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Accreditation and monitoring e-newsletter - November 2019

New legislation, Children’s Guardian Act and transfer of Reportable Conduct scheme

The Children’s Guardian Bill 2019 has been passed in NSW Parliament and the Act will commence on 1 March 2020. It builds on the NSW Government’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The 1 March 2020 commencement date gives the Office of the Children's Guardian time to provide communications to the sector and allows time for organisations to make any changes to be compliant with the new Act.

Main changes contained in the Bill

More detailed information about the changes will be shared soon. In the meantime, you can read more information in our latest news story.

The new Children’s Guardian Act 2019 will consolidate the powers and functions of the Children’s Guardian into one Act (this includes the Children’s Guardian’s powers in relation to out-of-home care, adoption, children’s employment, reportable conduct, and child-related Official Community Visitors).

It will transfer the following functions from the NSW Ombudsman to the Children’s Guardian:

  • Oversight of child-related Official Community Visitors scheme - this scheme enables independent appointees to visit and report on out-of-home care services for children and young people in residential care placements
  • The reportable conduct scheme - the scheme to report, monitor and investigate allegations of reportable conduct (including sexual misconduct, ill-treatment, and neglect) towards children in certain government and non-government organisations

The Bill strengthens the independence of the Office of the Children’s Guardian and for statutory out-of-home care providers, it should reduce duplication of reporting.

Impact of these changes

The Office of the Children’s Guardian is working closely with the Ombudsman’s office to progress the transfer of the scheme’s important functions. There are plans underway to make the transfer of the Reportable Conduct Scheme a smooth transition for designated agencies, who currently report to both the Office of the Children’s Guardian and the Ombudsman’s office.

We will advise stakeholders about important operational details regarding the new legislation and Reportable Conduct Scheme transfer as soon as possible. Further information will also be available on our website www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au

Residential Care Workers Register

As mentioned above, the Children’s Guardian Act includes legislation to allow the Office of the Children’s Guardian to develop a register of workers providing care to children and young people in residential care and in non-home based emergency care arrangements.

The register is in line with recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and follows concerns raised by agencies about movement by unsuitable staff between agencies.

Over the past 18 months, the Office of the Children’s Guardian has conducted extensive consultation and established a working group with representatives from the sector to support the development and design of the register.

The key objective of the register is to provide a mechanism for agencies to exchange information relevant to the protection of children and young people. The register will support agencies to decide on the suitability of an individual to provide care to children and young people in residential care and in non-home based emergency care arrangements.

Designated agencies will be required to enter information about an individual they are considering engaging to work in residential care or non-home-based emergency care including:

  • basic identification information such as name and WWCC
  • the outcomes of probity checks undertaken for that individual

The register will create a link between individual workers who are engaged by an agency and other agencies that are currently or have previously engaged that same individual. This will allow the exchange of relevant information between agencies about applicant and engaged residential care workers.

Training and guidance material is being prepared to support agencies in the lead up to the commencement of the register.

Timeframes

The Office of the Children’s Guardian will provide more detailed information about the register as well as relevant timeframes to all designated agencies in the near future. The commencement date for the register is yet to be set, however the earliest that this will occur is July 2020.

Any comments or enquiries about any aspect of the Residential Care Workers Register can be forwarded to the team at Residential-Register@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au 

Non-home-based emergency care update

Reminder to notify the Office of the Children’s Guardian when your agency places a child or young person in non-home-based emergency care. 

Conditions of accreditation

One of the Conditions of Accreditation requires that designated agencies comply with the guidelines for the emergency authorisation of staff and contractors, issued by the Children’s Guardian. The guidelines detail processes for making notifications of placements in non-home based emergency care arrangements and authorising individuals as emergency carers.

The guidelines are available on the Office of the Children’s Guardian’s website. (PDF 418.1KB)

The Office of the Children’s Guardian appreciates the vital role of designated agencies in the endeavour to improve the experience of children and young people in statutory out-of-home care, in particular, those who may be placed in non-home-based emergency care.

All designated agencies are required to notify the Office of the Children’s Guardian:

  • when a child or young person in statutory out-of-home care is placed in a care arrangement that is not foster care nor residential care
  • to provide the plan to transition the child or young person from a placement in non-home-based emergency care to a more suitable home-based placement
  • when the non-home-based emergency care placement ends.

This information is used to identify and better manage issues within the statutory out-of-home care system that drive the use of emergency care arrangements. 

