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2.2.6 Disclosure of information regarding a person responsible or person assessed as causing significant harm to a child

Last Modified: 06-Jun-2019 Review Date: 30-Jul-2010

Purpose

To provide guidance to child protection workers making decisions on whether and/or how to disclose information regarding a person responsible (PR) or person assessed as causing significant harm (ASH) to a child or family, or to an employer where the person assessed may pose a risk of significant harm to specific child/ren.

Practice Requirements

  • Child protection workers must assess continuing risk to specific child/ren by a PR or ASH to determine whether they still pose a risk, and if so what information will be disclosed.
  • There are restrictions on the disclosure of information relating to a criminal conviction of a child under 18 years of age (whether or not that person is now an adult). Child protection workers must consult with General Law Unit before releasing any information relating to a person who was/is a juvenile at the time of their conviction.
  • The person assessed responsible must be informed of the outcome of the assessment and of any decision that information will be released (refer to procedures below).
  • Disclosure of a person’s ASH classification must be preceded by a review of that status before the information is used or released.
  • Child protection workers must make a record of the information disclosed, to whom, and the rationale for release and save to child’s file. Where a letter is sent, a copy should be placed on file.
  • General Law Unit must approve any letters before they are sent out.
Process Maps

Not applicable.

Procedures

  • Considerations for disclosing information to a corresponding authority or interested person under s.23(1) and (2)
  • Immediate safety of children
  • Decision to disclose information
  • Safety assessment planning with families to address continuing risk
  • Disclosure to an employer
  • Considerations for disclosing information to a corresponding authority or interested person under s.23(1) and (2)

    Where the Department has concerns for the safety and wellbeing of specific children, child protection workers may need to consider to disclosing relevant information to a corresponding authority or an interested person (possibly family, employer or service agency) under s.23(1) and (2), where it is determined that there is ongoing risk to a child by a person responsible (PR) or a person assessed as causing significant harm (ASH).

    Under s.23 (1) relevant information may only be provided to a public authority, a Commonwealth agency, a corresponding authority, a non-government provider, or an interested person or body who or which, in the CEO’s opinion, is seen to have a direct interest in the wellbeing of a child, a class or group of children, or a person who qualifies for assistance under s.96 - a person under 25 years of age who has left the CEO’s care and was the subject of:

    • a protection order (time-limited) or protection order (until 18) over 15 years of age
    • a negotiated placement agreement that was in force for a continuous period of a six months, or
    • was provided with placement services under s.32(1)(a) for a continuous period of at least six months.

    Relevant information may be disclosed to those people or agencies who need the information to secure the protection of a child, group or class of children, for example:

    • the legal guardian or carer of the child at risk
    • the employer of the known perpetrator when the employment involves access to children, and
    • other persons involved in a monitoring role ensuring the child's safety.

    This is an extremely sensitive area of practice and all decisions must be informed by an assessment of continuing risk to specific child/ren by a PR or ASH.  For detailed information refer to Assessment of continuing risk to a child by a person of concern in related resources.

    Refer to Chapter 4.2: Information sharing between commonwealth agencies and the Department of Communities to access the Commonwealth and Child Protection Agencies Information Sharing Protocols (the Protocols) with Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support Agency.  The Protocols set out the procedures for requesting information from Commonwealth agencies, specify the type of information that can be requested and what supporting evidence is required, and provide time frames for responding to requests.

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    Immediate safety of children

    An interim safety plan must be develoed where a PR or ASH has contact with specific children, and it will take a period of time to conduct an assessment of continuing risk to the children by the person of concern. The interim safety plan should involve the children and persons with parental responsibility.

    Where releasing information about the person of concern is necessary to keep a child safe, we must inform the person assessed as responsibleof our intention to release the information. This action must be approved by the district director.

    When undertaking a safety assessment, the information about the person assessed as responsible is normally regarded as confidential. Ideally, the Department should obtain the person's consent to release of the information.  Where consent is not given child protection workers should refer to Ensuring Immediate Safety - Disclosure of Information regarding a PR or ASH  in related resources.

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    Decision to disclose information

    Child protection workers must advise the PR or ASH of the outcome of the assessment of continuing risk to specific children, and any decision to disclose information.

    Where the PR or ASH refuses to communicate with Department officers, evidence of the reasonable efforts taken to contact the person must be documented. 

    The implementation of a decision to release information to a third party must be planned and managed. The PR or ASH must be informed that information will be released, and given the opportunity to:

    • give consent for the information to be released to a third party,
    • provide any additional information about their circumstances.

    Wherever possible there should be a discussion with the PR or ASH on how the third party will be informed of the decision, with the following options to be considered:

    • The PR/ASH informs the third party
    • We support the PR/ASH to inform the third party
    • We advise the third party without the PR/ASH's participation or cooperation.

    When the PR/ASH does not consent to information being released:

    • Child protection workers must consult with the General Law Unit and a Director, Professional Practice Unit as part of the decision making process about whether or not, and the manner in which, the person of concern should be informed that information will be released.
    • The district director must approve the release of information.
    • Where information is released to caregivers and families, it must be given in writing; advice must also be sought from the General Law Unit.
    • District director approval must be obtained and advice sought from the Screening Unit via the Director, Business Support and Coordination when making a decision to the release of information to an employer – for more information refer to the procedure ‘Disclosure to an employer’ below.

    Once appropriate approvals have been obtained, implementation of the safety assessment and planning may proceed.   

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    Safety assessment planning with families to address continuing risk

    If, after completing an assessment of continuing risk to specific children by a person of concern, the child protection worker forms the opinion that the person continues to pose a risk to specific children he or she must:

    • obtain the necessary approvals, and
    • undertake a safety assessment of the children and develop a safety plan with the family to address the safety concerns. 

     

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    Disclosure to an employer

    Where a decision is made to disclose information to an 'interested person' who is an employer of the person of concern under s.23(1), the district director must refer the matter to the Director, Business Support and Coordination. The following process will apply:

    1. Where we have credible information that a person of concern is having contact with specific children at their place of employment, the district director refers the concern is to the Executive Director State-wide and South East or Executive Director State-wide and South West.
    2. The Executive Director endorses the referral to the Director, Business Support and Coordination.
    3. The Director, Business Support and Coordination refers the endorsed matter for assessment and Probity Panel consideration and advice to determine whether the information should be disclosed.  
    4. The Coordinator, Screening Unit advises the relevant Executive Director of likely timeframes for undertaking the assessment and Probity Panel process.
    5. The Executive Director considers the Probity Panel’s advice and recommendations before making a decision to disclose adverse information. 
    6. The Executive Director informs the Director General of all high risk and contentious matters, particularly where the matter concerns an external organisation, a children’s service and where a decision is made contrary to advice. 
    7. Where the release of adverse information is endorsed, the Executive Director considers the appropriateness of who should sign the disclosure letter, for example the Director General, Executive Director or Director Business Support and Coordination.
    8. The relevant district director is briefed on recommended actions and the outcomes of decisions made to release or not release information and actions to be taken.
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