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2.2.1 Assessing a person as Actual Harm Continuing Risk (AHCR)

Last Modified: 14-Nov-2019 Review Date: 22-Jan-2010

Purpose

To provide guidance to child protection workers on the processes for identifying and assess a person as Actual Harm Continuing Risk (AHCR). 

Practice Requirements

 

You must:

1. Consult with your team leader when making a decision about the appropriate priority response.

2. Select an abuse type correlating to s.28 to progress to a CSI; this is the grounds under which the investigation is taking place.

 

  • You must determine whether the concerns you have received about a child in the CEO's care meet the definition of a Critical Incident or not. You must do this in consultation with a team leader and, where required, assistant district director.
  • If you are unsure how to proceed or whether or not the matter is a Critical Incident or not request a consult with the Duty of Care Unit.

Procedures

  • Actual Harm Continuing Risk
  • Criteria for ACHR
  • Naming children under 18 years as AHCR
  • Reviewing continuing risk at CSI
  • Identifying a possible AHCR
  • Endorsement and recording
  • Actual Harm Continuing Risk

    The recording of an individual as Actual Harm Continuing Risk (AHCR) replaces previous recordings of Assessed as causing Significant Harm (ASH) and Person Responsible (PR).

    AHCR refers to a person assessed as causing significant harm AND is a continuing significant risk to the child or other children as the result of a CSI.

    The purpose of identifying and recording a person as AHCR is to:

    • provide context to the harm (who enabled, contributed to or inflicted the harm), to make a robust safety plan, and
    • enable workers to have access to accurate and relevant information about the risk posed to a child by a person to inform decision making.

    AHCR records are also used to inform other decisions, such as:

    • employment and foster carer assessments
    • may be disclosed to the Family Court of WA, and
    • other Department work units e.g. Record Screening Unit, Probity Panel, Working with Children Screening Unit and State Administrative Tribunal.

    You have two options when considering recording an individual:

    1. Alerts – placing an alert on Assist to bring attention to an individual when you believe others need to be aware of critical information relating to that person – for detailed information refer to Chapter 4.2: Case Alerts
    2. Actual Harm Continuing Risk (AHCR) - where you have assessed the individual against the specific criteria below and believe they should be recorded on Assist as AHCR.

     

    If…

    Then…

    The chid is not in the CEO's care You should consider the AHCR criteria when substantiating actual significant harm. If you are unable to gather credible evidence and cannot reach a decision within 30 days, do not record AHCR.
    The child is in the CEO's care:  

    You must consider and record the AHCR criteria wherever possible when investigating and substantiating actual significant harm to a child in the CEO's care

     

    The AHCR classification given to a person as a result of an investigation must be reviewed in subsequent contacts with the Department to see if the person continues to be a significant risk to children.

     

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    Criteria for ACHR

     

      Criteria

                      Explanatory notes

    The AHCR will only apply to a parent or relative, if that person is a household member or has regular access to the child.      

    Relative is defined by s.3 of the Act as follows:

    (a) the child's

    • parent, grandparent or other ancestor;
    • step-parent;
    • sibling;
    • uncle or aunt;
    • cousin;
    • spouse or de factor partner,

    whether the relationship is established by, or traced through, consanguinity, marriage, a de factor relationship, a written law or natural relationship;

    (b) in the case of an Aboriginal child, a person regarded under the customary law or tradition of the child's community as the equivalent of a person mentioned in paragraph (a);

    (c) in the case of a Torres Strait Islander child, a person regarded under the customary law or tradition of the Torres Strait Islands as the equivalent of a person mentioned in paragraph (a);

    For children in the CEO's care this also refers to an employee or foster carer.

    ​AND

    ​The person is assessed as causing significant harm, AND is a continuing risk to the child or other children as a result of the Child Safety Investigation. 

    ​The perceived continuing significant risk to the child or other children (danger) must be supported by credible evidence to prove on the balance of probability that significant harm is more likely to happen to the child or other children than not.

     

     

    ​ ​AND

    ​The person admits to the WA Police or the Department that they have caused harm.

