Frequently Asked Questions

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General

What led to the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW?

Following the tragic deaths of two young children in 2007, the NSW Government commissioned the Hon. James Wood, AO, QC to conduct an inquiry to determine what changes within the child protection system were required to cope with future levels of demand. This included examining reporting of child abuse and neglect, and the management of reports (including the adequacy and efficiency of systems and processes for intake, assessment, prioritisation, investigation, and decision making).

What is Keep Them Safe?

Keep Them Safe is the NSW Government's five-year action plan to re-shape the way family and community services are delivered in NSW to improve the safety, welfare, and wellbeing of children and young people. Keep Them Safe is focused on shared responsibility and intends to build on the strengths of the current child protection system. It includes actions to enhance the universal service system, improve early intervention services, better protect children at risk, support Aboriginal children and families, and strengthen partnerships with non-government organisations in the delivery of community services.

What funding has the NSW Government invested in Keep Them Safe?

A $750 million Keep Them Safe funding package was announced when the 2009-10 NSW State Budget was handed down. This funding includes allocations for:

  • enhanced prevention and early intervention services
  • improved services for Aboriginal children and young people
  • enhanced acute services (e.g. intensive family preservation)
  • changes to the child protection system and services
  • out-of-home care.

More than 40 per cent of the funding package will go to non-government organisations over the five years of the Keep Them Safe program, reflecting the additional involvement they will assume as part of the shared responsibility focus of Keep Them Safe.

Will Keep Them Safe address the issues that led to the Inquiry?

The NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet has coordinated the NSW Government's position on each of the Inquiry's recommendations. Government agencies and peak non-government organisations (NGOs) were extensively consulted. Keep Them Safe was significantly informed by these consultations, and sets out the government's commitment to better protect and support children, young people, and their families, and to create better partnerships with NGOs.

How much funding will the non-government organisations get to implement Keep Them Safe?

More than 40 per cent of the Keep Them Safe funding package is going to the non-government sector. Examples include:

  • extra places for the expansion of the early intervention program, Brighter Futures, which links vulnerable families with a range of support services
  • new Family Referral Services, to put children and families needing support in touch with local services
  • intensive Aboriginal Family Based Services to support Aboriginal families where children are at risk
  • a range of prevention and early intervention services
  • trial of a new family and communities approach for keeping children in Aboriginal families safe
  • intensive Family Preservation to support children to live with their families.
How will Keep Them Safe be evaluated?

An Evaluation Framework is being developed. The framework will establish consistent reporting requirements from key components of the Keep Them Safe: A shared approach to child wellbeing Action Plan to assess the extent to which the plan has met its objectives of improving the safety, welfare, and wellbeing of children in NSW, reasons why aspects of the reforms have or have not been successful, and processes for using the evaluation outcomes to adjust future approaches based on progressive evaluation findings. Once the framework has been agreed, systematic evaluation of different aspects of Keep Them Safe can begin.

What are we doing differently this time to ensure that these reforms work?

The NSW Government has incorporated a number of important measures to ensure that the Keep Them Safe reforms are effectively implemented. A specialised unit in the Department of Premier and Cabinet has been established to oversee implementation. The Keep Them Safe Senior Officers Group, comprising key human services and justice agencies, is in place to coordinate and deliver on the government's commitments in the action plan. An overall detailed implementation plan has been developed, including identification of key milestones, and is being monitored to ensure interdependencies and risks are managed. Reporting against milestones occurs monthly to the Justice and Human Services Chief Executive Officers, and quarterly to the Justice and Human Services Cabinet Committee. An overall Keep Them Safe Evaluation Framework is also being developed to determine how effective the reforms have been.

What are the legislative changes under Keep Them Safe?

The main legislative changes include:

  • creating a new position of President of the Children's Court
  • changing the reviewable deaths definition and the Ombudsman's reporting period
  • establishing a scheme for information exchange between the government and non-government sectors
  • raising the mandatory reporting threshold
  • including two new grounds that indicate a child may be at risk: cumulative impact and inadequate educational arrangements
  • setting up Child Wellbeing Units in the four government agencies responsible for 60 per cent of all reports
  • removing penalties for not reporting
  • allowing disclosure of reporter identity to a law enforcement agency investigating a serious offence against a child or young person
  • simplifying and streamlining the Children's Court process
  • clarifying the Court's role regarding children in out-of-home care (OOHC)
  • establishing a new approach to OOHC based on children being in statutory, supported, and voluntary OOHC.

