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4.2.10 Working with other agencies - memoranda of understanding and information sharing

Last Modified: 18-Sep-2018 Review Date: 01-Jan-2020

Purpose

To provide an overview of legislative and procedural arrangements for working with other agencies,  Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) agreements and requesting and sharing information with Commonwealth, state and non-government agencies.

Practice Requirements
    
  • Relevant information can be shared between the Department of Communities and other agencies and individuals, both verbally and in writing, to promote the safety and wellbeing of children.
  • When working with other agencies all parties must comply with applicable legislation and consult the relevant operational bilateral schedules; these set out the agreed processes for working together.
  • Child protection workers must work collaboratively and respectfully with other agencies to provide positive outcomes for children and families.
  • Disputes and disagreements about casework must be resolved as soon as possible to prevent any disruption to service for children and families. In all circumstances, disagreements should be resolved at the local level.
  • When working with Commonwealth agencies, child protection workers must consult the relevant Information Sharing Protocol and appendices. 
  • When considering the release of information about a client the best interests of the child must be the paramount consideration.  Child protection workers must:
    • consult with their team leader, assistant district director or district director to clarify what information may be released if unsure about whether information should be released, or what type of information they should share
    • verify the identity of the person and/or agency making the request for information, and  ascertain why and how the information will assist their work with the child and/or family
    • use professional judgement and act within the limits of relevant legislation - refer to s.23 and s.240 Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act), and  
    • verify that any information released is accurate, relevant, serves a legitimate purpose and that the client's rights are respected.
  • Staff in district offices must provide relevant information from our records to assist the Public Trustee to perform their duties as Executor or Administrator.
  • Provisions in the Adoption Act 1994 govern the release of information from adoption records.  All requests for information must be referred to Adoption Services.
  • There are some situations when it is not appropriate to share our information. Child protection workers should refer to the Chapter 4 entries:
    • Freedom of information and legal requests for information related to casework practice and 
    • Client requests: Access to records and electronic recording. 

 

Process Maps

Flowchart - Process for requesting copies of prescribed reports under s.24A

Procedures

  • Overview
  • Reciprocal memorandum of understanding agreements
  • A guide on information sharing for government and community sector organisations
  • Release of information to carers
  • Release of information to an employer
  • Release of relevant information to other agencies
  • Child Protection and Family Support division requests relevant information from other agencies
  • Power to obtain copies of certain prescribed reports from the Department of Corrective Services
  • Requests for school enrolment information from the Department of Education
  • After hours procedures
  • Exchange of information between prescribed public authorities and authorised entities
  • Requests from the Public Trustee
  • Releasing the information to the Public Trustee
  • Information sharing between Child Protection and Family Support division and Commonwealth Agencies
  • Centrelink
  • Medicare
  • Family information
  • Overview

    The Child Protection and Family Support division in the Department of Communities is the lead agency for child protection in Western Australia.  However, many government, non-government and community agencies support our work by providing essential services to children and families in Western Australia. 

    Interagency collaboration is essential to our work in two key areas – sharing and exchanging information and in child protection casework.

    The guide Working Together for a Better Future for At Risk Children and Families (also available in related resources) was developed to assist agencies working with at risk children and their families to share information with us, and to provide clarity around the process of information sharing.

    Relevant information

    Child Protection and Family Support can share or discuss relevant information with other agencies and individuals, both verbally and in writing, to promote the safety and wellbeing of children.  Under s.23(1), relevant information is information that, in the opinion of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), is relevant to the wellbeing of:

    • a child or a class or group of children
    • the safety of a person who has been subjected to, or exposed to, one or more acts of family and domestic violence, or
    • the performance of a function under the Act
    • a person who qualifies for assistance under s.96 is a person who has reached the age of 15 and is under 25 years of age, has left the CEO's care, and was the subject of:
      • a protection order (time-limited) or protection order (until 18)
      • 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.