While placements in non-home-based emergency are sometimes necessary, it is never ideal. The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA) is working closely with non-government statutory out-of-home care providers, the Department of Communities and Justice (formerly FACS) and the Office of the Children’s Guardian to reduce the number of children and young people in these arrangements. 

Please visit the Children’s Guardian’s website at: www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au/statutory-out-of-home-care-and-adoption for more information about the Guidelines for the emergency authorisation of staff and contractors and how to make a notification. 

We recently sent by email to all Principal Officers the revised the guidelines and notification forms regarding non-home-based emergency placements the emergency authorisation of staff or contractors from external agencies. These changes were in response to concerns about the suitability of these arrangements and that some designated agencies are not reporting these placements to our office in accordance with agencies’ Conditions of Accreditation. 

The guidelines now require designated agencies to provide notification to our office within 7 days of a placement in non-home-based emergency care ceasing. 

You will note that the notification forms capture additional details that will inform the discussion about a service system that can meet the needs of children and young people in these placements. 

Information sharing

Principal Officers and program managers are encouraged to circulate the guidelines to staff in your agency’s out-of-home care program who may be involved in making placements in non-home based emergency care.

Policies and procedures

To ensure that all new and existing staff are aware of these requirements, please reference the guidelines in your agency’s policies and procedures relating to emergency placements and the recruitment and authorisation of safe and suitable people to care for children and young people (Standards 13 and 18). 

More information about authorising any individual as an emergency carer are set out in clause 31B of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2012. 

If you require further information, please contact the Accreditation and Monitoring team, on 8219 3796 or by email oohcnotifications@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au  

Accreditation and Monitoring survey results

Results from our survey to inform our review of how we assess agencies seeking to renew accreditation 

Thank you to everyone who gave their time to complete the survey we circulated earlier this year. We have used results from the survey to confirm that our current framework and systems support the rights of children and young people and that they will receive quality services wherever they are placed. We will also use the results to review and improve our accreditation renewal processes.

We received 108 responses from designated agencies, adoption service providers, peak organisations and related government departments including the Department of Communities and Justice and staff at the Office of the Children’s Guardian.

Some interesting findings were:

  • 80% found the accreditation renewal process useful in improving practices
  • While the written report was useful, verbal feedback and the process itself were valued as a reflection tool
  • Whether or not a self-assessment tool should be part of the renewal process had mixed responses, mainly as organisations did not want increased administrative burden – although responses acknowledged that self-assessment is useful in encouraging self-reflection that supports continuous improvement.

Many organisations provided comments which were very helpful and the suggestions are now being considered as part of the review.

CREATE consultation with children, young people and young adults 

During 2019 the Office of the Children’s Guardian has been working to engage with children and young people who have been or are currently in statutory out-of-home care in NSW. Part of this process has included engaging CREATE to undertake a consultation on behalf of our office. 

The consultation will focus on what young adults, young people and children think needs to happen for children and young people to feel cared for in a positive and safe environment. The consultation also seeks information from young people about how they would like, or would have liked, to be more involved in decisions that affect their lives.

The Office of the Children’s Guardian is planning to use the findings of the consultation and other discussions to inform the review of the NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care in 2020.

We recently sent to Principal Officers of all designated agencies two flyers from CREATE inviting children, young people and young adults to contact them if they are interested in participating. We would very much appreciate assistance from designated agencies, through your staff and carers, to discuss this project with children and young people placed with your agency and encouraging their participation. If your agency is in contact with young adults previously in the care of your agency, we would appreciate it if you would also encourage their participation. 

Thank you in advance for supporting CREATE in this important undertaking.

Introduction of Child Safe Standards in NSW

The Office the Children’s Guardian has released the report, 'Making organisations safer for children', following extensive consultation on options for regulating child safe standards in NSW. The report details what the new child safe scheme could look like. It provides information about what we heard during our consultations with more than 50 stakeholders and incorporates feedback from almost 60 written submissions and more than 160 survey responses. 

The proposed regulatory approach reflects an overwhelming call from stakeholders of the wider child-related sectors in NSW for support and guidance to build organisational capability to become child safe, while also incorporating the need for the regulator to have the necessary powers to facilitate implementation.

For the statutory out-of-home care and adoption sector, it is expected that existing regulation and NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care will dovetail with the new child safe standards for the wider child-related sectors. 

The Office of the Children’s Guardian is continuing to work on how these new standards will be implemented. Read more on our consultation, including the full report.