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2.2.1 Assessing and classifying a person responsible (PR) or person assessed as causing significant harm (ASH)

Last Modified: 03-Aug-2018 Review Date: 22-Jan-2010

Purpose

To guide child protection workers on the processes to be undertaken when identifying and recording an individual as a Person Responsible (PR) or person Assessed as Causing Significant Harm (ASH) to a child.

Practice Requirements

  • When determining whether an individual responsible for harming a child/ren should be recorded as either a PR or ASH, child protection workers must assess the credibility of the information gathered during the safety and wellbeing assessment regarding the substantiation of significant harm (actual harm) to the child/ren to determine if the criteria have been met.
  • Where possible, child protection workers must discuss the decision with the individual to seek their views before making a decision to record them as a PR/ASH.
  • Child protection workers should only identify and record an individual as a PR or ASH if they have not discussed that decision with the person in exceptional circumstances, such as where informing the individual is likely to pose a risk to the child/ren, family or worker. This decision must be approved by the district director.
  • The decision to record an individual as a PR/ASH must be endorsed by the team leader and approved by the district director. The approval and rationale must be recorded in the SWA outcome report.
  • If conviction information is later received, the earlier decision and recording of ‘ASH’ (if criteria were met at the time) must be reviewed and records updated in Assist.

Review of PR/ASH decision

  • On receiving a review of decision request (when the case is closed), the child protection worker must intake the matter and send an acknowledgement letter to the individual requesting the review. The letter must advise them of the review completion date (in principle, within 30 working days from receiving the request for review). If an extended time frame is required, another letter should be sent to advise a new completion date.
  • In circumstances where the Independent Internal Review recommends a change of PR/ASH status, this must be endorsed by the relevant Executive Director State-wide and South West or State-wide and South East.

Procedures

  • Overview
  • Stage 1 – Pre-decision: Identify possible PR/ASH
  • Stage 2 – Endorsement of and recording the PR/ASH decision
  • Stage 3 – Review of decisions
  • Stage 4 – New information received or post Court sentencing review
  • Overview

    When a child protection worker has made a decision to substantiate significant harm (actual harm) to the child, the next critical decision is to determine whether we are able to identify an individual as being responsible for causing harm to the child. These are related but separate decisions that are made as part of a safety and wellbeing assessment (SWA). Child protection workers can substantiate significant harm to a child without identifying and recording a person as responsible for causing the harm.

    The purpose of identifying and recording an individual as a PR or ASH is to:

    • provide a context for the abuse/neglect (who enabled, contributed to or inflicted the harm), to make a robust safety plan for the child/ren (note - safety plans must still be developed if the child protection worker is unable to identify a PR/ASH), and
    • enable child protection workers to have access to accurate and relevant information in a crisis situation about the risk posed to a child's safety and wellbeing by an individual to inform decision making.

    PR and ASH records are also used to inform other decisions, such as employment and foster carer assessments, and may be disclosed to the Family Court of Western Australia, other Department work units (Record Screening Unit, Probity Panel, Working with Children Screening Unit) and the State Administrative Tribunal. Therefore it is a significant decision that requires us to apply robust decision making and review processes.

    Principles of procedural fairness (natural justice)

    Principles of procedural fairness should be applied to all decisions that may negatively affect the rights, interests or legitimate expectations of an individual, such as when identifying and recording an individual as a PR or ASH.

    The following three principles underpin the processes outlined in the procedures section:

    • The hearing rule – the decision maker must give an opportunity to an individual whose interests may be adversely affected by their decision the opportunity to be heard, before the decision is made.
    • The bias rule – the decision maker should be unbiased in the matter to be decided.
    • The no evidence rule – the decision that is made must be based on logical evidence (proven on the balance of probabilities – that is, the alleged behaviour is more likely to have occurred than not).

    Refer to Ombudsman - Western Australia’s Guidelines on procedural fairness (natural justice) for further information in related resources.

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    Stage 1 – Pre-decision: Identify possible PR/ASH

    Child protection workers should use the following assessment criteria and discuss and gain agreement of the rationale with their team leader when intending to identify an individual as a PR/ASH. Consideration should also be given to the appropriateness of labelling the individual as a PR/ASH. Child protection workers must document this discussion in the SWA Outcome Report.  The report must be endorsed by their team leader and approved by thier district director.

    Assessment criteria – Person Responsible (PR)

    An individual is classified as a PR only when, following a safety and wellbeing assessment and substantiated significant harm (actual harm) to a child/ren, an individual has been assessed as responsible for causing the harm and a Court has subsequently convicted that individual of a related offence(s) against that child or children.

