News from the Accreditation and Monitoring team, July 2021.
COVID-19 Assessments continue electronically
Thank you for continuing to work with us during these difficult times and being flexible with changing accreditation assessment dates, locations and the format of evidence where necessary. Due to current and changing restrictions, onsite visits have been cancelled and assessments are completed remotely. We now need to access agency records electronically.
Thanks to those agencies that have met our requires for COVID-19 safety plans where assessors have visited agencies onsite.
If your agency has any questions or concerns please contact the Accreditation and Monitoring team by email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (02) 8219 3796. As we are working remotely, if you call our office please leave a message and we will return your call as soon as possible.
Secure file transfer - Kiteworks user guide for agencies
Kiteworks is a secure file transfer tool that enables an organisation to send and receive sensitive information. The Accreditation and Monitoring Team is committed to information security and is now using the Kiteworks platform to share information.
As part of the assessment process and particularly during remote assessments, the Accreditation and Monitoring Team may request information about your agency’s programs and placements, including sensitive information that should be shared securely using Kiteworks. A user guide (PDF) is available to support your agency sending and receiving, accessing and downloading files.
Before your agency can send files to us using Kiteworks, a member of the Accreditation and Monitoring Team must first send you a request. If your agency has any issues using Kiteworks, please contact the Accreditation and Monitoring team by email email@example.com
COVID-19 Working with Children Checks extended for three months
The Children’s Guardian has extended all Working with Children Check clearances due to expire between 19 July 2021 and 26 September 2021 for three months. The three-month period applies from the date of the person’s current expiry date. People who are granted an extension will be advised by email and the system will be automatically updated. Employers should update their records to indicate the change in their employee’s expiry date. More information about this extension.
COVID-19 changes to Working with Children Check proof of identity requirements for authorised carers and adult household members
New authorised carers who are self-isolating or minimising travel and contact with others may be unable to attend a Service NSW centre to provide proof of identity, as part of the NSW Working With Children Check application process. In response, the NSW Government has introduced temporary changes to the Child Protection (Working With Children) Regulation 2013 to make it easier and safer for authorised carers (foster, or relative or kin carers) and their adult household members to provide proof of their identity. The change to the Regulation is in place for a limited period and will end on 22 October 2021. More information about proof of identity for authorised carers and adult household members is here.
COVID-19 Working with Children Check delays
In June 2021, the Accreditation and Monitoring team wrote to all Principal Officers regarding delays in processing Working with Children Checks. The National Police Checking Service has been experiencing significant delays in the processing of Checks and this has affected many Check applicants, including those who have no records.
The National Police Checking Service advises that "A delayed police check is in no way an indicator that an applicant has any criminal history to be disclosed.
Update on review of the Standards
In October 2020, the Office of the Children’s Guardian began a review of the NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care (2015). A series of consultation workshops were held with Aboriginal out-of-home care providers, as well as Aboriginal workers working in non-Aboriginal agencies. The consultation summary (PDF) is available.
We are now preparing consultation documentation for feedback from the wider sector. We plan to have the consultation documentation available for comment in September 2021.
It’s anticipated that the 10 Child Safe Standards recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will become mandatory for some child-related sectors later in 2021. In the second half of 2021, we will consult with statutory out-of-home care and adoption service providers about options for bringing the sector into the new Child Safe Scheme. This will include opportunities to incorporate the Child Safe Standards into the accreditation criteria.
The review of the accreditation criteria is also an opportunity to address some of the sector-wide challenges in the out-of-home care system. We will convene a sector advisory group to provide us advice on the review of the accreditation criteria as well as opportunities to improve our assessment and monitoring processes. We will seek expressions of interest from designated agencies and adoption service providers in the second half of 2021.
Support for Children of Imprisoned Parents in NSW
Submissions to the NSW Parliamentary inquiry into the possible impact on children of imprisoned parents are available on the parliamentary website. The inquiry examined the adequacy of policies and services to assist the children of imprisoned parents and was established to examine what services are available, how effective they are, and whether improvements could be made.
The inquiry is significant for designated agencies, as children of imprisoned parents are more vulnerable to entering statutory out-of-home care.
Reportable Conduct update
The Reportable Conduct Directorate (RCD) released its eLearning course Responding to Reportable Allegations in November 2020. The eight-module self-paced eLearning course is available for free.
Modules 1-4 are relevant to all out-of-home care staff, while the entire course is appropriate for anyone in a management, safeguarding, child protection or investigation role. Modules 1-6 are currently available, with Modules 7 and 8 soon to be released.
An area that of practice that can be strengthened across the out-of-home care sector is the documentation of the mandatory considerations. Under the Children’s Guardian Act 2019, Heads of Relevant Entities (HREs) are required to make mandatory considerations when assessing alleged conduct, both when the allegation arises and when the finding is being considered. While agencies are ticking the box on the Seven Day Notification Form and Entity Report Form to say that the HRE has made the mandatory considerations, this often cannot be clearly identified in any of the documentation provided by the agency throughout the course of the investigation or with the entity report.