     

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    Reciprocal memorandum of understanding agreements

    The Western Australia Signs of Safety Child Protection Framework provides the basis for interagency collaboration and engaging with professionals across agencies. 

    Various strategic bilateral MOU's and Protocols have been developed to facilitate interagency work between the Department and Commonwealth, State and non-government partner agencies.  The MOUs and Protocols set out the requirements for joint child protection case practice, and the procedures for sharing or exchanging information about children and families engaged with us.

    These formal agreements provide information about:

    • specific practice requirements and procedures for working with different government agencies
    • the specific roles and responsibilities in case practice for us and the other government agency, and 
    • the relevant legislative mandates, and
    • agreed dispute resolution and grievance procedures.

    For specific information on working with another agency, refer to the relevant MOU or Protocol in the List of Interagency MOUs and Bilateral Schedules with CPFS

     

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    A guide on information sharing for government and community sector organisations

    The guide Working together for a Better Future for At Risk Children and Families (in related resources) was developed to assist community sector organisations working with at risk children and their families to share information with us, and to provide clarity around the process of information sharing.

    Where external agencies have concerns about the safety of a child, they can contact the duty officer at their local district office to discuss their concerns, and/or to request that Form 441 - Child Protection Concern Referral Form be sent to them or advise that Form 441 can be downloaded from the website.

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    Release of information to carers

    ​For information relating to the release of information to carers, child protection workers should refer to Chapter 3.4: Placement Referral- Child Information Form.

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    Release of information to an employer

    ​Contacting or releasing information to an employer may affect a person's employment and their livelihood. These matters must be referred to the relevant district director or to the Director, Business Support and Coordination.

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    Release of relevant information to other agencies

    Under s.23(2) the CEO or an authorised officer may disclose relevant information to a public authority, a Commonwealth agency, a corresponding authority, a non-government provider or an interested person (for example, a legal representative).

    Information may be disclosed to other agencies in circumstances including:

    • an agency requests information to inform their work with a child, individual or family
    • an agency requests feedback in relation to information they have provided, or to a concern they have reported
    • to inform a request for the provision of a service
    • to assist in joint planning to promote the safety and wellbeing of a child, and 
    • where an agency has a significant and ongoing role in providing services and supports to the child and/or family.

    Permission to disclose relevant information

    Relevant information may be disclosed to other agencies without client or parental consent under s.23, however, wherever possible and appropriate, child protection workers must inform clients that records will be kept about them and information they disclose may be shared with other agencies.

    Where the disclosure of the information does not pose a risk to a child, child protection workers should seek consent for the release of information from the child (where age appropriate), and/or his or her parent.

    If consent is not granted, child protection workers must seek advice from the team leader and/or district director on whether the information should be released. This consultation must be recorded in the child's case plan.

    Gaining consent may not be possible or appropriate in the following circumstances:

    • the child may be placed at further risk or harm
    • reasonable efforts to obtain consent have failed
    • unable to contact the parents
    • there is a clear expectation from previous contact that consent would not be given
    • the child poses a risk to themselves, or is a risk to others, or 
    • the referrer may/would be exposed to serious risk or imminent threat to their health or safety.

    Parental consent to share relevant information is not necessary when a child is in the CEO's care under provisional protection and care, or a protection order (time limited) and (until 18). However, child protection workers should try to engage parents in decision making where possible and relevant.

    Other agencies request relevant information from Child Protection and Family Support

    Agencies may contact us to request case specific information about their clients for whom we may hold records. Agencies may seek information verbally or in writing, about children, parents and other family members.

    Child protection workers must assess the request and check that the information requested:

    • has been verified (substantiated)
    • is relevant (it promotes the safety and wellbeing of the child/children), and
    • that the information will be used for a legitimate purpose (what is the requesting agency's role and involvement with the client?)

    Relevant information provided by child protection workers to other agencies varies depending on the nature of the agency's involvement with the family at the time. Child protection workers should inform agencies about circumstances that may impact the release of relevant information where possible, such as a child protection investigation.

