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2.1.8 Responding to concerns about employees

Last Modified: 30-Oct-2019 Review Date: 04-Jan-2021

Purpose

To assist child protection workers in considering any potential misconduct by a Department of Communities employee when concerns are reported.

When concerns are reported about an employee, including situations where a child tells their caseworker / child protection worker / other Department employee that they are responsible for the concern / that their conduct has hurt them / been inappropriate, we must consider any potential misconduct.

 

Practice Requirements
  • If the reported concerns relate to the employee's own children, you must use the Interaction Tool to determine whether the concerns meet the threshold for further investigation.  If the concerns relate to children in the CEO's care, use the Interaction Tool to determine whether the concerns meet the threshold for further investigation. 
  • When a current employee is the person alleged responsible in a Child Safety Investigation (CSI) the child protection worker (CPW) must:

    • make sure that the child is safe while the CSI is undertaken

    • check and verify that any other children the employee has contact with, including their own children, are safe 

    • report the concern to the employee's director for consideration of potential misconduct, and

    • undertake the CSI in accordance with the Signs of Safety Child Protection Framework.

  • The employee’s director must assess the concern and, if the concern constitutes potential misconduct, report the concern to Employee Reations and Integrity (ERI). The director may consult with ERI in making this decision.  

  • If you become aware that a Department employee has been charged with, or convicted of, a Class 1 or Class 2 offence, or any other offence that the Department would assess as rendering the person as inappropriate for child-related work, the Screening Unit must be notified.

Procedures

  • Overview
  • When concerns relate to a child in the CEO's care and a Department employee
  • When concerns relate to the employee's own children
  • Tier 1: Local Management Resolution
  • Tier 2: Employee Relations and Integrity assessment and investigation
  • Overview

    Employees of the Department of Communities (the Department) are expected to maintain a high standard of conduct and integrity at all times. When concerns are reported about an employee we have a responsibility to consider any potential misconduct. 

    If the reported concerns relate to the employee's own children, you must use the Interaction Tool to determine whether the concerns meet the threshold for further investigation.

    If the concerns relate to children in the CEO's care, you should use the Interaction Tool to determine whether the concerns meet the threshold for further investigation.

    Before recording anything on Assist review the relevant section of information below to confirm whether or not an encoded identity (alternate name) may be required for the employee on Assist.

    If the Mandatory Reporting Service receive a mandatory report of allegations of abuse by a Department employee against any child they must notify Employee Relations and Integrity.

    You must not interview an employee in relation to any potential misconduct concerns prior to consulting with ERI.

            

    Standard of care concerns relating to a child in CEO's care and a Department employee  

    Employee's director

    Duty of Care Unit

    Employee Relations and Integrity

    Must be notified

     Must be notified

    Notified at the discretion of the employee's director

      

    Allegations of abuse in care relating to a child in CEO's care and a Department employee 

    Employee's director

    Duty of Care Unit

    Employee Relations and Integrity

    Must be notified

     Must be notified

    Must be notified

     

    Standard of care concerns relating to a child in CEO's care and their carer happens to be a Department employee  

    Employee's director

    Duty of Care Unit

    Employee Relations and Integrity

    Follow practice guidance outlined in Standard of Care Concerns

    Follow practice guidance outlined in Standard of Care Concerns

    Only notified if potential misconduct by the employee is identified

     

    Allegations of abuse in care relating to a child in CEO's care and their carer is a Department employee 

    Employee's director

    Duty of Care Unit

    Employee Relations and Integrity

    Follow practice guidance outlined in Allegations of Abuse in Care

    Follow practice guidance outlined in Allegations of Abuse in Care

    The employee's director should consult with ERI

     

    Concerns are reported about a Department employee and their child

    Employee's director

    Duty of Care Unit

    Employee Relations and Integrity

    Must be notified

    Are not required to be notified

    The employee's director should consult with ERI

     

    Employee Relations and Integrity may notify the Corruption and Crime Commission or the Public Sector Commission in relation to a matter involving misconduct  

     

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    When concerns relate to a child in the CEO's care and a Department employee

     

    You must not record any information on Assist until you have:

    • consulted with the Duty of Care Unit (DoCU); and/or
    • have been provided with an encoded identity (alternate name) by the DoCU; and/or
    • have been advised that an encoded identity (alternate name) is not required.

    The child's safety remains the priority and any action required to ensure this should be taken immediately.

    You, a team leader and the DoCU will consult to determine the best plan to address the concerns that have been reported. This will include:

    • Notifying the employee's director.
    • Ensuring the safety of any other children who have contact with the employee, including the employee's own children.
    • Whether or not the Interaction Tool has been applied and what the recommendation is.
    • What will be recorded on Assist.
    • What actions will be taken as part of any Child Safety Investigation.

