About overnight respite care

Last update: 28 September 2023

Information on overnight respite care for your child outside the family home.

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    About overnight respite care

    Information on overnight respite care for your child outside the family home.

    If you’re arranging for an organisation to provide overnight care for your child outside your family home, this may be specialised substitute residential care, which is monitored by the Office of the Children’s Guardian under the Child Safe Scheme.

    Types of care that come under specialised substitute residential care include: 

    • overnight or short-term accommodation in a group home or respite environment 
    • an overnight stay with another family in a ‘host family’ arrangement 
    • longer term residential care 
    • camps that focus on respite care or behaviour support.

    Specialised substitute residential care may be provided as a one-off emergency placement or on a regular or long term basis.

    These arrangements can be funded in several ways including direct payment by families or through the NDIS.

    Providers in NSW must complete a self-assessment of their compliance with the Child Safe Standards and comply with the Code of Practice. 

    Families should research providers before engaging them. There is a checklist below to help with what to look for and ask. 

    Our role

    In NSW the Office of the Children’s Guardian regulates providers of specialised substitute residential care as part of the Child Safe Scheme. 

    Our focus is monitoring for compliance against the Code of Practice to make sure that agencies are implementing the Child Safe Standards. 

    The specialised substitute residential care register

    The Office of the Children’s Guardian monitors the number of times a child or young person is in overnight respite care to see where additional support may be needed.

    The specialised substitute residential care (SSRC) register is a secure online database that records information about a child or young person accessing overnight care services. 

    It’s updated by the provider of direct care and agencies supervising providers of direct care and holds the following information:

    • full name and any previous name of the child
    • date and place of birth
    • gender
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status
    • disability
    • name of the provider
    • length of time spent in care  
    • dates of any case plan or reviews.

    If a child remains in overnight care for more than 90 days in a 12-month period, the care may need to be supervised by an agency with long-term experience in providing overnight care services. In this case, the supervising agency will update the SSRC Register so it holds the following information:

    • name of the supervising agency
    • date the supervision commenced.

    Children and young people have the right to access and correct any information held about them by a provider or supervising agency or on the register.

    Information exchange

    Under a different section of legislation – Chapter 16A of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 – specialised substitute residential care providers are ‘prescribed bodies’.

    This legislation allows providers to exchange information relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or children if it helps them or other ‘prescribed bodies’ to:

    • make any decision assessment or plan or initiate or conduct any investigation or to provide any service, relating to the safety and welfare of the child or children
    • manage any risk to the child or children that might arise in the prescribed body’s capacity as an employer or designated agency.

    The safety, welfare and wellbeing of the child or young person is more important than the protection of confidentiality or an individual’s privacy. Therefore, this information may be provided even if consent cannot be obtained.

    Choosing a care provider

    As a parent or guardian you play an important role in making sure your children are spending time in places that are safe. 

    How to spot a child-safe organisation

    We have more resources on our resources page, including our SAFESpace series of resources to help parents choose a person or organisation to work with their child with disability.

    We can't provide guidance on the suitability of services for a particular child or children. If you have concerns about the services of an SSRC provider, please contact us at ssrc@ocg.nsw.gov.au or report a concern about non-compliance with the Child Safe Scheme.

    Have a concern about a care provider?

    How to raise a concern about an organisation

    1. If you have concern about a provider not following the requirements and standards, contact ssrc@ocg.nsw.gov.au. Otherwise you can make a confidential complaint to report a concern about non-compliance with the Child Safe Scheme.

    2. If you think a child or young person is at risk of harm from abuse or neglect, contact the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111 (TTY 1800 212 936), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    3. For complaints or concerns about an NDIS provider, contact the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission on 1800 035 544.

    4. Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800 (free)

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