1. Overview of the Procedure

This procedure provides guidance on reporting, recordkeeping and exchanging information relating to concerns about the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child or young person.

All staff, students, volunteers and Board members should be aware of the RISA Child Protection Policy and this procedure, even if they are not deemed mandatory reporters (defined as anybody who delivers healthcare, welfare, education, children’s services, residential services or law enforcement to children as part of their paid or professional work).

2. Considerations

RISA ensures staff and volunteers have adequate skills and knowledge to recognise and respond to child protection concerns through orientation, training and ongoing professional development considerations.

Risks to clients, children and young people are regularly assessed, identified and managed through intake, assessment and case management processes.

Information in this procedure is summarised from the Child Wellbeing and Child Protection – NSW Interagency Guidelines. If further information is required, the guidelines are available at:

http://www.community.nsw.gov.au/kts/guidelines/info_exchange/introduction.htm

3. Procedure Steps

1. Determining the need to make a report to NSW Community Services or other relevant inter-jurisdictional / agency.

In the course of undertaking clinical and client support work in RISA, volunteers may come into contact with situations involving children, young people and families in which there is a concern about the child’s safety, welfare and wellbeing. The grounds for reporting risk of significant harm to NSW Community Services (or relevant inter-jurisdictional agency) pertaining to a child or young person are physical or psychological needs, necessary medical care, not receiving education, physical/sexual abuse or ill-treatment, domestic violence, serious psychological harm, non-compliance with prenatal reports and a series of acts establishing a cumulative risk of harm.

More detail on the grounds for risk of significant harm is provided in Section 8.3 of the Child Protection Policy.

Where a volunteer has reasonable grounds to suspect risk of significant harm, they should first use the NSW Community Services Mandatory Reporter Guide (MRG) to assess whether their concerns meet the threshold of risk of significant harm.

The MRG is a structured decision making tool which assists the reporting process when a mandatory reporter has concerns for the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person in NSW. It contains a number of “decision trees” (with scenarios such as physical abuse, neglect, psychological harm) that ask a series of questions to determine if the significant risk threshold is met. It is available on the Keep Them Safe website as both an online interactive tool and a PDF document. The section of the MRG that relates to parent/caregiver drug and alcohol use is found under ‘Carer concern.’

2. Making a report to NSW Community Services (or relevant inter-jurisdictional agency)

Where use of the MRG advises risk of significant harm, volunteer is required to make a report to the Child Protection Helpline. A report can be made by calling the Child Protection Helpline on 133 627.

In an emergency where there are urgent concerns for a child or young person’s wellbeing, it is important to contact the police using the emergency telephone line ‘000’.

A report to the Child Protection Helpline starts the process of assessing whether statutory child protection is needed.

The detail and quality of the information provided to the Child Protection Helpline by the reporter is critical to the quality of the decision making that follows. It is important to provide all relevant information when making a child protection report (reports must still be made where only a little information is known but there is risk of significant harm). Information required by different jurisdictions may vary but the following is a guide:

Information required for NSW Community Services includes:

Child’s information
– Name of child or young person (or alias) or other means of identifying them
– Age and date of birth (or approximation)
– If child is Indigenous – Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or both
– Cultural background of child, language(s) spoken, religion and other cultural factors
– Name, age of other household children or young people
– Address of child and family
– School or child care details.

Family information
– Name, age of parents/carer and household adults
– Home and/or mobile phone number
– Cultural background of parents, language(s) spoken, religion and other cultural factors
– Information about parental risk factors and how they link to child’s risk of harm e.g. domestic violence, alcohol or other drug misuse, unmanaged mental illness, intellectual or other disability
– Protective factors and family strengths.

Reporter Details
– Name, agency address, phone and email details
– Position
– Reason for reporting today
– Nature of contact with child or family
– Nature of ongoing role with child or family (include frequency, duration and type).

Services involved with child/family if known
– If parent knows of report and their response
– If child or young person knows about the report and their views
– Information related to worker safety issues
– Outcome of Mandatory Reporter Guide.

Actions if a concern doesn’t meet the threshold of significant risk of harm

If the risk is below the threshold, you are not required to report to Community Services. Where a volunteer still has concerns about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child and the concerns do not reach the threshold for reporting to NSW Community Services or a report to the Child Protection Helpline did not commence statutory child protection proceedings, there are a number of options including:

– Determining whether RISA can provide services to assist the family or child or to help them access other support services.
– If another organisation is working with the family or child you can contact them to seek information and to work together to support the family (see below 3.4 relating to information exchange).
– 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.
– It is important that records are kept of any child protection concerns for future reference and case review activities (see below 3.5 on recordkeeping).

4. Information exchange relating to child protection

3.4.1 Informing clients and consent

Consent is not necessary for exchange of information under Chapter 16A or Section 248. Clients, including children, young people, parents and caregivers, should be informed on initial assessment processes that certain information about them may be provided to other organisations and their right to provide feedback or make a complaint if they believe there has been a misuse of information exchange practices under Chapter 16A or Section 248.

Circumstances in which volunteers would not seek to inform the child/young person or their parent/carer about exchanging information include:
– where you believe it is likely to further jeopardise a child or young person’s safety, welfare or wellbeing
– where you believe it  would place you or another person at risk of harm
– where you are unable to contact a parent/carer and the matter is urgent.

3.4.2 Providing and requesting information

RISA may be requested to provide any information it holds relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a particular child, young person or their parent/carer. Additionally, RISA may make a request for information to another organisation. Information can be requested if it will assist the requesting organisation to:
– make a decision, assessment or plan relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person
– initiate or conduct any investigation relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person
– provide any service relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person
– manage any risk to a child or young person that might arise in the recipient’s capacity as an employer or designated agency.

The request for exchanging information must be in writing and it should be clear about its purpose and how the information is expected to assist.

If a request to disclose information is received from another organisation, the Manager/CEO should be consulted before any information is released so that the legitimacy of the request in relation to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child can be properly determined.

RISA is not obliged to provide any information requested if it reasonably believes this would:
– Prejudice the investigation of any contravention (or possible contravention) of a law
– Prejudice a coronial inquest or inquiry
– Prejudice any care proceedings
– Endanger a person’s life or physical safety.

If a decision is made to decline a request for information, RISA will notify the requesting organisation in writing of its refusal and the reasons for refusal, in relation to the exemptions listed above.

Checklists, template letters and forms for requesting and responding to requests for information can be found in the Child Wellbeing and Child Protection – NSW Interagency Guidelines at:

http://www.community.nsw.gov.au/kts/guidelines/info_exchange/introduction.htm.

Recordkeeping

A detailed record of interventions and supports offered to children, young people and families should be kept to be able to:
– Exchange appropriate information with NSW Community Services and other organisations if requested through information exchange mechanisms Section 248 and Chapter 16A.
– Recognise a pattern of acts which may constitute a cumulative risk of significant harm and require reporting to the Child Protection Helpline.
– Keep a record of interventions attempted, determine what has worked and what may need to change.

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