Further details on the legislative changes are available in the New legislation.

What strategies are in place for transient families and cross-border towns (e.g. Tweed Heads/Coolangatta, Quanbeyan/ACT)?

The new risk of significant harm reporting threshold is the result of changes to NSW legislation. It only alters the obligations for reporting children and young people who live in NSW or are present in NSW. The changed threshold is about the way NSW Community Services receives and assesses risk to children and young people. Reporters from other states will continue to contact the Child Protection Helpline direct. Existing practices around exchange of information between states remain the same.

Agencies in other states that deal regularly with Community Services (i.e. those close to NSW borders) will be made aware of the changes accompanying the new threshold. The Child Protection Helpline will also be able to direct interstate reporters to the Mandatory Reporter Guide.

NSW Community Services staff will continue to follow the same process for making interstate risk of harm reports and alerts to other states, territories, and New Zealand.

What does Keep Them Safe mean for parents and how can their anxieties be allayed?

Keep Them Safe recognises the primary responsibility of parents for the wellbeing of their child(ren). The aim of Keep Them Safe is to provide the necessary support to parents and prevent families becoming part of the statutory child protection system.

While the new legislation provides for greater exchange of information between government agencies and non-government organisations, organisations providing a service to a child, young person or their parents would normally inform them if information is being provided to other organisations.

Mandatory reporters

Who is a mandatory reporter?

A mandatory reporter is anybody who delivers the following services to children as part of their paid or professional work:

  • health care (e.g. doctors, nurses, dentists, and other health workers)
  • welfare (e.g. psychologists, social workers, and youth workers)
  • education (e.g. teachers, principals)
  • children’s services (e.g. child care workers, family day carers, and home-based carers)
  • residential services (e.g. refuge workers, community housing providers)
  • law enforcement (e.g. police).
How will the role of mandatory reporters change and what are they expected to do?

If you are a mandatory reporter, you will consult the Mandatory Reporter Guide (MRG) and report to Community Services those matters which reach the threshold of risk of significant harm (prior to these changes the threshold was risk of harm). If the risk is below the threshold, then services should be provided to the family at the local level and you are not required to make a report to the Child Protection Helpline.

Where a mandatory reporter still has concerns about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child, and the concerns do not reach the new threshold for reporting to Family and Community Services, there are a range of options, including:

  • talking to the family/child to see what the issues are, whether you are able to assist them, or to help them to access other support services such as Family Referral Services or local support services
  • it may be you are aware that another agency is working with the family and you can contact them to seek information and to work together to support the family
  • if after talking to the other agency there is further information which suggests cumulative risk, the MRG should be used again and if indicated, the child or young person should be reported to the Child Protection Helpline.
How were the mandatory reporters briefed about changes?

During September and October 2009, around 1500 senior managers from government agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) attended discussion forums as part of the Regional Engagement Tour. This tour was followed by statewide information sessions run by TAFE NSW, which were attended by approximately 23,000 mandatory reporters. The Keep Them Safe website now contains an eLearning tool based on the face-to-face information sessions. Further information has been provided to mandatory reporters through e-newsletters on the website. Government agencies and NGOs delivered internal training to their mandatory reporters. Feedback from the regional engagement tour and the information sessions helped determine what further training on information exchange and use of the Mandatory Reporter Guide was required, resulting in a second phase of targeted training through March to July 2010.

Will the identity of reporters be protected under the new system?

The reporter’s details cannot be exchanged without their permission (whether a report has been made to a Child Wellbeing Unit or directly to the Child Protection Helpline, and whether or not it meets the reporting threshold). From the end of January 2010, an exception to the provisions that protect the identity of reporters came into effect under amendments to Section 29 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.

Disclosure of the reporter’s details is now allowed where the disclosure is made in connection with the investigation of a serious offence alleged to have been committed against a child or young person and where the disclosure is necessary to safeguard or promote the safety, welfare or wellbeing of any child or young person (whether or not the victim of the alleged offence).

