News from the Accreditation and Monitoring team, December 2021
2021 SNAICC Conference
Our Children Matter: Innovative approaches to new world challenges
This year the Office of the Children’s Guardian had the opportunity to attend and present at the 2021 SNAICC Conference, 6–9 December 2021. This year, for the first time the conference was held virtually and the theme of the conference was Our Children Matter: Innovative approaches to new world challenges. This theme was chosen in the context of two years of political and social landscape-shifting change in our sector.
Amy Kennedy, from our Accreditation and Monitoring team and Vanessa Myers and Nick Wilkinson from our Policy team were delighted to reflect upon the Office of the Children’s Guardian’s journey through new world challenges, presenting a paper to share our progress with the sector.
The paper, ‘Genuine Partnerships in a Regulatory Environment’ acknowledges that our service delivery and decision-making can influence the achievement or otherwise of broader public policy goals. To achieve these goals, the Office of the Children’s Guardian has commenced a significant amount of work to improve our internal practices and cultural competence. This includes the development of our Reconciliation Action Plan, mandatory cultural competency training and a First Nations Cadet program.
The paper notes the review by our office of our internal and external practices as part of a process to indigenise a predominately white organisation. The Office of the Children’s Guardian aims to improve our staff understanding of the ongoing impacts of colonisation, dispossession and systemic racism, and in doing so, challenge Eurocentric approaches to the regulation of First Nations people and organisations. It is anticipated that improved internal practices will flow through to our external work with First Nations people and organisations. The paper will be available on our website next year.
In addition to the opportunity to present at the conference, Amy, Vanessa and Nick also had the chance to hear a variety of representatives from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations across the country share stories of innovative practice that has maintained First Nations children’s connection to family, community, culture and Country during extraordinary times.
Review of accreditation and monitoring functions: Consultation
In November 2021 the Office of the Children’s Guardian commenced a review of the Children’s Guardian’s accreditation and monitoring framework for statutory out-of-home care and adoption service providers. Thank you to representatives from designated agencies who made time to attend the webinar on the review.
The accreditation and monitoring framework is currently set out in the Children’s Guardian Act 2019, the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2012, the Adoption Regulation 2015 and the NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care. The focus of this consultation process will be on the functions and powers of the Children’s Guardian that are exercised under these regulations.
Below is a link to view the video of the webinar presentation to the sector. The video sets out the key proposals in the consultation paper and runs for about 20 minutes. Webinar about the review of the accreditation and monitoring framework
We have received some questions from agencies regarding the timing for the commencement of the proposed monitoring to renewal framework. The framework is not dependent on the legislative changes that will commence in September 2022 and we will not move to the new model until the sector has had an opportunity to provide feedback and any changes made to the model based on that feedback.
We will provide further information to the sector about the proposed start date for the new monitoring model and will speak with agencies individually about when monitoring will commence depending on where the agency is in its accreditation cycle.
The consultation paper is available on our website.
‘Reside on a property’ Consultation
On 14 December 2021 we emailed foster care providers a consultation paper about ‘reside on a property’ where foster care is provided. The Office of the Children’s Guardian is currently assessing whether legislative amendment is required to clarify the scope of section 5A of the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 (WWC Act). Section 5A sets out the meaning of ‘reside on a property’ for the purposes of the WWC Act.
After a number of concerns raised by the sector regarding the impact of the current definition of ‘reside on a property', our office is considering whether the meaning of ‘reside on a property’ in section 5A could be qualified by the person having ‘direct contact’ with children and young people. This would address concerns that some agencies have raised where an adult who resides on the same property as an authorised carer, prospective adoptive parent or prospective guardian, but who has no direct contact with children are still required to have a WWCC clearance or current application for a clearance.