    Once the employee's director has been notified, it is up to them to report the matter to Employee Relations and Integrity (ERI).

    When the employee's director reports to ERI
     

    Standard of care

    At the discretion of the director, however if the concern constitutes potential misconduct then it must be reported to ERI.

    Allegations of abuse

    The director must report the concerns to ERI.                

         

    The employee's director can consult with ERI at any point. 

    If the matter is not reported to ERI or it is assessed as not constituting potential misconduct, the employee's director can consider a managerial response to address any concerns. 

    The rationale for this decision to report or not report must be documented by the employee's director. 

    When the Duty of Care Unit are consulted they will also notify ERI of the matter.             

    Employee Relations and Integrity will assess the information and determine whether:

    • The matter does not constitute reportable misconduct and no further action is required by ERI
    • The matter is suitable for a Tier 1: Local Management Resolution response and referred to the employee's director, or
    • The matter is referred to the Tier 2: Employee Relations and Integrity discipline process which is managed by ERI in accordance with the Reporting and Handling Misconduct Policy.

    In consultation with the employee's director, ERI will make decisions about an employee's status, including their contact with children. Options include:

    • Continuing normal duties.
    • Transferring to a non-contact or alternate role.
    • Suspension.

    For further information on the ERI Tier 1 and Tier 2 processes, please refer below.

    You must refer to the relevant information in the following entries for information on assessing Standard of Care Concerns, Allegations of Abuse in Care and Child Safety Investigations:

    You must follow the most appropriate guidance for the concern that has been reported, for example: 

    • You must still record the appropriate Duty of Care Notification, either Standard of Care Concern or Allegation of Abuse in Care regardless of the person being an employee. 

     

    If at any point during the Tier 1 response the district forms the view that a Child Safety Investigation is required, you must consult with the DoCU and ERI immediately.

    Complete your assessment or investigation in consultation with your team leader and the DoCU. Either the Standard of Care Assessment Report or Child Safety Investigation Outcome Report is completed and provided to the DoCU.  

    Employee Relations and Integrity and the relevant director, in consultation with the child's CPW must consider the most appropriate manner in which to provide the child, the child's parents and the reporter with updates on the progress and outcome of the assessment or investigation.  

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    When concerns relate to the employee's own children

     

    You must not record any information on Assist until you have notified the employee's director and they have confirmed whether or not they will be referring the matter to Employee Relations and Integrity (ERI).

    If…

    Then…

    A referral is not made to ERI

    Recording should be consistent with usual practice requirements

    ​A referral is made to ERI​They will advise whether an encoded identification (alternate name) is required

    The decision to report to ERI is informed by:

    • The nature and seriousness of the concern.
    • The employee's work role.
    • The contact they have with children, as part of their employment.

    The child's safety remains the priority, any action required to ensure this must be taken immediately.

    If a referral is made to ERI they will determine whether: 

    • the matter does not constitute reportable misconduct and no further action is required by ERI; or
    • the matter is suitable for a Tier 1: Local Management Resolution response and referred to the employee's director; or
    • the matter is referred to the Tier 2: Employee Relations and Integrity discipline process which is managed by ERI in accordance with the Reporting and Handling Misconduct Policy.

     

    If at any time you are unsure about this process you can consult with the Professional Practice Unit - email ProfessionalPracticeUnit_GeneralEnquiries@cpfs.wa.gov.au   

    If the matter meets the threshold to progress to an Initial Inquiry or a Child Safety Investigation and is allocated to a local district it must not be allocated to the district in which the employee works. This should be negotiated between districts. 

    There may be circumstances in regional and remote offices where it is not possible to allocate the case elsewhere.

     

    In these cases, the employee's director will take responsibility for ensuring there are strategies in place that enable a clear separation and management of any conflicts of interest.

    You should complete any Initial Inquiry or Child Safety Investigation as per the usual practice guidance and in consultation with a team leader. You may need to consult further with the following people during these processes:

    • your district director;
    • the employee's director; and
    • ERI. 
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    Tier 1: Local Management Resolution

    ​A Tier 1: Local Management Resolution response is undertaken when:

    1. Standard of Care Concerns are identified in relation to a current Department employee, but there is no evidence to suggest an investigation is required to determine whether or not a child has experienced harm (based on the application of the Interaction Tool).
    2. Employee Relations and Integrity has assessed the matter and determined that the concern may be responded to using a Local Management Resolution process.

    Local Management Resolution may be suitable for isolated or one-off incidents involving:

    • Inappropriate behaviour modelling by the employee.
    • Verbal interaction with the child that is offensive, intimidating or degrading and may affect the child's sense of self-worth.
    • Measures used to restrain or contain a child outside guidelines for best practice.
    • Preventing the child from participating in specialised care and treatment that is needed for adequate developmental progress.
    • Derogatory comments relating to race, culture, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, gender.
    • Inadequate supervision of the child.
    • Disciplinary practices or consequences that might damage the self-esteem or development of a child.