    Child protection workers may ask that the agency's request be made in writing and forward Form 439 - Release of Information to Another Agency for completion. Agencies with their own specific forms for requesting information may submit those.  

    For urgent requests, it may be appropriate for the request to be made verbally in the first instance, with the requesting agency providing a written confirmation of the request, as soon as practical.

    Child protection workers must assess what level of access to client information is required, and how this information should be shared on a case-by-case basis (for example, release of part or full reports, or verbal advice).

    When releasing copies of reports, or providing written or verbal information, child protection workers must advise that the information is confidential and should not be circulated, published or distributed without  first obtaining our permission.

    All requests for information received from other agencies and the information released must be recorded and placed on the client's file.

    Agency requests for feedback

    We aim to give appropriate feedback to referring agencies and wherever possible will provide feedback on planned actions. The level of detail provided is guided by the relationship of the referring agency to the child and family, and the referrer's ongoing role.

    If we and the referring agency have ongoing roles with a child and/or family, the agency may be asked to participate in case planning meetings to address the needs of the child. When a referring agency has an ongoing involvement with the family, it should be informed about significant decisions and actions that might impact the referring agency's work with the family.

    Referrals for provision of a service

    Child protection workers can share client information with other agencies to inform referrals for specific services. The nature of the referral determines what information can be shared, but may also include information relating to the safety and wellbeing of the agency's staff and other clients where this is relevant.

    Information sharing to assist in joint planning

    Child protection workers can share information with other agencies to promote collaborative planning and decision making that supports coordinated responses to children and families.

    There are circumstances where we need to advise other agencies about our  involvement with a child and family, for example, a child's school or child care provider, medical professionals and others.  This may happen when developing and monitoring of safety plans, participating in Signs of Safety meetings, or where children are taken into provisional protection and care.

    WA Police Service requests information from us

    We have agreements with WA Police for the exchange of information.  Where information is required by the police in relation to current joint child protection investigations or in relation to promoting or safeguarding the wellbeing of children and adult victims of family and domestic violence, officers should refer to the relevant agreement for direction. 

    Under these agreements, authorised officers are permitted to provide all necessary and relevant information to W.A. Police to progress joint investigations to meet the safety needs of children and adult victims.

    Where information requested is not related to a current joint investigation, information may only be provided on receipt of a warrant or notice under an appropriate Act.  Requests of this nature must be referred to our Summons and Subpoena section.

     

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    Child Protection and Family Support division requests relevant information from other agencies

    Under the Act, the CEO or an authorised officer may request a public authority, a corresponding authority, a non-government provider or an interested person holding relevant information to disclose information to the CEO or authorised officer as the case requires.

    When we make a request for information from another agency, the child protection worker should identify themselves and explain the concerns for the child and/or the context of the request (for example, conducting a safety and wellbeing assessment or care planning) to inform the agency as to what information may be relevant.

    When providing information to us, agencies may wish to use Form 441 Child Protection Concern Referral Form (in related resources). The form can also be downloaded from our website: 'Reporting Your Concern'.

    Requests for information from other Australian states and territories or New Zealand

    Child protection workers undertaking safety and wellbeing assessments with families who have come from another state must refer to the Interstate Child Protection Protocol (in related resources).  The Protocol provides a framework within which States work together in order to promote the best interests and well-being of children.

    The Protocol makes provision for sharing and exchanging of information between child protection departments to enable child protection workers to assess:

    • the safety and wellbeing of children
    • the suitability of prospective carers, and
    • make decisions about contact with family members.  

    Child protection workers must complete Form 901 Request for Interstate Information/Child Protection History, and email it to the Interstate Liaison Officer at WAInterstateLiaison@communities.wa.gov.au.  Written consent is required in some situations.  Child protection workers should refer to Chapter 3.3:  Interstate and New Zealand Liaison.