We are seeking the sector’s views on introducing a second limb into section 5A of the WWC Act to clarify that a person resides on a property if:
- the person resides (which includes sleep on a regular or frequent basis) anywhere on the property (whether or not in a building, caravan, structure, vehicle or other thing); AND
- the person is reasonably likely to have direct contact with a child who resides on the property (where the child/ren is in the care of an authorised carer, prospective adoptive applicant or prospective guardian).
‘Direct contact’ means face-to-face or physical contact.
The purpose of this proposed amendment is to ensure that people who are unlikely to pose a risk to children and young people are not brought into the Working with Children Check scheme unnecessarily. These proposed amendments are directly relevant to agencies that provide foster care, relative/kinship care, adoption and guardianship arrangements.
The Office of the Children’s Guardian is seeking a brief comment from designated agencies regarding the proposal by email to email@example.com
Agencies may indicate whether or not they agree with the proposal and any concerns the agency may have.
We are aware that there are a number of consultations out at the moment, however in order to progress these proposals - if supported by the sector - a proposal to Government must be prepared in January 2022.
Comments and feedback are welcome by 24 January 2022.
Voluntary out-of-home care in NSW: Consultation
The Office of the Children’s Guardian registers and monitors organisations that provide voluntary out-of-home care. We are seeking feedback on a proposal to regulate voluntary out-of-home care under the new Child Safe Scheme.
In November 2021, the Children’s Guardian Amendment (Child Safe Scheme) Act 2021 passed NSW Parliament. This legislation amends the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 to embed the child safe standards as the primary framework that guides child safe practice in organisations in NSW. It requires certain child-related organisations to implement child safe standards, including voluntary out-of-home care agencies.
The establishment of the Child Safe Scheme is an opportunity to improve the regulatory framework for these agencies. The consultation paper and an online survey is available on our website.
This content is also available on the NSW Government Have Your Say site: Child safe & voluntary out-of-home care.
There is also a webinar which provides some information about the proposals and runs for about 30 minutes. You can view the webinar here.
Comments and feedback are welcome by 21 January 2022.
Residential Care Workers Register update
An update about the commencement of the Residential Care Workers Register was sent to Principal Officers on 20 December 2021.
Questions about the register can be directed to the Registration Systems Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
COVID-19 and vaccinations: DCJ advice to carers
In September 2021, the Secretary of the NSW Department of Communities and Justice shared with the sector information and advice for carers about COVID-19 vaccinations for children and young people in care. This information is also available here on the DCJ website and will be updated as circumstances change.
Permanency Support Program resources
The NSW Department of Communities and Justice permanency support program website pages include a range of information about the program description, policies, guidance, legislation and resources.
Information on these pages includes:
- Aboriginal case management policy, policy statement, rules and practice guidance, resources and training.
- Intensive Therapeutic Care supports children and young people with identified high and complex needs who are either unable to be supported in foster care or require specialised and intensive supports to maintain stable care arrangements.
- Interim Care Model is a short term placement (up to three months) for children in out-of-home care with low and medium needs currently placed in alternative care arrangements or at risk of imminent entry into an alternative care arrangement because a suitable kinship or relative, foster care placement or other permanency option is not available.]
Official Community Visitors Scheme
The child-related function of the Official Community Visitors Scheme transferred to the Office of the Children’s Guardian’s legislation with the implementation of the Children’s Guardian Act 2019.
Official Community Visitors are independent statutory appointees of the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services. The Official Visitors Scheme covers both child and non-child related functions and so has stayed as one unit and transferred to the Ageing and Disability Commission. The Office of the Children’s Guardian and the Ageing and Disability Commission developed an agreement under section 146 of the Children’s Guardian Act 2019, that enables the Ageing and Disability Commission to oversee and support the Official Community Visitors Scheme on a day-to-day basis.
Official Community Visitors visit accommodation services for children and young people in residential out-of-home care, people with disability living in supported accommodation and people living in assisted boarding houses, throughout NSW.
The Official Community Visitors Scheme Annual Report includes information on its child-related functions, as allowed under the Children’s Guardian Act 2019. It is available on the Ageing and Disability Commission website.