    ​"Admission" in this context means the person is taking responsibility for the harm to the child rather than just acknowledging that the event occurred.

     

    ​ ​OR

    Two or more of the following criteria are met:

    ​(a) Charges are laid, or WA Police recommend charges be laid.

     

     

     

    ​Where the WA Police believe that there is a criminal case to answer but are unable to prosecute for reasons such as:

    • the child refuses to make a statement or the parent does not allow the child to participate;

    • WA Police are unwilling to subject the child to the court process; or

    • WA Police do not consider the child will make a good witness.

    ​(b) The person is identified by the child.

    ​The child has made a credible disclosure to a person assessed by the Department as reliable.

    (c) The person is established to have had sole opportunity to have harmed, injured or neglected a child.​

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    ​This criterion may apply to those situations where a child is injured whilst in the care of one or more responsible persons, and the available information supports the assessment that only those could have harmed the child because of the circumstances.

    For example:

    • He, she, or they acknowledge that they were the only person/s present when the harm occurred.

    • where a child has been harmed through the neglect of the those with parental responsibility (i.e. care responsibility) for the child.

    Examples are medical neglect, lack of supervision, non-organic failure to thrive, abusive head trauma. "Care responsibility" refers to the responsibility of parents, extended family, care providers or other person/s in loco parentis at the time of the harm, neglect or injury. 

    (d) There is strong corroborative behavioural, psychological and/or psychiatric information about the person that is consistent with the nature of the harm being assessed​

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Corroborative information can include assessments from other professionals or agencies regarding a person's functioning, behaviour and history. It can also include documented information about a person's behavioural history e.g. patterns of violence including domestic violence by a perpetrator. You need to be cautious when using psychiatric diagnoses to corroborate evidence. Diagnoses must be supported by a relevant behavioural history or pattern of thoughts to be seen as corroborative. You should consult with Psychology Services to inform decision-making. Examples could include:

    • a mother has been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic with violent delusions. She has reported to her psychiatrist her belief that her baby is possessed by the devil and must be beaten and fasted. The baby is later found with bruising and welts and is assessed below the 30 percentile in development.

    • a parent has a documented history of violent and uncontrolled aggressive outbursts when frustrated with a number of agencies and the Department. This has included episodes of rough handling towards their children. The youngest child aged 18 months is found to have non-accidental injuries consistent with being shaken.

    • a father has a documented history of violence towards others, including women while children are present. This includes multiple previous partners reporting violence, multiple previous Violence Restraining Orders, incarceration for violent offences

    ​(e) The Department has substantiated that the person has caused actual significant harm of another child in the current investigation.

    ​The Department has assessed in the context of the current/same/linked investigation that actual significant harm has occurred and that the same person has been identified as having caused the harm.

     

     

     

    ​(f) There are previous reports of child abuse/neglect where the person has been charged or convicted, or where the Department has substantiated actual significant harm and identified that person as having caused significant harm

    This includes cases where there have been previous classifications of Person Responsible-PR or assessed as causing significant Harm- ASH prior to July 2019 or AHCR post July 2019; supported by case file records that document that a person has caused harm.

    When using historical records child protection workers must review the assessment processes to determine the veracity of the past decision making.

    A WA Police 'charge' in this context also covers those cases where WA Police believed that there was a criminal case to answer but were unable to prosecute for reasons stated under criteria (a).

    (g) The person concerned discloses causing harm to a child to a third party.​

    ​"Admission" in this context means the person takes responsibility for the harm to the child rather than just acknowledging that the event occurred. The third party to whom the admission is made must be assessed by the Department as a credible person.

    ​(h) Expert medical/forensic assessments by a medical practitioner links harm to the person

     

    ​Medical assessments of non-accidental injury can support decisions regarding substantiation of actual harm and they can also support the child's disclosure in terms of what occurred, timing etc.  However in isolation, it will not often identify a person as responsible.