However, this disclosure without the consent of the reporter is not permitted unless a senior officer of the law enforcement agency to which the disclosure is to be made has certified in writing that obtaining the reporter’s consent would prejudice the investigation of the serious offence, or the person or body that makes the disclosure has certified in writing that it is impractical to obtain the consent of the reporter.

Threshold/reporting

Why has the threshold changed?

The Wood Inquiry found that many children who did not require statutory intervention of the State were being reported to the Child Protection Helpline. This used valuable resources and resulted in many children and families not receiving the support they needed. The threshold was raised so that:

  • children and families not requiring a response are no longer reported
  • more families are supported at the local level by government agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs)
  • Family and Community Services is able to focus on the most serious cases.
What other changes have been made to reporting children at risk?

As well as raising the reporting threshold to risk of significant harm, related legislative changes that commenced 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 (CWUs) operating in the three government agencies - NSW Police Force, NSW Health, and Department of Education and Communities - 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.

Mandatory reporters consult their CWU (if they have one) or the Mandatory Reporter Guide to determine if the new significant harm threshold has been met. If the child is below the threshold, alternative support such as Family Referral Services and HSNet ServiceLink will be consulted to offer support.

What do the changes mean for reporting children or young people who may be abused or neglected?

Where a mandatory reporter suspects that a child or young person is at risk of significant harm, and has used the Mandatory Reporter Guide or their Child Wellbeing Unit (if relevant) to assess this, if the threshold is met, a report to the Child Protection Helpline will be made. If the threshold is not met, but there are still concerns, support services can be offered.

How do mandatory reporters identify what should be reported?

A world-first Mandatory Reporter Guide (MRG) has been developed to assist mandatory reporters in making these decisions. The MRG includes a number of "decision trees" (e.g. physical abuse, neglect, psychological harm) which ask a series of questions to determine if the risk of significant harm threshold is met. Government agencies can also access their Child Wellbeing Units for assistance in using the MRG.

What happens to those children and young people who are below the threshold?

Where you are able to assist the child and family, you should do so. If the family would benefit from additional services, you should discuss this with the family and assist in referral to services in their local area for support. Suitable services can be identified through HSNET ServiceLink. In areas where Family Referral Services (FRS) are being piloted, familes can be referred to FRS for assistance. Agencies with Child Wellbeing Units can seek assistance from them in identifying suitable support.

Who is responsible for service coordination and tracking those children and young people who fall below the threshold?

Where there are concerns that don’t meet the threshold and you have spoken with other agencies who are working with the child and family, it may be appropriate for one mandatory reporter to coordinate service delivery. Generally this would be the person working most closely with the child and family, but this may change depending on what the family’s needs are and what they want to do.

It is important to remember that, where the risk of significant harm threshold has not been met, families can choose to engage with services or to refuse the offer of support. This should be documented because if a family doesn’t want to engage in services, this may increase the risk – the Mandatory Reporter Guide includes questions about whether the family has refused assistance in the past. Future concerns may arise which may then meet the reporting threshold.

What is cumulative harm, how will this be assessed?

Cumulative harm refers to a series of acts or omissions that, when viewed separately may not indicate significant risk, but when viewed together suggest a pattern of significant harm. Mandatory reporters should keep good records of concerns they have about a child as these concerns may continue and the pattern may constitute a report to the Child Protection Helpline. The Mandatory Reporter Guide includes questions which assist in determining cumulative harm. The Child Protection Helpline provides feedback to mandatory reporters so they know what action should be taken.

What is the Mandatory Reporter Guide?

The Mandatory Reporter Guide (MRG) is a world-first child protection assessment tool. The MRG will provide a common platform for decision making about whether concerns reach the threshold. A number of “decision trees” (sections such as physical abuse, neglect, psychological harm) ask a series of questions to determine if the significant risk threshold is met. The MRG is available on the Keep Them Safe website as both an online interactive version and a PDF.

What will happen to reports from the general community following the raising of the new threshold?

The general community will continue to report their concerns to the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111.

How do we access the Mandatory Reporter Guide?

The Mandatory Reporter Guide is available as both a PDF and an interactive online version on the Keep Them Safe website.

Will the Mandatory Reporter Guide be made available in hard copy?