    These concerns may be indicators or early signs that an employee is struggling with the demands of the position or that the employee is not receiving adequate support, supervision or training.

    The ERI may refer the matter to the employee's director, for them to undertake the Local Management Resolution process.

    Process:

    1.  An employee's director has been notified of a concern and has contacted ERI to report the concern. ERI have assessed that the matter requires a Tier 1: Local Management Resolution response and allocated this to the employee's director. 

    2.  The employee's director should:

    • Seek information from the employee in question and not from any other person or source.
    • Ask the employee simple questions limited to the matters raised in the concern.
    • Take notes of the discussion so that there is an accurate record of the process and maintain these securely at a local level.
    • Depending on the circumstances, agree on actions with the employee that should be implemented as part of the employee's ongoing performance management agreement, such as training, supervision and mentoring arrangements.

     

                   The director can consult with ERI at any point during the process.

     

    3.  The director must complete the Local Management Resolution report (provided by ERI) and forward it to ERI within 30 days.  Employee Relations and Integrity has the authority to extend this timeframe.

    4.  The employee's director or ERI can provide a written outcome letter to the employee, if requested.

    5.  Employee Relations and Integrity and the employee's director, in consultation with the CPW and team leader, must consider who may need to be notified of the outcome and the most appropriate manner to do that. 

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    Tier 2: Employee Relations and Integrity assessment and investigation

    An ERI assessment and investigation is undertaken when:

    1. There are allegations that a current employee has caused harm to a child in the CEO's care and a Child Safety Investigation is required to determine whether or not the child has been harmed (based on the application of the Interaction Tool).
    2. A concern is referred to the discipline process for assessment and/or investigation by ERI.

    Most ERI investigations are undertaken jointly and concurrently with a CSI by a CPW.

    Other important information:

    • Some employee investigations might involve multiple CSIs and multiple district offices.
    • The ERI investigation is undertaken in accordance with the Public Sector Management Act 1994 (PSMA) or procedural fairness for employees not subject to PSMA.
    • The Manager, ERI must review the investigation process every 30 days.

    An employee's director has been notified of a concern and has contacted ERI to report the concern. Employee Relations and Integrity have assessed that the matter requires a Tier 2: Employee Relations and Integrity Assessment and Investigation, which will be conducted by ERI. 

    Actions required  

    CPW undertaking the CSI

    Report any concerns of a criminal nature to WA Police.

    Participate in the joint investigation planning meeting.

    Proceed with the CSI for the child and recording the Duty of Care Notification type as Allegation of Abuse in Care for the child in CEO's care. Refer to Conducting a Child Safety Investigation and Responding to concerns about carers for all other relevant practice guidance that must be followed.

    Provide relevant information (e.g. Child Assessment Interview notes) to ERI senior investigator.

    Complete the CSI outcome report including the usual key decisions about whether harm is substantiated or not and any recording of a person as causing actual harm and being a continuing risk (AHCR).

    When actual harm is substantiated and a Department employee is named as AHCR the CSI outcome report must be endorsed by the district director where the CSI was conducted and the relevant Executive Director.

    When actual harm is substantiated with no AHCR recording or likelihood of harm is substantiated or harm is not substantiated then the CSI outcome report must be endorsed by the assistant district director and approved by the district director.

    Duty of Care Unit

    Quality assure the Duty of Care Notification.

    Consult with ERI.

    Create an encoded employee name for recording on Assist.

    Participate in the joint investigation planning meeting, if the employee is also an approved carer.

    Depending on the circumstances, have an additional role in coordinating complex investigations involving multiple children across districts.

    ERI senior investigator

    Decide, in consultation with the employee's director, about the employee's status and their contact with the child, while the ERI assessment and investigation is undertaken.

    Attend a joint investigation planning meeting.

    Track the progress of the investigation and review the investigation plan as required.

    Seek a formal response to the concerns from the employee (interview/written).

    Provide the employee's response to the district conducting the CSI.

    Notify the employee of the progress of the investigation in compliance with the Commissioner's Instruction No 3: Discipline - general.  

    Complete the ERI Investigation report.

    Consult with the relevant director and the child's CPW to determine the most appropriate way to notify the child, the child's parents and the reporter with updates on the progress and outcome of the investigation.

    ERI manager

    ​Quality assure and endorse the ERI Investigation report and forward to the relevant decision maker for approval and implementation of recommendations. 

     

    The employee is advised in writing of the outcome and endorsed recommendations of the CSI and ERI investigations.

    If the relevant Executive Director approves the CSI substantiating harm and recording the employee as AHCR, the Duty of Care Unit will make a recommendation to the relevant Executive Director to have the employee's name and status recorded on Assist.   

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