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Child protection legislation amended in line with Keep Them Safe

30 November 2009

Following the release of the Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW on 24 November 2008, the NSW Premier and Minister for Community Services announced the Government’s commitment to 106 of the 111 recommendations on 3 March 2009. The five-year action plan entitled Keep Them Safe: A Shared Approach to Child Wellbeing, and accompanying $750 million whole-of-government investment translates to significant changes in the NSW child protection system.

As a result of the Children Legislation Amendment (Wood Inquiry Recommendations) Act 2009 that came into effect on 30 October, a number of key legislative changes will directly impact upon the practices and legal obligations of disability service providers working with children and young people.

Significantly, the new laws clearly prioritise the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child or young person over an individual's right to privacy.

The amended legislation – namely, the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998;  the Children’s Court Act 1987; and the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998 – equates to the following important changes:

  • raises the mandatory reporting threshold from "risk of harm" to "risk of significant harm";
  • includes two new grounds that indicate a child may be at risk of significant harm;
  • introduces an alternative reporting process for mandatory reporting involving Child Wellbeing Units when reporting a suspicion that falls below the new threshold of significant harm from a government agency. Importantly, non-government organisations do not have access to Child Wellbeing Units and are instead required to utilise local community services;
  • removes financial penalties for not reporting suspected cases of child abuse and neglect;
  • encourages the free exchange of information between government agencies and non-government organisations involved in the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children and young people;
  • clarifies the Court's role regarding children in out-of-home care;
  • establishes a new approach to out-of-home care;
  • expands the categories of people who must have Working with Children Checks conducted prior to employment.

A diagrammatic representation of the new reporting pathways for government and non-government agencies can be accessed here.

In addition to the legislative changes, NSW Health will be trailing two new models of Family Referral Services in early 2010.

NCOSS last week launched the Keeping Accountable campaign, seeking to effectively keep track of and contribute to the progress of the Keep Them Safe Action Plan.

NDS NSW hosted a Policy and Practice Forum on Keep Them Safe in October, featuring the following presentations:

  • Keep Them Safe Reform Strategy [PowerPoint 1.35 MB]: Anne Campbell, Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • Making It Happen [PDF 177KB]: Steve Kinmond, Deputy NSW Ombudsman;
  • Community Services [PDF 166KB]: Margaret Oldfield;
  • Ageing, Disability and Home Care [PDF 83KB] : Anne Marie Dwyer;
  • Juvenile Justice [PDF 89KB]: Elena Torday;
  • NSW Office for Children - the Children's Guardian [PDF 635KB]: Kerryn Boland;
  • NSW Health [PDF 301KB]: Cathrine Lynch;
  • Department of Education and Training [PDF 135KB]: Anna Morris and Melissa Clements.

For further information on key changes under Keep Them Safe, NDS encourages members to visit the Keep Them Safe website and subscribe to the newsletter.

 

Contact Information :
Emily Caska, State Policy Coordinator, NDS New South Wales, Ph 02 9256 3112, emily.caska@nds.org.au

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