The following extract from Module 2 of the eLearning explains the obligations and the importance of the documentation. If you have any questions about making the mandatory considerations, please contact the RCD Enquiries Line on (02) 8219 3800.
Section 40(3) of the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 says that HREs must consider whether reportable allegations relate to conduct that is in breach of established standards that apply to the employee, having regard to the following:
- professional standards
- codes of conduct, including any professional or ethical codes
- accepted community standards.
We refer to these considerations as ‘mandatory considerations’ because the legislation requires the HRE to consider them. In so doing, the CG Act is requiring the HRE to consider whether:
- the employee’s alleged conduct has breached a professional standard
- the employee’s alleged conduct has breached the code of conduct or any professional or ethical codes
- the employee’s alleged conduct has breached an accepted community standard.
The implication of section 40(3) is that if the employee has not breached any of the established standards, then the information does not amount to a reportable allegation against them. However, while a breach of one of these standards is necessary to consider the reportable conduct threshold met, it is not sufficient to establish a reportable allegation in and of itself. The conduct still needs to be assessed against the relevant category of reportable conduct definition.
Relevant to both the mandatory considerations and the making of reportable conduct findings is the position of the HRE as an administrative decision-maker under Part 4 of the Children’s Guardian Act 2019. This means that in matters where HREs have made findings of reportable conduct, their decisions may be open to administrative review. It is a principle of administrative law that, if a decision-maker does not make reference to mandatory considerations in their reasons for decisions, it may be inferred that the mandatory considerations have been disregarded. In such cases, whether the disregard was intentional or inadvertent, this may constitute an error of law.
The legislation says that the HRE must make the mandatory considerations when assessing the employee’s conduct, so it is important that the HRE clearly documents their decision-making process and demonstrates how they have had regard to the established standards. This is particularly important should the matter become the subject of review at a later date. It is also important to note that merely checking a box or stating that the mandatory considerations have been undertaken is not sufficient to satisfy the requirement – there should be clear documentation outlining how the mandatory considerations have been made.
Practice Tip: HREs need to clearly document their assessment of the mandatory considerations when the information about the allegation becomes known, and when they are making findings at the end of the investigation.
New domain name for OCG
You may have noticed a recent change to the Office of the Children’s Guardian’s website and our email domain name from ‘kidsguardian’ to ‘ocg’. This means:
- our email addresses have changed from @kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au to @ocg.nsw.gov.au and
- our website has changed to www.ocg.nsw.gov.au
There will be redirects in place for some time, however we would appreciate if you would update your records to our new domain name.
Child Safe Scheme Bill introduced to parliament
The Amendment Bill introduced to NSW parliament on 11 May 2021 by the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services will embed the Child Safe Standards into legislation. These changes are all about improving how organisations protect children and young people from abuse and neglect, by placing their voices and interests at the heart of what they do. Read more about the Bill and the consultation summary on our website.
Residential Care Workers Register
Consultation on the draft Children’s Guardian Regulation 2021 is now complete. Thank you to everyone who provided comment. These have been reviewed and considered as part of ongoing work to finalise the Regulation. The proposed Regulation will provide for the key information and probity checking requirements for the register. It details the information to be recorded on the register, who must record information on the register, the probity checks that must be undertaken for certain applicants who are being considered for employment as a residential care worker, how the outcome of those checks is to be recorded and how the register may be used.
The Registration Systems Team is finalising guidance materials to support the sector to prepare for the Register. Once the draft Regulation has neared completion, we will distribute these so that agencies can consider how they will build the requirements of the register into their existing systems and processes. These materials will help agencies understand how the register will support information exchange between agencies and ultimately act as an additional child protection tool for children placed in a residential setting.
More information will be provided in the coming weeks.
Questions about the register can be directed to the Registration Systems Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
NSW Carers Register
During the current COVID-19 restrictions in Greater Sydney the Registration Systems team continues to be available to provide Carers Register support as usual.
The best way to make contact with any questions or requests for assistance is to send an email to the Carers Register inbox email@example.com
Report on the leaving care monitoring program 2020-21
In 2020-21, the Office of the Children’s Guardian reviewed leaving care practices in relation to 635 young people who turned 18 between 23 March 2020 and 31 December 2020. The purpose of the review was to ensure that leaving care casework with young people continued despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, given the particular vulnerabilities of this group of young people.
The report on the leaving care monitoring program 2020-21 is now complete and is available on our website. The report summarises observations of practice and sector-wide themes emerging from the review. It has been shared with peak organisations and other interested agencies including Legal Aid NSW. This report will form the basis of further discussions in the sector around how circumstances can be improved for young people transitioning from statutory out-of-home care to young adulthood. It will also inform the review of the Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care (2015) and the way leaving care practice is assessed.
Children’s right to participation in practice
The Diplomacy Training Program (DTP) is an independent, Australian non-government organisation committed to advancing human rights. It has created a webinar series on child rights, including one on child participation. A recording of this webinar is available here on the DTP YouTube channel. You can view the other recordings from the DTP child rights series here at the Convention on the Rights of the Child Webinar Series playlist