    Assessment criteria – person Assessed as Causing Significant Harm (ASH)

    An individual is classified as an ASH only when, following a safety and wellbeing assessment and substantiated significant harm (actual harm) to a child/ren:

    • the individual has been assessed as a continuing significant risk to the child or other children, and either:
      • the individual admits to the WA Police or us that they have caused the harm, or
      • two or more of the following criteria are met:
        • charges are laid or WA Police recommend charges be laid
        • persons are identified by the child as having harmed that child
        • it is established that one or more persons had the sole opportunity to have harmed, injured or neglected a child
        • there is a witness to the harm, injury or neglect
        • there is strong corroborative behavioural, psychological and/or psychiatric information about the individual that is consistent with the nature of harm being assessed
        • we have substantiated significant harm (actual harm) by another child in the current assessment, and that the individual has harmed them
        • there are previous reports of child abuse and/or neglect where the person has been charged or convicted, or where we have substantiated and identified that person as having caused significant harm
        • the individual concerned discloses causing harm to a child, to a third party, or
        • expert medical and/or forensic assessment by a medical practitioner links harm to the person.

    Refer to Explanatory notes for classifying a person Assessed as causing Significant Harm (in related resources) for further information.

    Individuals must only be recorded as an ASH when they do not meet the ASH criteria in exceptional circumstances, such as where significant harm has been substantiated against pre-verbal or very young children, or children with intellectual disability.

    Advise the individual that we are proposing to record them as PR/ASH

    Before making a decision and recording that an individual is a PR/ASH on Assist, the child protection worker must discuss the following with the individual (through a meeting, on the telephone or through providing the opportunity to give written feedback) and obtain:

    • their views on our intent to record them as a PR/ASH
    • whether they have further information that we should take into consideration before recording the decision
    • the implications for the individual of the PR/ASH status (that the information may be shared with others to inform decisions such as Working with Children check or foster carer assessment), and
    • that the individual will receive a letter when a decision is made about substantiation of significant harm and their PR/ASH status. The letter will also explain how they can seek a review of these decisions.

    If the individual provides information at the meeting, over the telephone or in writing that is likely to alter the planned decision, child protection workers should discuss this with their team leader (as per existing case planning process) and record this in the SWA outcome report.

    The discussion, consideration of any information provided and any recommended changes in the decision or plan should be recorded in the SWA outcome report.

    This discussion is necessary even when the WA Police have interviewed the individual as part of a criminal investigation. WA Police investigations do not involve discussion of the issues outlined in the dot points above.

    There may be circumstances where the decision to identify an individual as an ASH is dependent on whether charges are laid by the WA Police. The meeting with the individual may be deferred if the WA Police are yet to interview the individual and ask us to delay the meeting. However, the need to undertake a child protection assessment or take actions to promote the child’s safety must take precedence over the timing of the criminal investigation.

    There may be limited circumstances where it is not possible for  child protection workers to meet with the individual before the decision to record a person as ASH. For example: unable to locate the individual after reasonable attempts have been made, the individual refuses to meet with the worker or it is unsafe to travel to an area due to floods.  Child protection workers should document the reasons why the meeting has not occurred in the SWA Outcome Report.

    If there is credible information to suggest that informing the individual will pose a risk to the child/ren, or to the workers involved the meeting should be deferred until the issues are addressed.

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    Stage 2 – Endorsement of and recording the PR/ASH decision

    Completing the SWA Outcome Report and recording on Assist

    All documentation of relevant discussions with the team leader (and/or with other senior staff) should be summarised in the SWA Outcome Report.  Attach all relevant documents via the 'documents' tab link to provide easy access for other workers and to inform the review process if this occurs.

    It may be necessary to request an extension to complete the SWA from the team leader if more time is required to convene a meeting with the individual. The SWA must not be closed until all tasks that relate to SWA decisions have been completed.

    The ‘pending ASH’ category should not be used where we are waiting on the outcome of a Court process. Under these circumstances, ‘ASH’ should be used (if criteria are met) and the SWA is closed. If conviction information is later received, the decision must be reviewed and records updated in Assist. Refer to Stage 4 – New information received or post Court sentencing review in the procedures section.

    Approval by district director

    When approving the SWA Outcome Report, the district director should check that all relevant information and discussions are documented, including the:

    • assessment criteria applied
    • rationale for recording an individual as a PR/ASH
    • endorsement of the decision by team leader
    • processes outlined under the heading 'Advise the individual that we are proposing to record them as PR/ASH' have occurred during the meeting, telephone contact or if necessary, in writing
    • where necessary, approval and rationale of decision to not seek the views of the individual and inform the individual of the planned PR/ASH status
    • where necessary, reasons why the meeting with the individual concerned has not occurred (e.g. documenting what reasonable attempts have been made to locate the individual), and
    • where necessary, approval from the team leader to extend the time frame for completing the SWA.

    In circumstances where a district director is planning to approve a child to be classified as a PR or ASH they should consult with the Professional Practice Unit.

    Letter to the individual

    Child protection workers must:

    • complete Form 230 Letter of Advice Significant Harm Substantiated
    • send it to the individual within 10 working days of the approval of the SWA Outcome Report, and 
    • save the letter to Objective as evidence that it was sent. 

