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4.2.3 Engaging with private practitioners for treatment/therapeutic services

Last Modified: 18-Oct-2018 Review Date: 04-Jan-2021

Purpose

To guide child protection workers when engaging with private practitioners to provide services to clients of the Department of Communities (the Department) and to ensure the standard of services provided are evaluated.

Practice Requirements

  • A private practitioner should only be engaged by staff when:
    • particular assessment or treatment services required for a client do not exist within the Department
    • existing Department services are unable to provide the service within the referral timeframe, or
    • when the Department's impartiality is, or could be, important for legal or therapeutic reasons
  • All private Psychologists or Social Work practitioners must be on the  Approved Private Practitioners Register before they can be contracted to provide services to clients
  • If an urgent referral is required and the private practitioner is not on the approved register, but is already known to the Department, or has appropriate referees, consultation and approval from the Chief Psychologist can be sought.  Approval is contingent on the practitioner making an application for approval and being placed on the register
  • Before referring clients to other health practitioners who are not registered with the Department (for example, speech therapists or counsellors), child protection workers must discuss the referral with their team leader and district director. It may also be appropriate to speak with the chief psychologist about these referrals.  
  • Child protection workers require approval for the expenditure from their district director before engaging the services of a private practitioner. This must be recorded and approved within the case plan in Assist.
Process Maps

Not applicable

Procedures

  • Referrals to approved private practitioners
  • Referrals to other private practitioners
  • Access to psychologists through the Medicare Benefits Schedule
  • Referrals to approved private practitioners

    1. Check to see if the required service is available within the Department

    To ascertain whether the service is available and accessible within the timeframe required, child protection workers should consult with the clinical and counselling psychologist or registered psychologist within their district.

    If the service is not available or accessible within the required timeframe, child protection workers should discuss the referral with their team leader, clinical and counselling psychologist or registered psychologist to identify a suitable practitioner on the Department's Approved Private Practitioner Register. For details of approved private practitioners, refer to Psychology Services - Approved Private Practitioners (in related resources).  

    2. Contact the private practitioner to see if the practitioner will accept the referral

    Child protection workers should contact the private practitioner to enquire about their availability to provide the service, and to discuss the goals and outcomes for the client(s). Child protection workers should inform the practitioner of any personal safety risks or concerns relating to the client’s behaviour which may pose a risk to the practitioner. When providing copies of reports or written/verbal information to the practitioner, child protection workers must advise the practitioner that the information is confidential and should not be dispersed without the prior permission.

    Child protection workers should also discuss the practitioner's fees. Any variation in fees from those approved by the Department must be discussed with the chief psychologist.

    3. Obtain the team leader endorsement and the district director approval for the expenditure

    Child protection workers must obtain endorsement from their team leader and district director's approval for the expenditure through the case plan in Assist. Approval is generally given for eight sessions.

    4. Discuss the referral with the client

    Using the Signs of Safety Assessment and Planning Framework, child protection workers should discuss the referral with their client and identify realistic assessment and treatment goals. This will inform what progress and outcomes are expected by the client andCommunities.

    5. The child protection worker completes Form 665 Psychology Services Referral - Intervention or Therapy

    Child protection workers must complete Form 665 and forward to the Chief Psychologist for quality assurance and endorsement. Instructions on how to complete the referral form are provided on the form. 

    Child protection workers should consult with the clinical and counselling psychologist or registered psychologist in their district to discuss the client’s requirements and assistance in completing the referral form.

    6. The chief psychologist prepares a contract between the Department and the private practitioner

    After checking the referral form, the chief psychologist prepares a contract that outlines the general conditions and expected reporting requirements and forwards it to the practitioner for signing.

    Note: District directors must approve funding before to the contract is prepared (refer to point 3), and be informed of the contract details. The client should agree to the reporting requirements before the contract is finalised.

    7. Once the services have been completed, the practitioner should provide the Department with a written report

    When the sessions have been completed, the practitioner must provide copies of their written report to the child protection worker and the Chief Psychologist for review.

    If further sessions are required, child protection workers must discuss these with the team leader, clinical and counselling psychologist or registered psychologist, and another contract must be negotiated and approved by their district director.

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    Referrals to other private practitioners

    1. Follow procedures 1 to 4 above – Referrals to approved private practitioners

    Before a client is referred to a private practitioner or health professional who is not registered with the Department, child protection workers should discuss referrals with their:

    • team leader
    • district director
    • the Chief Psychologist if appropriate, or
    • a director, Professional Practice Unit if appropriate.

    The practitioner must be known to the Department in some way or have been through a vetting process, and must hold a valid Working with Children Card.

    2. The referral

    Child protection workers should:

    Contact the agency/private practitioner to establish if they have their own referral processes (for example, an agency may have their own referral form). Provide a written referral that identifies the purpose of the referral and provides the practitioner with background information on the client(s), including any safety issues, the expected assessment and treatment goals and reporting requirements.

    Where required, the child protection workers should consult with their team leader to discuss the referral and/or obtain assistance in writing the referral.

    3. Once the services have been completed, the practitioner must provide the child protection worker with a written report

    When the sessions have been completed, the practitioner must provide copies of their written report to the child protection worker. If further sessions are required, child protection workers must discuss these with the team leader and seek approval from their district director.

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    Access to psychologists through the Medicare Benefits Schedule

    It is possi​ble to access private practitioner services when it is considered that the waiting time for access to the Department's Psychology Services is too great given the presenting client issues. Access to the Medicare rebate, which often covers a significant portion of the private practitioner’s fee, is possible if the correct referral process is followed.

    Child protection workers must consult with their district psychologist or a senior consultant psychologist before seeking referral to a private practitioner through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).

    1. Referral

    Referrals must be made by a General Practitioner (GP) to a registered mental health provider. Many general and specialist endorsed psychologists are registered to provide services eligible for Medicare rebates. Medicare rebates are available for the treatment of mental health disorders. Comprehensive information about the range of disorders is available on the Australian Psychological Society website. Disorders listed as being eligible include:

    • adjustment
    • alcohol use
    • anxiety
    • attention deficit
    • bereavement
    • bipolar
    • conduct
    • depression
    • drug use
    • eating
    • obsessive compulsive 
    • panic
    • phobic
    • post-traumatic stress 
    • psychotic

    2. Assessment

    If assessment is to form part of the initial consultation in preparation for treatment, note that that IQ testing and neuropsychological assessment or forensic assessments, such as parenting capacity assessments, are not eligible for a Medicare rebate.

    To progress with a referral, child protection workers must schedule a medical appointment to inform the client’s GP is about the issues of concern. GPs will need to develop a Mental Health Care Plan, and this will usually require a longer appointment. 

    Child protection workers and district psychologists must work together to compile the necessary background information and reasons for their concerns. The GP requires this information to develop and appraise the client's Mental Health Care Plan, and informs the GP’s decision as to whether or not the plan and referral will be advanced.

    Under the MBS, twelve sessions are available, with a review after six, in any calendar year. A further six sessions are available under exceptional circumstances. In total, 18 sessions are possible in any calendar year.

    3. Approved private practitioners

    When attempting to secure services for children in the Chief Executive Officer's (CEO’s) care, private practitioners must be chosen from Approved Psychology Services Approved Private Practitioners List​ whenever possible. Practitioners on this list have been interviewed and are deemed to possess knowledge and skills relevant to children in care. Child protection workers must inform and discuss this with the GP.

    In circumstances where it is not possible to use a practitioner from the approved list, it is imperative that the approved mental health provider, on accepting the referral, has a valid Working with Children Card and the necessary police clearances.

    4. Further information

    Further information on MBS items can be obtained from:

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