The Mandatory Reporter Guide has been made available as a PDF for agencies and organisations to print out. However, as this is a "living" document and will be regularly reviewed and updated, mandatory reporters will need to ensure they always have the most recent version, and it is therefore recommended that mandatory reporters use the online version.

Information exchange

What do the new information exchange provisions mean and when did they commence?

Under Chapter 16A in the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 it is no longer necessary to obtain consent of parents, carers, children or young people to exchange information about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person. However, it is best practice to inform families that their personal information may be or is being provided to other agencies/organisations. Clients can still access their information through the Freedom of Information process. Information exchange legislation covering this commenced on 30 October 2009.

Who do the new provisions apply to?

The new provisions apply to all mandatory reporters and non-government organisations (NGOs) and NSW Government agencies who are identified as prescribed bodies. The new rules permit authorised staff in prescribed bodies to exchange information. For the purposes of information exchange, NGOs will be considered prescribed bodies under Section 248 and Chapter 16A.

Does the new legislation override privacy legislation?

It allows information to be exchanged between certain organisations working with or providing services to children and young people and their families, despite other laws that prohibit or restrict the disclosure of personal information such as the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998, the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002, and the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988. The needs and interests of children and young people (and of their families) in receiving services relating to the care and protection of children or young people take precedence over the protection of confidentiality or of an individual’s privacy.

What does this mean for the privacy of families?

It is important that organisations providing a service to a child, young person or their parents/carers inform them early on that information about them may be provided to other organisations. Where appropriate, a client should be informed that information about them is being disclosed to another agency so long as this does not place the child or young person at further risk. Keeping the client informed is part of best-practice case management and helps to maximise client engagement.

How will information be exchanged with Community Services?

Exchanging information with Community Services must be done under Section 248 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. However, Family and Community Services will exchange the information with Child Wellbeing Units and for Family Case Management in the spirit of Chapter 16A. Additional information is available in the Information sharing for mandatory reporters section of the Keep Them Safe website.

Can I refuse to disclose information when requested?

Yes. An agency is not required to disclose information under the new legislative provisions unless it relates to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person or class of children or young people. An agency may also decline to provide information in certain circumstances, such as if it believes it would prejudice an investigation of a possible breach of law, care proceedings or a coronial inquest, endanger a person’s life, or is not in the public interest. More details are available in the extended Information Exchange factsheet.

Do we need consent from parents to discuss cases/share information?
When clients move areas, can the agencies working with the family contact agencies in the new area to share information and organise services?

Under Chapter 16A, a prescribed body can provide information relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person to another prescribed body (i.e. there does not have to be a request made; information can be provided to an agency in the new area to alert them to the family’s needs). Consent is not necessary for the exchange of information; however, it is good practice to keep parents and families informed at all stages.

Are General Practitioners and other private medical providers included as prescribed bodies for information exchange?

General Practitioners working in incorporated practices are considered prescribed bodies under the new legislation and are therefore required to share information under Chapter 16A. Sole practitioners are not currently included under the legislation.

Child Wellbeing Units

What is the role of Child Wellbeing Units?

The role of Child Wellbeing Units (CWUs) is to help mandatory reporters within their agency identify whether a child protection concern meets the new risk of significant harm threshold, and ensure these matters are reported to the Child Protection Helpline. Where the threshold is not met, CWUs assist mandatory reporters to identify potential responses by the agency or advise on referral to appropriate services. Over time, CWUs will drive better alignment and coordination of agency service systems, to enable better responses to children and families in need of assistance. These arrangements are formalised under amendments to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (Wood Inquiry Recommendations) to follow alternative reporting arrangements which commenced on 24 January 2010 for these four government agencies. This requires assessment officers employed in CWUs to facilitate making a referral or taking action as necessary to promote the safety, welfare, and wellbeing of the child or young person.

How are Child Wellbeing Units staffed and organised?

There are over 100 staff employed in Child Wellbeing Units (CWUs) and the allocation of these positions has been determined by examining previous patterns of reports.

