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Accreditation and monitoring e-newsletter – April 2020

COVID-19 pandemic

The World Health Organisation has declared COVID-19 (often referred to as the “novel coronavirus”) a global pandemic.

The challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented and Office of the Children’s Guardian is committed to supporting statutory out-of-home care and adoption service providers respond to this health crisis and ensure the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children and young people, their carers and staff.

During March and April 2020, our office sent three email communications to all Principal Officers regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Information in these communications is summarised below. We will continue to communicate with you and update information on our website as circumstances change.

Working With Children Check

The NSW Government has progressed legislation to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation allows the Children’s Guardian to extend Working With Children Check clearances, where appropriate, to help organisations continue to deliver critical services to children and young people.

For more detailed information about the extension of Working With Children Check clearances, the provisional authorisation of staff to provide temporary foster care to children and young people and other casework matters affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, please view the most recent updates on our website:

Department of Communities and Justice and NSW Council of Social Services

The NSW Department of Communities and Justice and the NSW Council of Social Services provide important information, regular video updates and a dedicated email address where you can send your specific questions:

COVID-19 (coronavirus) response – service providers

Resources for carers, staff and parents

Many new and existing online resources for carers and families have been shared since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. Some of these include:

Accreditation and monitoring assessments during the pandemic

As part of infection control measures during the pandemic, the Accreditation and Monitoring team has ceased our usual visits to agencies for meetings and assessments of direct evidence. We will be in contact with all agencies in the near future regarding capacity for remote access to client database systems for the review of records and other direct evidence, via desk-based assessment.

In the meantime, if your agency is unable to meet its conditions of accreditation or is unable to comply immediately with Carers Register or other reporting requirements, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss your agency’s circumstances.

Carer support service

The My Forever Family NSW Carer Support Service is open via phone 1300 782 975 and email at enquiries@myforeverfamily.org.au 

While face to face training will be postponed, My Forever Family NSW deliver online training and webinars. They are also exploring options to move the existing face-to-face training to an online platform and other opportunities for carers to connect and share experiences. Online learning resources and e-books, including children’s e-books, are also available to assist carers www.myforeverfamily.org.au

Children’s Guardian Act 2019

The Children’s Guardian Act 2019 commenced 1 March 2020, bringing together existing legislation under one Act, and expanding and strengthening the NSW Reportable Conduct Scheme.

Powers and functions of the Children's Guardian from the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 and the Adoption Act 2000 have been consolidated into the Children’s Guardian Act 2019.

The information sheet here (PDF) relates to changes that impact voluntary and statutory out-of-home care agencies. From 1 March 2020, key changes include:

  • reportable conduct issues are reported to the Reportable Conduct Scheme at the Office of the Children’s Guardian
  • statutory out-of-home care designated agencies need to report the same conduct once only
  • statutory out-of-home care designated agencies are no longer required to notify the Office of the Children’s Guardian’s Accreditation and Monitoring team of allegations of sexual misconduct or serious physical assault against a child or young person in statutory out-of-home care. These allegations must be reported to the Reportable Conduct team
  • contractors and sub-contractors who require a Working With Children Check to work with a designated agency are now within the remit of the Reportable Conduct Scheme
  • any reportable allegation must be reported even if the alleged conduct occurred outside the work context
  • changes to notification timeframes:
    • the designated agency’s head of the entity must advise the Office of the Children’s Guardian’s Reportable Conduct team within seven business days of becoming aware of a reportable allegation
    • after 30 days, the designated agency’s head of entity must provide an update to the Office of the Children’s Guardian’s Reportable Conduct team, this can be an interim report or the final report, if completed.

If you have any questions about changes to the Reportable Conduct Scheme, please contact us on (02) 8219 3800 or reportableconduct@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au 

More information about changes to the Reportable Conduct Scheme including fact sheets and FAQs are available at www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au/reportableconduct

Notifications reminder

Under Clause 65 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2012, all designated and adoption agencies are issued a Notice of Conditions of Accreditation at the time of accreditation. These conditions are revised from time to time and copies are attached to each agency’s record listed on our listing of Designated Agencies. Notice of Conditions of Accreditation include requirements for agencies to notify the Children’s Guardian in relation to:

  • placements of children and young people in non-home based emergency care and the emergency authorisation of staff and contractors
  • placements of children under 12 years of age in residential care

In addition to Conditions of Accreditation, agencies are also required to notify the Children’s Guardian in relation to:

  • changes to the Principal Officer or agency contact details
  • the death of a child in statutory out-of-home care

In the coming months, the Accreditation & Monitoring team will be in contact with all agencies regarding the launch of a new portal through which your agency will be able to lodge these notifications and update agency details. In the meantime, all notification forms are available from our website notification page.

Residential Care Workers Register

The Children’s Guardian Act 2019 provides the Children’s Guardian the power to establish a register for recording residential care workers.

The purpose of the register is to prioritise the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children and young people in residential out-of-home care by providing a mechanism through which agencies can exchange information about individuals seeking to work in residential care. This information will support agencies to decide about the suitability of an individual to provide residential out-of-home care to children and young people and will operate to prevent unsuitable workers moving between agencies.

A Working Group with representatives from the sector and other key stakeholders has been working closely to support the development of the register. The Office of the Children’s Guardian will continue to consult and collaborate with stakeholders on the development of the register, however the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means that some of this work has now slowed.

The regulation to accompany the new legislation, is currently being drafted and will be reflective of the consultation that has occurred with the Working Group to date. Formal consultation on the draft regulation will occur, but only after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic allows for this to be a meaningful process. When this does occur, it will be open to all designated agencies for comment. The regulation will detail information around who and what is to be captured on the register and requirements for the sector more broadly.

The Office of the Children’s Guardian will develop guidance material as progress is made, to communicate the more detailed requirements of the register and expectations of agencies. As the introduction of the register approaches, training and operational guidance material will be available to support agencies to fulfil their roles.

Whilst it had previously been hoped that the register would commence around July 2020, this will now be delayed, to allow the sector the time to concentrate on core work with children and young people during the current pandemic. Further advice will be provided as soon as it is possible for this planning to recommence.

In the meantime, any questions or concerns can be raised with the Registration Systems Team at residential-register@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au

Carers Register policy review

Part of Carers Register Compliance is having policies and procedures that underpin and guide agency practice.

The Office of the Children’s Guardian’s Registrations Systems Team would like to invite agencies not due for accreditation renewal in 2020 to participate in a Carers Register policy review. Agencies will be required to self-assess by completing a diagnostic tool and submit their policies for assessment.

The Registrations Systems Team will assess the policies, indicating where improvements should be made, or where agencies are meeting the requirements. This provides an opportunity to check your agency’s compliance ahead of accreditation renewal.

If you would like to participate, please discuss with your agency’s Carers Register Primary Administrator in the first instance and have them email an expression of interest to carers-register@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au using the email subject 'Carers Register Policy Review EOI'.

If you would like further information, please call Janet Burke, Senior Project Officer on 8210 3628, or email carers-register@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au 

Please note: Agencies due for accreditation renewal in 2020 will already be required to submit their Carers Register policies, which will be assessed as part of the accreditation renewal process.