    If a translator was used during the assessment, the letter should be translated into the client’s language.

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    Stage 3 – Review of decisions

    An individual recorded as a PR/ASH may seek a review for the following reasons:

    • that the harm substantiated to the child was not significant, or
    • that he/she was not responsible for causing significant harm, or
    • that he/she does not pose an ongoing risk to the child.

    This request should be made within 10 working days of the individual receiving written notification of the safety and wellbeing assessment outcome and decisions. The individual should specify their grounds for seeking a review. The individual may provide further information that was not provided or available at the time of the initial assessment to be taken into consideration by the reviewer.

    Appointing a reviewer

    After the relevant district director has undertaken an informal review of the decision, the district director should request the relevant paired district undertake an Independent Internal Review if appropriate.

    Paired districts:​

    RockinghamSouth West
    Fremantle​Peel
    JoondalupKimberley
    Midland​Wheatbelt
    CanningtonPilbara
    PerthGoldfields
    MirrabookaMurchison
    ArmadaleGreat Southern​


    In circumstances where the district director of the paired district has a conflict of interest or there is a possible perception of bias, they should consult with the relevant Executive Director State-wide and South West or Executive Director State-wide and South East. The relevant Executive Director may re-allocate the review function to another district director or the General Manager, Professional Practice Unit.  

    Reviewing the PR/ASH decision is outside the mandate of the Complaints Management Unit (CMU). For information on CMU’s role, refer to Chapter 4.1: Complaints management.

    Considerations when reviewing PR/ASH decision

    The Independent Internal Review is a desktop review of the case file and must consider:

    • the key decisions of the assessment (substantiation of significant harm, identification of person assessed as causing significant harm, assessment of perceived continuing significant risk and classification as PR/ASH) are based on credible information and whether Communities policy and practice guidance was followed, and
    • whether the procedural fairness requirements were met in the conduct of the assessment, including consideration being given to information provided by the individual in the assessment and decision making processes.

    Other considerations when reviewing PR/ASH decisions include:

    • evaluating and weighing up the evidence/information, to determine the relevant considerations and key facts
    • the standard of proof applied to the decision based ‘on the balance of probabilities’ to determine whether the individual has caused significant harm to the child
    • analysing whether the information used to inform the decision includes the articulation of factual information as well as the child protection worker’s professional assessment and interpretation of that information. The director may seek clarification from the individual, the child protection worker, the team leader, or district director, if required
    • the extent to which the additional information has contributed to reducing the risks to the child/ren or other children (e.g. treatment gains that are verified), and
    • whether to seek advice from a Director, Professional Practice Unit.

    If new information is provided by the individual as part of the review, then the reviewer should discuss with the district office who requested the review, whether to put the review on hold and open a new concern or re-open the existing concern to assess the new information.

    On the basis of the findings the reviewer must make recommendations regarding any action that needs to be taken.

    If the request relates to retrospectively reviewing a decision that was made between March 2003 and end of September 2004, the criteria that was applied at that time should be used.

    Documenting the reviewed decision(s) and endorsement

    The reviewer is responsible for documenting the basis for the review, the issues that were taken into consideration in the review process, the weight given to the evidence and the rationale for the recommendations made.

    The reviewer should forward the report and recommended outcome to the relevant district director. The district director must consider the recommendation and determine whether to support or reject the recommendation, and:

    • if they intend to uphold the PR/ASH status, the individual is offered the opportunity to meet face-to-face (or by telephone) to discuss their views about how they believe the new information should affect the original decision, or
    • if they intend to change the ASH to PR status, the individual’s views must be sought prior to making this decision, and document their views and rationale.

    The relevant district must update Assist records to reflect the reviewed decision. The original decision is not deleted. Instead, the original records should be flagged as having been reviewed, with a link to the review record.

    Letter to the individual advising of outcome of the review

    The district director must write to the individual (using Form 188) advising the outcome of the review and reasons for the decisions made. The letter must also advise the individual that there is no further internal review mechanism, however the individual may contact the Ombudsman, Western Australia to discuss any outstanding concerns.

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    Stage 4 – New information received or post Court sentencing review

    We may receive new information that warrants a review of the individual’s PR/ASH status. This may happen after a successful appeal of convicted offences or the Court has convicted the individual and found them guilty or not-guilty of the offences against the specific child/ren.

    The district that made the initial decision must assess the new information to determine whether the PR/ASH status is upheld or changed (this review is conducted by the district director or delegate). If the decision changes in a manner adverse to the individual we must  inform them of the proposed change in the recorded status and follow procedural fairness. If the individual is dissatisfied with the outcome they may request an independent review.

    On receiving the review of decision request (when the case is closed), duty officers must intake the matter and send an acknowledgement letter to the individual who requested the review, advising them of the review completion date (in principle, within 30 working days from receiving the request for review).

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