  • NSW Health has three CWUs that align with the existing NSW Child Health Networks. The CWUs are located in Dubbo, Wollongong, and Newcastle. The units are staffed by a manager and Assessment Officers. An Aboriginal Assessment Officer is employed at each unit. In addition to the three CWUs, NSW Health has employed eight Child Wellbeing Area Coordinators, with one located in each Area Health Service.
  • NSW Police Force has a centralised CWU located with the PoliceLink Command at Tuggerah on the Central Coast.
  • Department of Education and Communities (DEC) has a centralised CWU located in Sydney’s CBD. The DET CWU comprises three teams. Each team has seven Assessment Officers, including an Aboriginal Assessment Officer. There is also a Child Wellbeing Consultant (senior psychologist).
What happens after-hours?

Where concerns reach the threshold of risk of significant harm, mandatory reporters should continue to report to the Child Protection Helpline, which is staffed 24/7. Staff in agencies with a Child Wellbeing Unit (CWU) can provide information to their CWU using the after-hours notification forms on agency intranets.

How do Child Wellbeing Units work together across agencies?

Child Wellbeing Units (CWUs) work closely with CWUs in other agencies, operating as a network across the major government reporting agencies. CWUs use a common IT database, WellNet, to share key information that identifies whether another agency is currently working with the child or family, or previously had concerns. Community Services as well as CWU agencies will also know whether a child is known to either system. This facilitates information exchange and inter-agency cooperation. Legislative changes also include a requirement for agencies to work cooperatively in relation to decision making, assessment, investigation, and service provision for children and young people.

Why isn't there a Child Wellbeing Unit for non-government organisations?

The Special Commission of Inquiry did not recommend the establishment of a Child Wellbeing Unit for non-government organisations (NGOs) as they represent a relatively small number of reports (eight per cent) to Community Services spread across a large number of organisations, while NSW Health, Department of Education and Communities, and NSW Police Force require centralised support due to the high volume of reports they make.

Can a non-government organisation contact a Child Wellbeing Unit to exchange information about a child or family?

Where a non-government organisation (NGO) has concerns about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child and they think one of these agencies is currently providing services to the child or family, the NGO can request information from a Child Wellbeing Unit (CWU) using Chapter 16A provisions. However, it is better to exchange information with workers who you know are directly involved with the child or family in the local area (e.g. community health nurse, school principal) rather than contacting a CWU. This is because information exchange should aim to improve local workers’ understanding of the case circumstances (including shared concerns), as well as to facilitate coordination of services and supports. CWUs will not generally refer families directly to services where no ongoing local case management is in place.

How do non-government organisations contact Child Wellbeing Units?

If a non-government organisation (NGO) has concerns about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child, the NGO can contact the Child Wellbeing Unit (CWU) using Chapter 16A provisions. Requests for information or provision of information should be made in writing, using these forms. The forms can then be emailed to the relevant Child Wellbeing Unit.

Department of Education and Communities: cwu@det.nsw.edu.au
Department of Family and Community Services: cwu@djj.nsw.gov.au
NSW Police Force: childWB@police.nsw.gov.au

NSW Health
Northern CWU: NCWU@hnehealth.nsw.gov.au
Greater Eastern and Southern CWU: GESCWU@sesiahs.health.nsw.gov.au
Western CWU: westernchildwellbeingunit@gwahs.health.nsw.gov.au

Family Referral Services

What are Family Referral Services and who can access them?

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

FRS plays a key role in supporting local services to coordinate service delivery and form networks for improved interagency collaboration. Referrals are made by mandatory reporters, including non-government organisations (NGOs), Child Wellbeing Units (CWUs), and self-referrals. Mandatory reporters from NGOs and smaller government agencies without a CWU will access the FRS network.

When did they commence?

Three Family Referral Services (FRS) pilots have been established in Dubbo, Mt Druitt, and Newcastle. NSW Health is the lead agency on FRS and has awarded tenders to three organisations to pilot the service from 3 May 2010 for a 14-month period.

The three organisations which were awarded the tender to pilot FRS are:

  • UnitingCare Children, Young People, and Families, who will trial an augmented service with an Indigenous focus in Dubbo. 
  • The Benevolent Society, contracted to provide an augmented service in Newcastle.
  • Relationships Australia (NSW), who will trial a telephone referral service in Mt Druitt.

In November 2010, a further two sites were announced: Illawarra and New England North West. Baranardos Australia operates an augmented service in the Illawarra, and Pathfinders operates an augmented servicew ith an Aboriginal focus in New England North West.