    Obtaining consent when requesting another agency to disclose information to us

    Wherever possible and appropriate, child protection workers should seek the consent of the client, child and/or the child's parent when requesting other agencies to disclose information to us. Child protection workers should ask the client to complete Form 141 - Consent for Release of Information to allow the disclosure of relevant information for the purpose of safeguarding and promoting a child's wellbeing.

    If consent is not possible or appropriate, child protection workers should seek advice from their team leader and/or district director on whether the information should be sought. This consultation must be recorded in the relevant case plan.

    Parental consent to request relevant information is not necessary when a child is subject to a protection order (time limited) or a protection order (until 18) as the CEO has parental responsibility. However, child protection workers should try to engage parents in decision making where possible and relevant.

    Child protection workers should consider the views of the child, where appropriate, and provide information to the child in a manner and language that the child can understand. For children in the CEO's care, child protection workers should refer to 3.4 Charter of rights for children and young people in the CEO's care.

    Relevant information may be requested from other agencies without client and/or parental consent under s.23 of the Act. Agencies are not obliged to disclose information requested by us, however individuals and agencies who, upon request, do disclose relevant information in good faith are protected from liability under s.23(5) and s.129 of the Act.

    Requests for relevant information

    Child protection workers may make verbal or written requests for information from other agencies. Where we make a written request for information, and when we make requests for information from the WA Police Service, child protection workers should complete Form 542 - Request for Relevant Information and forward it by post, facsimile or email to the relevant officer within the agency. Child protection workers should follow up written requests with a telephone call where appropriate. All requests for information, including the type of information sought, the reasons for seeking the information, the details of the person from whom we are seeking this information, and any information received in response, must be recorded and placed on the client's file.

    Where medical information is requested for a mature child, child protection workers must take into account the child's wishes. An assessment of the child's maturity and needs should be made on a case-by-case basis. Criteria for assessing the maturity of the child are outlined in the Gillick Principle (in related resources).

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    Requests for school enrolment information from the Department of Education

    Child protection workers may request school enrolment information from the Department of Education (DOE) for a child enrolled in a public school.  To request enrolment information, complete Form 586 - Request for School Enrolment Information from Department of Education and forward it to the Student Tracking Coordinator at DOE.  Any information received in response must be recorded and placed on the client's file. 

    If additional information is required from DOE, complete Form 542 - Request for Relevant Information and refer to the requests for relevant information section above.

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    After hours procedures

    ​After hours requests for information should be directed to the Crisis Care Unit for consideration on a case-by-case basis. If the request is not assessed as urgent it will be forwarded to the appropriate district office for a timely response.

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    Exchange of information between prescribed public authorities and authorised entities

    ​Section 28B of the Act allows for the exchange of relevant information between the CEOs (and their delegates) of prescribed public authorities and non-government providers and non-government schools, provided the information is relevant to the wellbeing of a child or a class or group of children or to the safety of a person subjected or exposed to an act of family and domestic violence.

    This provision facilitates effective cooperation between State government agencies on child protection matters, including joint case planning and decision making.

    As at 1 July 2018, the following agencies are prescribed public authorities (view full list)

    • Child and Adolescent Health Service
    • Department of Education
    • Department of Health
    • Department of Justice
    • Department of the Premier and Cabinet
    • Department of Treasury
    • Disability Services Commission
    • East Metropolitan Health Service
    • Health Support Services
    • Housing Authority
    • Judges, the Principal Registrar and Registrars, Family Law Magistrates and family consultants in the Family Court of WA
    • Mental Health Commission
    • North Metropolitan Health Service
    • Pathwest
    • Quadriplegic Centre
    • South Metropolitan Health Service
    • State Training Providers
    • Teacher Registration Board of Western Australia
    • Training Accreditation Council Western Australia
    • WA Country Health Service
    • Western Australia Police.
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    Requests from the Public Trustee

    ​The Public Trustee may request our assistance for: 

    • the identification of potential beneficiaries of an Aboriginal person who has died without a valid will (intestate)
    • information about children in the CEO's care whose parents have left a will with the Public Trustee, or
    • information about our former clients, such as children who were in the CEO's care.

