Keep Them Safe Response
This resource page is being developed to assist organisations in our sector keep informed of what is happening generally about the various responses to the Keep Them Safe Report and to understand what implications there may be for them. The NSW Government''s five-year action plan and $750 million whole-of-government investment is designed to bring significant changes in the NSW child protection system.
Key Elements of the Response
According to the Government's Keep Them Safe Website, the key elements of the Government''s reform package are:
- Increasing the threshold for reporting children and young people to the Child Protection Helpline from "risk of harm" to "risk of significant harm".
- Establishing Child Wellbeing Units in the major government reporting agencies.
- Establishing a network of Family Referral Services.
- Enhanced service provision focusing on early intervention and prevention, including comprehensive universal, secondary and tertiary services.
- Increasing the role of non-government organisations in delivering services.
- Changes to out-of-home care.
- Changes to processes in the Children''s Court.
- Providing better services to Aboriginal children and young people, with the aim of reducing their over-representation in the child protection system.
The proclamation of the Children Legislation Amendment (Wood Inquiry Recommendations) Act 2009 took place on 24 January 2010. From this day, only reports of concerns that a child or young person is at "risk of significant harm" should be directed to the Community Services Child Protection Hotline on 132 111 or 133 627.
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.
Implications for Non Government Sector agencies
Agencies that deal with children will need to refer to the new guidelines for reporting and work out ways to deal with those situations which fall below the reporting threshold. These agencies also need to be prepared to deal with referrals from CWUs and Family Referral Services.
Agencies that deal mainly or exclusively with adults will need to ask the questions - "Does this person have children or are they responsible for any children?" and "Is there any risk to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of the child or children?". These agencies will need to work out ways of dealing with the situation if the answer is yes. As referrals to NGO agencies for children at risk increase, it is expected that managing the risk will involve the provision of services to the adult/s who is/are responsible for the child or children. This will mean a greater involvement by a wider range of agencies who are not usually providers of services to children.
For NGOs, the changes to the legislation now encourage the free exchange of information between government agencies and non-government organisations involved in the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children and young people. This information exchange will be critical in managing the complex needs of all involved to reduce any risk to the child or children.
Capacity building and workforce development
As the Keep Them Safe website acknowledges expanding the role of non-government organisations (NGOs) in providing services to children and families is a critical component of Keep Them Safe. Of the $750 million funding package to implement Keep Them Safe over five years, over 40 per cent will go to NGOs, to support an expanded role in delivering early intervention and prevention services as well as out-of-home care.
At this early stage of the response there has been no allocation of any funding to NGOs to handle any increased work due to changes in the referral process.
The Department of Human Services and the Department of Premier and Cabinet have contracted KPMG 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 Governments commitments under Keep them Safe (KTS). 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:
- Developing partnerships between NGOs and government to support collaboration and planning.
- Aligning practice and services to outcomes.
- Reducing administrative burden to promote sector effectiveness and efficiency.
- Measuring outcomes and performance.
- Strengthening governance, management and leadership capacity.
- 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:
- A short online questionnaire.
- Opportunity for direct email response to the discussion paper, which will be posted on the KTS website.
- 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.
To assist NGO's with the reforms, a number of support initiatives have been implemented. A Keep Them Safe Support Line has been established for NGO's to access and will be operational from Monday 25 January 2010. The Support Line will operate Monday to Friday from 8.00am to 5.00pm, phone 1800 772 479.
An Interactive Mandatory Reporters Guide has been produced to assist organisations in their decision making under the new mandatory reporting threshold Guide to making a child protection report
Stay up to date
An important new component of KTS, the Family Referral Services (FRS), will be run by non-government organisations. 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.
On 16 March 2010, NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Health, Carmel Tebbutt, and the NSW Minister for Community Services, Linda Burney, announced the three organisations that were awarded the successful tenders to pilot Family Referral Services (FRS) in the Dubbo, Newcastle and Mt Druitt locations.
UnitingCare Children, Young People, and Families will pilot an augmented FRS with an Indigenous focus in Dubbo, a telephone service will be piloted by Relationships Australia (NSW) in Mount Druitt, and Newcastle will be serviced by an augmented service piloted by The Benevolent Society.
The catchment area of the UnitingCare FRS will include Wellington, Walgett, Narromine, Coonamble, Parkes, Bogan, Gilgandra, Warrumbungles, Brewarrina, Bourke, Cowra, Forbes, Condobolin, Warren, Orange, Cobar, Mudgee, Blayney. An augmented service will be provided from a Drop-in Centre in Dubbo and supplemented by home visiting and an outreach bus (the FRS Get Connected Bus) servicing remote and rural areas.
The Benevolent Society augmented FRS will service the Central Coast, Lake Macquarie, Lower and Upper Hunter areas, extending to Muswellbrook in the West, Newcastle to the East, Gosford in the South and including the localities of Cessnock, Dungog, Gloucester, Maitland, Port Stephens, Singleton and Wyong, with a telephone service based in Rutherford.
Relationships Australia (NSW) telephone FRS in Mount Druitt will service Whalan, Tregear, Lethbridge Park, Emerton, Blackett, Dharruk, Hebersham, Bidwill, Blackett, Shalvey, Willmot, Hassall Grove, Minchinbury, Oakhurst, Plumpton Glendenning and Rooty Hill (and includes suburbs bounded by the M4 motorway to the south, Ropes Creek to the West, Richmond Road to the North and Eastern Creek to the East).
The outcomes of the pilots will inform the NSW Government decision on the statewide roll-out of this new service over the next four years. NSW Health has also engaged an external consultant to undertake an independent evaluation of the pilots and formulate recommendations for the most effective service model.
The Response of Government Agencies
Child Wellbeing Units have been established within 4 key government agencies - Health, Education, Police and Human Services (Human Services is the mega agency covering Housing, Community Services (DoCS), Ageing Disability and Home Care (DADHC) and Juvenile Justice).
The purpose of each CWU is to assist the staff of each agency to decide if a situation needs to be reported under the new guidelines or, if not, to manage the agency''s response. This response could be to refer the matter to a non government agency that provides appropriate services. The response could also be to better coordinate services within the agency concerned or to liaise with other CWUs if the child might be known to that other agency.
One of the key legislative changes that will directly impact upon the practices and legal obligations of service providers working with children and young people includes the fact that the principle of the safety, welfare and wellbeing of the child is paramount and will override other principles such as privacy. This will allow greater information sharing between government agencies and other government agencies and also with non government agencies involved in the provision of health care, welfare, education, children's services, or residential services, wholly or partly to children.
- Human Services - Community Services Keep Them Safe webpage
- Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW
- NSW Government's Action Plan - Keep Them Safe: A shared approach to child wellbeing
- Children Legislation Amendment (Wood Inquiry Recommendations) Act 2009 No 13
What MHCC is doing
MHCC is working as part of the Keep Them Safe NGO Peaks working group. This working group is monitoring the roll out of the Government response to KTS and has established a "Keep Them Safe: Keeping Accountable" campaign.