Who will monitor referrals and ensure that clients are engaging with services?

NSW Health has developed an evaluation plan which will provide non-identifying information on clients engaging with services.

How can we ensure Family Referral Services are not referring to services that are already at capacity?

Part of the role of the successful non-government organisations who have been contracted to provide these services is to have good links with services to identify capacity to take on referrals. These new services will also highlight where there may be gaps in services, based on what families need, to inform future needs.

What are the contact details for Family Referral Services?

The five Family Referral Services (FRS) pilot sites are operational and contact details are included below:

Dubbo FRS
General public: 1300 339 016
Service providers: (02) 6885 8888
Operates 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday

Mt Druitt FRS
All callers: 1300 403 373
Operates 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday

Newcastle FRS
All callers: 1300 006 480
Operates 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday

Illawarra FRS
All callers: 1800 663 863
Operates 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday

New England North West FRS
All callers: 1800 597 589
Operates 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday

 

Family Case Management

What is Family Case Management?

Family Case Management (FCM) is an integrated case management response to families who frequently come into contact with multiple government agencies and non-government organisations and show little improvements in their situations. FCM focuses on those families with a child or young person at risk of harm, rather than those at significant risk of harm.

The aims of FCM are to strengthen overall family functioning and reduce the risk of harm to children and young people. There is also a focus on improving agency collaboration so that procedural, policy, and system barriers do not prevent front-line staff from effectively helping families.

When did Family Case Management commence?

Family Case Management is being implemented by a staged approach commencing with trials in selected areas. 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 (CALD) communities. FCM will run in eight sites in three regions:

  • 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. Coordinators have commenced in South West Sydney (ADHC) and South East NSW (Housing NSW), while in Western NSW, Mission Australia was selected via competitive tender to host the coordinator role.

The FCM project will be rolled out to other areas once the pilot evaluation (which will be over a period of 12-18 months) has been completed.

Who will identify frequently encountered families? How will they be referred to Family Case Management?

The integrated Family Case Management (FCM) approach involves agencies (Department of Family and Community Services, NSW Health Area Health Services, NSW Police Force, Department of Education and Communities etc.) and non-government organisations working together to identify families, and develop and deliver integrated case plans. All family members will be case managed if required, not just the children. There is also potential for some new services for families using the available brokerage funds. Over time, the Child Wellbeing Units may identify suitable families for referral to FCM.

New services

What services have commenced for children and their families?

New services which commenced for the first time in 2010 included Child Wellbeing Units, which began full operation 24 January 2010; trials of Family Referral Services, which started in May 2010 in three pilot areas (Dubbo, Mt Druitt, and Newcastle); and Family Case Management, which began its trial in April 2010. A large number of additional existing services have also been expanded or enhanced.

More support services are required on the ground, not just referral services, will these services be provided?

Yes. Significant new support services are being funded under Keep Them Safe and will be rolled out from 2010. These include a range of government and non-government services and are detailed in the Services section of the Keep Them Safe website. It is expected that as a result of the Keep Them Safe reforms, service system gaps will be clearly identified over time. For example, Child Wellbeing Units and Family Referral Services will help to identify gaps in services. This is a key part of an extensive service reform and enhancement strategy. It is crucial to remember that this is a five-year plan – the changes are being phased in over time, so we can see what does and doesn't work, and also make sure the new funding addresses needs.

Non-government organisations

What is the role of the non-government sector in Keep Them Safe and how will its role be supported?

The non-government sector has a much expanded role in Keep Them Safe, as part of the new shared responsibility approach to child wellbeing. More than 40 per cent of Keep Them Safe funding will go to non-government organisations (NGOs) as recognition of their increased role in the new system.

How will we support local services and providers to develop local networks?

Family Referral Services will play a key role in supporting local services to coordinate service delivery and form networks for improved interagency collaboration. Also, the new Keep Them Safe Regional Project Managers will play a key role in facilitating local networks and interagency service planning and delivery.

Agencies working together

How does Keep Them Safe make a difference at a regional and local level?

Keep Them Safe Regional Project Managers will play a key role in facilitating local networks and interagency service planning and delivery. Regular regional meetings between key human service agencies and non-government organisations help facilitate collaborative, cross-agency efforts in the delivery of integrated services and will encourage transparent communication.

