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Accreditation and monitoring e-newsletter – December 2018

Welcome to the Office of the Children’s Guardian’s (OCG) Accreditation and Monitoring team e-newsletter, edition seven. This newsletter provides information on the OCG’s Accreditation and Monitoring team as well as current sector trends, activities of the team and an update on current legislative and compliance requirements.

To ask a question or make any suggestions please email us at accreditation@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au.

New: Residential Workers Register

Since our last newsletter, there has been a lot of progress around the proposed register of workers providing direct care to children and young people in residential care settings.  As previously advised, this proposal is in response to concerns raised by residential care providers in NSW regarding the ease of movement between agencies of unsuitable staff, particularly casual staff engaged by more than one agency. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse also made a recommendation that a register of residential care workers be established as a means of improving the safety of children and young people in contemporary out-of-home care.

In commencing this work, all designated agencies were invited to join a Working Group to consult together about the proposed register. In September 2018, the first Working Group meeting was a great success, with representatives from 16 designated agencies and from the NSW Ombudsman’s Office and the Australian Workers Union. Initial register design ideas were presented and there was robust discussion around the requirements needed to continue to support the sector perform their role in out-of-home care.  Further consultation will continue with the Working Group as the register continues to be developed.

Prior to introducing the new register, an amendment to the current legislation will be required to give the Children’s Guardian the power to establish this new residential workers register.  It is envisaged that the legislation will be passed in the second quarter of 2019.  In the meantime, consultation and planning will continue so that the design and function of the register can be progressed.

Further advice will be communicated with the entire OOHC sector once the legislation has been passed to ensure all parties are kept up to date of any actions required in preparing for the introduction of the residential workers register.

If you have any questions, these can be directed to residential-register@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au.

NSW Government Responds to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The OCG will receive an additional $5.9 million to support organisations to be child safe as part of the NSW Government’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The Children’s Guardian, Janet Schorer, said the funding is an opportunity to enhance the important role of the OCG through significant expansion of the OCG’s child safe programs.

With the new funding, the OCG will:

  • help to improve the safety of children in out-of-home care through the development of a register for residential care workers
  • undertake community consultation in early 2019 on introducing child safe standards for organisations that provide services to children
  • train an additional 72,000 people through the child safe organisations program
  • develop new resource to assist parents to make decisions about which organisations are child safe.

The OCG will continue to work with organisations and peak bodies across NSW to implement these initiatives.

Changes to permanency planning in the legislation

On 22 November 2018, the NSW Parliament passed amendments to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act to further strengthen the role of permanency planning as part of casework for children and young people in out-of-home care. Some of the changes include: 

  • Where the Children's Court approves a permanency plan involving restoration, guardianship or adoption, the maximum period the court can make an order allocating all aspects of parental responsibility to the Minister will be 24 months (except in special circumstances) (section 79)
  • When preparing a permanency plan, FACS and the Children’s Court must now consider whether restoration is realistic “within a reasonable period” not exceeding 24 months (section 83)
  • The Children’s Court will have increased oversight of permanency planning and will be able to relist a matter and conduct a review of progress in implementing the care plan for a child or young person if it is not satisfied with a report on suitability of arrangements concerning parental responsibility (section 82)
  • Changes to the Adoption Act allowing the Supreme Court to remove the requirement for a person (such as a parent) to consent to an adoption if the application has been made by the child’s guardian/s. The Supreme Court will only be able do this if the child has established a stable relationship with the guardian and the adoption of the child by the guardian will promote the child's welfare. The Court must also be satisfied that it is in the best interests of the child. This provision already exists for applications made by a child’s authorised carer/s. 

Implications for the NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care

To demonstrate compliance with the standards, it is important that out-of-home care agencies are aware of and comply with the current child protection legislation.

Achieving stability through a focus on permanency planning is already at the heart of the NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care. The changes to the child protection legislation reinforce the importance of the standards, particularly those relating to ‘casework practice to support care’.

Importantly, the permanent placement principles and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander placement principles have not been changed. Family preservation and restoration continue to be the first preference for achieving permanency for a child or young person.

You can find more information about the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment Bill 2018 on the NSW Parliament website.

Reminder: Notifications to the Office of the Children’s Guardian

A designated agency is required to notify the Children’s Guardian about a range of changes for a child or young person within the care of their organisation, including;

  • Non-home based emergency care for a child or young person in statutory out-of-home care;
  • Adoption agency and principal officer updates;
  • Designated agency and principal officer updates;
  • Allegations of sexual misconduct or serious physical assault against a child or young person;
  • Death of a child or young person in statutory out-of-home care;
  • Beginning of a placement of a child under 12 years of age in residential care; and
  • End of placement of a child under 12 years in residential care.

Notification forms can be found on the OCG website. Completed forms are to be sent to oohcnotifications@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au.

Christmas decorationChristmas closedown

The OCG will be closed from 24 December 2018 to 4 January 2019. We wish you a very merry Christmas and a joyful New Year.

 Christmas treeOCG and partners Christmas cheer

This year, the OCG has partnered with the NSW Ombudsman’s Office, Crown Solicitors Office, the Department of Premier and Cabinet, the Department of Education, the NSW Children’s Court and NSW TAFE to provide Christmas presents to 728 children and young people in care.