • Sexual abuse problematic sexual behaviour
  • Psychological harm
  • Relinquishing care
  • Carer concern substance abuse
  • Carer concern mental health
  • Carer concern domestic violence
  • Unborn child.

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 or another professional is appropriate. The interactive Online Mandatory Reporter Guide is also now available.

Progress on NSW Interagency Guidelines

Revisions to the Child Wellbeing & Child Protection NSW Interagency Guidelines are progressing well. Chapter 2, Guide to making a child protection report, is now available as a HTML document for ease of navigation and use.

This guide is for mandatory and non-mandatory reporters who need to make reports of child abuse or neglect to the Child Protection Helpline. The information in the guide will become operational on 24 January, once the legislation is proclaimed.

Chapter 4, Information Exchange, has already been revised and will also soon be made available as a HTML document. Further chapters of the NSW Interagency Guidelines will be made available in early 2010.

KTS transitional telephone support line for NGOs

From 24 January 2010, where a non-government organisation (NGO) mandatory reporter suspects a child or young person meets the significant harm threshold, they should make a report to Community Services' Child Protection Helpline on 132 111 or 133 627.

To help NGO mandatory reporters decide what to do to help a child or young person where there are concerns, but they do not meet the significant harm threshold, or where the reporter needs advice on use of the Mandatory Reporter Guide, a six-month transitional support line is being established to assist with the introduction of the new system, and will be reviewed at the end of that period. The KTS transitional support line will have a dedicated phone number which will be established and communicated to NGOs.

Further information on the reforms can be found on the Keep Them Safe website.

Statewide Information Sessions

TAFE Cross-Agency Briefings were held from mid-October to early December across NSW for mandatory reporters from government and non-government organisations. Over 21,000 mandatory reporters attended the sessions, including almost 8000 from the non-government sector. In total, 530 sessions were delivered, with an average attendance of 41 participants. A number of specific Aboriginal sessions were delivered in response to local demand.

The three-hour sessions provided an overview of the changes to the child protection system, including information about Child Wellbeing Units, changes to the reporting threshold, and new guidance on information exchange. Participants found the sessions useful for obtaining information about the reforms and for networking with other mandatory reporters in their local areas.

A limited number of additional sessions to facilitate current extra demand will be held in late January for mandatory reporters who were unable to attend in 2009. The locations of these sessions are being determined according to demand. Please email to register your interest.


For mandatory reporters who were unable to attend a TAFE-run information session (or for those who would like to refresh their knowledge) the Keep Them Safe website now has an eLearning presentation. This learning package, developed by TAFE, is based on the content of the face-to-face sessions, and includes videos and quizzes to test your knowledge.

The eLearning package takes approximately two hours to work through. It is split into five chapters, so does not need to be completed in one session. The package is also suitable for using in a small group session and is accompanied by the participant's manual and facilitator's guide developed for the TAFE-run face-to-face sessions. All of these resources are available in the Training section of the Keep Them Safe website.

If you do not have a fast and reliable internet connection, you can request a copy of the eLearning presentation on DVD. If you work for a non-government organisation, please contact us for a copy. If you work for a government agency, please contact the relevant person in your organisation.

Family Referral Services

The establishment of Family Referral Services (FRS) is a key initiative under Keep Them Safe. This FRS network is intended to link vulnerable children and young people in need of assistance, and their families, with the most appropriate support services available in their local areas. NSW Health has been identified as the lead agency for the establishment of FRS across NSW and for piloting three services over a 14-month period beginning January 2010.

  • The NSW Department of Health is currently recruiting, via a competitive tendering process, suitable organisations to conduct the three pilots. The FRS pilots will be based in Mount Druitt, Dubbo, and Newcastle. Two types of service will be piloted: a telephone referral service and an augmented service (i.e. a service with capacity to coordinate active referrals, including case management with the possible use of brokerage funding). The FRS pilot in Dubbo will have an Aboriginal focus, which means that it will be responsive to the specific support needs of Aboriginal people.

The development of the Request for Tender (RFT) has been informed by input from a range of government agencies and the non-government sector. Applicants have been short-listed and interviewed, and financial due diligence checked. Three successful tenderers have been selected, pending approval of the Tender Governance Committee. An external law firm is assisting with contractual agreements. An evaluation plan for the 12-month pilots is being developed and an  evaluation steering committee will monitor pilot outputs and outcomes, and manage risks.

  • The NSW Government has committed $38 million over five years to the staged implementation of FRS across NSW with $3.6 million allocated for the first 12 months. Funding will progressively increase over the duration of the project to support staged statewide implementation by 2013/2014.

Development of Workforce and NGO Capacity Building Plans

The Department of Human Services and the Department of Premier and Cabinet have contracted KPMG to undertake a project over the next six months to create 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 will be developed under a single project, which will ensure that the intersection between NGO capacity building and workforce development is recognised.

The plans will also reflect an appropriate sequence of actions to reflect the interdependencies between various actions in the plans and allow for take up of recommendations and actions from emerging reviews.

KPMG is in the scoping and research phase of the project, which involves targeted initial consultations, identification of existing strategies, and new approaches. They held an initial consultation with representatives from across the KTS Advisory Committees on 23 November 2009. That short consultation involved a facilitated discussion on the context of the project, the key challenges for the sector in delivering on KTS, and how the plans may interact with related capacity building and workforce plans that may already be underway in the sector.  

KPMG have also had one-on-one meetings with key NGO representatives who could not attend that session. The key issues explored at the November workshop are being written up and will be distributed to all KTS consultative committee members with the presentation slides, which together provide more details on the project. They intend to use the results of this scoping stage to develop draft plans that will be the basis of broader and more intensive stakeholder consultation in February 2010.

Further information is available in the Workforce Development and NGO Capacity Building Plans summary document.

Regional Engagement Tour Evaluation

To help promote awareness and commitment to the Keep Them Safe reforms at a regional and local level, a Regional Engagement Tour was conducted from 4 September 16 October 2009, led by the Association of Childrens Welfare Agencies (ACWA) in partnership with the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Eleven forums were run around NSW, attended by over 1500 senior managers from government and NGOs. The forum panels included the Minister for Community Services and the former Minister for Youth, NGO leaders and senior managers from justice and human services agencies, and the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

ACWA has completed an evaluation of the Regional Engagement Tour, which found that the forums proved to be a valuable and effective way to convey the changes and introduce the concepts of shared responsibility and working together. As the evaluation states, this was particularly important as the reforms encompass a significant shift in the way government and non-government agencies work. ACWA found that government and non-government agencies working in partnership underpinned the success of the tour and that a collaborative approach was practised throughout the project process, from the planning and content development stages, through to delivery of the forums. The Department of Premier and Cabinet thanks ACWA for their excellent leadership on this important project.

For further information, you can access ACWA's full Regional Engagement Tour evaluation report.

Family Case Management

We are happy to introduce the Family Case Management (FCM) Coordinators for South East NSW and South West Sydney: Cheryl Henshall (SE NSW) and Sunita Kotnala (SWS). Cheryl and Sunita are now in place and are working to support the regional implementation of FCM. In the New Year, Cheryl and Sunita will work with local groups to identify and engage families.

In Western NSW a selective tender to find a NGO to support the functions of the FCM Coordinator is underway, applications close shortly. It is intended that the preferred applicant will be in place by March 2010.

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