Supporting Aboriginal children and families

How will Aboriginal families be supported?

The funding package supports Aboriginal children and families through a range of new and expanded programs. For example, the non-government sector is trialling a new decision-making model that works with Aboriginal family and community members, and is providing an extra 180 places under Intensive Aboriginal Family Based Services. The Western Family Referral Services (FRS) pilot was chosen as a pilot location due to the large Aboriginal population in that catchment area. This FRS will have a particular Aboriginal focus and is expected to have an Aboriginal client-base (or capacity to engage Aboriginal clients), policies and procedures in place that support Aboriginal principles for self-determination, and the capacity to refer clients to services responsive to the specific support needs of Aboriginal people. An Aboriginal Assessment Officer will also be employed at each Child Wellbeing Unit.

Have Aboriginal communities been consulted on Keep Them Safe?
Two consultations were held with Aboriginal stakeholders during 2009. These meetings helped inform the Aboriginal policy development in Keep Them Safe initiatives. The Aboriginal community was also consulted on the development of an Aboriginal Impact Statement for all Keep Them Safe actions to measure the impacts of actions, and to promote cultural sensitivity and awareness.
How will we know if Keep Them Safe is improving outcomes for Aboriginal children?

An Aboriginal Impact Statement has been developed that will be used by all government agencies to assess how each action under Keep Them Safe will contribute to improving outcomes for Aboriginal children, young people, and their families. The Evaluation Framework for Keep Them Safe will also ensure outcomes for Aboriginal children and young people are evaluated.

Out-of-home care

What are the changes for out-of-home care?

The legislation strengthens the framework for the provision of out-of-home-care (OOHC) by clarifying the legislative definitions and service classifications of statutory, supported, and voluntary out-of-home (VOOHC) care. The legislation also clarifies the role of the Children’s Court in OOHC.

For VOOHC, the new legislation supports children and families by improving intake, assessment, care planning, and agency coordination, and also supports ongoing parental and child/young person involvement in VOOHC planning. 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.

How will services to children and young people in out-of-home care be improved under Keep Them Safe?

A significant component of Keep Them Safe funding is going to support the expansion of out-of-home care (OOHC) services. Specific improvements include the appointment of OOHC Coordinators in NSW Health and Department of Education and Communities, whose role it is to ensure children and young people in OOHC receive comprehensive multi-disciplinary health and developmental assessments, and individual education plans for children in NSW Government schools.

Children’s Court Changes

What changes are happening in the Children's Court?

The changes to the Children’s Court are about streamlining and simplifying the processes and making them more user-friendly for children, families, and caseworkers. For example, the changes will reduce the amount of time caseworkers will spend on paperwork for court, without reducing the amount of evidence a court requires to make an informed decision about a child’s future. The changes also aim to encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution.

What is alternative dispute resolution and what are the plans?

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a non-judicial process in which an impartial person assists those in a dispute to resolve the issues between them. The NSW Government supported Justice Wood's recommendation that ADR be used prior to, and during, care proceedings in NSW and established an Expert Working Party to consider and report on a preferred ADR model (or models) suitable for introduction in NSW. Following consideration of the report, ADR was launched in June 2010.

ADR includes the implementation of the following initiatives:

  • a Family Group Conferencing Pilot
  • Dispute Resolution Conferences
  • the Legal Aid External Child Protection Pilot
  • the appointment of five additional Children's Registrars across NSW.

More details on ADR are available in this media release.

Training and information

What Keep Them Safe training has been made available?

TAFE ran information sessions from October 2009 to January 2010. Approximately 23,000 mandatory reporters were trained during these sessions. An evaluation of the TAFE information sessions was conducted to determine what further specialised training was required.

TAFE and the Centre for Community Welfare Training delivered a second phase of training during March to June 2010 for the early childhood sector and mandatory reporters in the non-government sector.

Organisations affected by Keep Them Safe are also delivering tailored training to their staff. To assist organisations with training their staff, the TAFE information session is available as an eLearning package on the Keep Them Safe website, or on DVD for small non-government organisations.

Updated information on training will be made available on the Keep Them Safe website and in the Keep Them Safe e-newsletter.