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4.1.1 Client requests: Access to records and electronic recording

Last Modified: 28-Jun-2018 Review Date: 01-Jul-2019

Purpose

To ensure that clients are involved in all matters relating to their case and consideration of natural justice and confidentiality requirements are met by the Department of Communities, Child Protection and Family Support division staff.

Practice Requirements

 
  • Clients must be advised by the child protection worker that some records will be kept about them.
  • Clients have the right to seek access to their records, whether these are from current or inactive cases.  Requests can be formal or informal under the Freedom of Information Act 1992, (FOI Act) however, the release of past or current adoption information and information on proposed adoptions, may be exempt under the FOI Act.
  • If a client is dissatisfied with any aspect of our services, decisions or operations, they may lodge a complaint, and/or in some cases, seek review of decisions made.
  • In the first instance, Child Protection and Family Support division officers must make every effort to respond to complaints at the local level. Refer to Chapter 4.1: Complaints management for further information.
  • Information relating to the identity of informants must be protected when determining what information may be released.

 

Process Maps

Electronic Recording by Clients of Staff Undertaking Communities' Duties Flowchart

Procedures

  • Consultation with team leaders
  • Consultation with third parties
  • Access to information by a parent or person with parental responsibility
  • Access to current case records
  • Access to closed case records
  • Access to adoption records
  • Documents which should not be released
  • Electronic recording
  • Consultation with team leaders

    The FOI Act gives every person the right to apply for access to documents held by State public sector agencies. Child protection workers who receive a request from a client for information in their case files should consult their team leader on the matter before releasing information. Written requests referring to the FOI Act must be referred to the Coordinator, Freedom of Information and Release of Information immediately.

    Child protection workers can refer to the application process and procedures in the following related resources: 

    • Freedom of Information Manual, and
    • Administration Manual entry Freedom of information requests.

    The Freedom of Information (FOI) team is available to provide help and advice on all aspects of FOI. The team is located in Information Services, Corporate Information, and can be contacted on (08) 9222 2555.

     

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    Consultation with third parties

    Where it is apparent that there is information about a third party on the client's case files, we, and the client must seek the third party's written consent for that information to be released.

    Child Protection and Famly Support division needs to consider the interests of all parties, along with the following:

    • the person requesting the information may not want the third party informed
    • the context of the relationship between the person requesting the information and the third party
    • the significance of the information involved
    • whether the third party can or cannot be located, is deceased, or when contacted, refuses to give their permission
    • whether the lack of consent should impede release of the information, and 
    • the care and protection of any child involved.

    If a third party objects to the release of the information, the client making the request must be informed.  The client may:

    • accept the release of information with personal information about the third party deleted, or 
    • lodge an application through FOI.
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    Access to information by a parent or person with parental responsibility

    The right of parents and others with parental responsibility to access information about their child should be balanced against the child's right to confidentiality in certain situations.

    Release of information must be in the best interests of the child.

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    Access to current case records

    Requests that relate to open cases must be dealt with by the relevant district office. The request (in writing or a record of the verbal request) must be placed on the relevant file.

    Any decision to allow a client to view their paper or electronic files must be endorsed by the district director after consultation with the relevant team leader. 

    Clients must be in the presence of a Child Protection and Family Support division officer to view their client files (paper or electronic). They cannot view any third party or other restricted information without the relevant authority.

    All documents given to a client must be photocopies of the originals, or printouts of electronic documents. Information about third parties and all restricted information should be blanked out before being released to the client.

    A file note recording how access was given and copies of the edited documents should be scanned and saved as 'informal FOI release' on the relevant file to record what information was given to the client.

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    Access to closed case records

    Where cases have been closed for more than two years and archived, clients may access their information through the FOI team. They can be contacted on (08) 9222 2555. Access may be given formally or informally.

    Where the information requested relates to a past sexual abuse case or criminal injuries compensation, the application should always be referred to the FOI team. 

    If the information requested relates to past adoption matters, the application should be referred to Fostering and Adoption Services as specific legislative provisions exist. They can be contacted on:

    • (08) 9222 2555, or
    • 1800 622 258 (Western Australia only).

    Where an enquiry relates to a case, or a situation concerning past case practice and requires professional or legal input, the district director should consult with the manager, Release of Information and General Counsel, Legal and Legislation Services on the matter.

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    Access to adoption records

    Information released from adoption records is governed by provisions in the Adoption Act 1994 and the FOI Act. All requests for information about an adoption must be referred to Fostering and Adoption Services - (08) 9222 2555.

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    Documents which should not be released

    Some documentation should not be released to clients. This includes:

    • documentation relating to a specific assessment and investigation, or an assessment and review of a carer or adoptive carer, unless release of the information is justified as promoting or safeguarding a child's best interests  
    • special audits performed by Child Protection and Family Support division staff or their delegates on behalf of the Minister, the Director General, the Assistant Director Generals, or Executive Directors. These may be exempt under the FOI Act. Advice should be sought from the Coordinator, Freedom of Information and Release of Information 
    • written documentation concerning communication between Legal Services and other staff, or the Minister.  Contact Legal Services in these situations as this type of information may constitute legal professional privilege, and 
    • documentation with information about a notifier’s identity (except in the course of court proceedings or in order to protect a child). Release of this information must be approved by the Practice Director Legal Services.
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    Electronic recording

    For information on responding to requests from clients to electronically record their interactions with staff, refer to the following in related resources:

    • Electronic Recording by Clients of Staff Undertaking Communities' Duties Flowchart
    • Letter Template - to client following recording without Communities' approval 
    • Letter Template – To client intending to record interactions with staff.
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