     

     

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    Naming children under 18 years as AHCR

     

    Close consideration needs to be given to assessment of the young person's capacity to understand the gravity of the allegations against them and the developmental ability or capacity to understand the consequences of their actions, rigor in decision making in the investigation, procedural fairness processes and how records can/will be used in the future. 

    Decisions to name a child under 18 years as AHCR must be endorsed by a team leader and approved by a district director, following their consultation with the General Manager, Professional Practice Unit (PPU). Where the General Manager and district director are unable to agree the district director approves the final decision. Any consultations with PPU must be recorded.

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    Reviewing continuing risk at CSI

    You must review the grounds for the AHCR (previous ASH) status of an individual open for CSI AND provide a rationale for the status remaining or being changed at the outcome of your investigation.

    This review should only focus on determining whether the person identified as AHCR still poses a continuing risk as defined in the AHCR criteria:

    The perceived continuing significant risk to the child or other children (danger) must be supported by credible evidence to prove on the balance of probability that significant harm is more likely to happen to the child or other children than not.

    The review of the person's continuing risk to the child or other children should be done in the context of what we know about the previous substantiation, what information we have gathered in the current investigation and what this tells us about the person as previously recorded as AHCR.

    As part of a subsequent CSI you should consider any new information since the last decision was made:

    • Has a legal outcome been reached that wasn't known at the time of the original CSI?
    • Has the person completed any programs resulting in behaviour change that makes them safer to be around children?
    • Other circumstantial information that means the risks are no longer present or significantly low compare to the previous CSI.

    A review of the continuing risk of the person should be recorded appropriately in Assist, including whether the AHCR status remains in place or not and a complete rationale for this documented in the outcome report. Any updated recording will not completely remove the previous AHCR recording on Assist, instead both sets of data will be reflected.

    When you are reviewing an individual's continuing risk to the child or other children (in the context of a subsequent CSI) you can notify the person recorded as AHCR, the child, and/or any other significant people of this.  You can allow them the opportunity to state why they are no longer a continuing risk and notify them of your decision at the end of the CSI, as required.     

    If there is a clear rationale for why the AHCR status of a person should not be reviewed at a subsequent contact e.g. they are no longer a part of the family group and/or you will not be having any contact with that person as part of the new CSI, then this should be documented in the CSI outcome report.      

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    Identifying a possible AHCR

    Review the criteria in consultation with a team leader and/or district director and agree on the recommended recording. Advise the individual that we are proposing to record them as AHCR before the recoding is completed. 

     
    If you have credible information that information the person will pose a risk to the child or workers, defer the meeting until these issues can be addressed.

    When you talk with the person (in a meeting, by telephone or in written feedback) you must discuss the following :

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

     

     

    You must record that you have provided this person with an opportunity to have these discussions and notified them of the above before the actual recording is made.

    This discussion must take place regardless of whether WA Police have interviewed the person as part of a criminal investigation. WA Police investigations do not involve discussions of the points above.

    If the person provides information that is likely to alter the planned decision, then discuss this with a team leader and/or district director and record this in the CSI outcome report.

    You should liaise with WA Police when a criminal investigation undertaken by them coincides with our investigation. Any investigation by WA Police should not delay us unnecessarily in completing our investigative actions, like interviewing the person we are proposing to AHCR, which are critical to safeguarding the child and completing a timely investigation.

    Decisions to name a child under 18 years as AHCR must be endorsed by a team leader and approved by a district director, following their consultation with the General Manager, Professional Practice Unit (PPU). Where the General Manager and district director are unable to agree, the district director approves the final decision. All consultations with PPU must be recorded.

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    Endorsement and recording

    ​An extension to complete a CSI may be requested with rationale recorded and endorsed by a team leader. To endorse and record the AHCR decision:

    1. Complete the CSI outcome report and document all relevant discussions with a team leader and/or district director.
    2. Attach relevant documents via the 'documents' tab on Assist.
    3. Seek approval of CSI outcome report - refer to the Approvals page for details.

     

    You must:

    If a translator was used during the investigation then all letters should be translated to the person's language.

    You should also consider who else should be notified of the AHCR recording, such as the child. 

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