    These requests are usually managed by the coordinator freedom of information and release of information. However on occasion, the Public Trustee may contact district offices directly for information (these requests are more likely to occur in country areas).

    When a request is received, child protection workers should ask that the Public Trustee complete and sign Form 439 Release of Information to Another Agency.  

    If a district office receives a request for information from the Public Trustee about a person who is not known to them, they should refer the Public Trustee to the coordinator freedom of information and release of information.

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    Releasing the information to the Public Trustee

    Child protection workers should search our records to identify potential beneficiaries, and/or for information regarding next of kin. When releasing information to the Public Trustee:

    • information must be provided in writing,
    • address details must not be disclosed, and 
    • child protection workers must follow the usual recording procedures.
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    Information sharing between Child Protection and Family Support division and Commonwealth Agencies

    ​The Commonwealth and Child Protection Agencies Information Sharing Protocols (the Protocols) with Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support Agency were developed to improve information sharing about children and families at risk.  The aims of the Protocols are to improve the care, safety, welfare and wellbeing and health of children. The Protocols:

    • provide standard procedures for requesting information from Commonwealth agencies
    • specify the type of information that can be requested and what supporting evidence is required for the request, and
    • provide timeframes for responding to requests for information sharing. 

    The Protocols operate in conjunction with Commonwealth legislation and s.23 Children and Community Services Act 2004.

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    Centrelink

    Child protection workers must follow the procedures set out in the Information Sharing Protocol between the Commonwealth and Child Protection Agencies - Centrelink (in related resources).

    For all cases where there is a threat to the life, health or welfare of a person, we may request relevant information held by Centrelink.  Centrelink requests can also be used to assist in locating a parent of a child in the CEO's care for the purposes of forwarding legal or important documentation to the parent.

    Child protection workers should complete Form 900 Request for Information from Centrelink and email it to Centrelink.InformationRequests@communities.wa.gov.au (our nominated contact officer).

    Child Support Agency

    For all cases where there is a threat to the life, health or welfare of a person, we may request relevant information held by the Child Support Agency.  Child protection workers must complete Form 900 - Request for Information from Centrelink and select the "other" category under section four.  Email it in Word format to Centrelink.InformationRequests@communities.wa.gov.au.

     

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    Medicare

    Medicare Australia can disclose personal information to us where it is necessary to prevent or reduce a threat to the life, health or welfare of a person or unborn child (for example, where a child is in a situation that places their life, health or welfare at risk).  Child protection workers may only request information that is relevant to our assessment of child protection concerns without client consent.  In general, timeframes should be kept to no more than 12 to 24 months maximum.

    Refer to the Information Sharing Protocol between the Commonwealth and Child Protection Agencies - Medicare (in related resources).

    Under the protocol, Medicare may disclose the following information:

    • Medicare claims – treating or referring doctor's name and address, service item number and description, date of service, Medicare benefit paid and the fee charged
    • Medicare enrolment – address, date of birth, phone number and email address (if provided by the person)
    • Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) – prescriber's name, dispensing pharmacy name, PBS item code and description, dates prescribed and supplied, quantity and number of repeats.

    When requesting information about Medicare claims, enrolment or PBS, child protection workers must complete Form 899 Request for Information from Medicare.  Send Form 899 in Word format to medicare.child.protection@communities.wa.gov.au.  Our nominated contact officer will send it on to Medicare.

    Note: the above email address must not be used to obtain Medicare card numbers or for queries.  For procedures for obtaining a Medicare card for a child in care, refer to 3.4 Health Care Planning, and for general enquires on the enrolment process telephone Medicare on 1300 660 035.

    If the information required relates to immunisation records, child protection workers should refer to Chapter 3.2 Medical or dental treatment – including immunisations for details on the procedure and required documentation.

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    Family information

    ​Family information can be obtained through the coordinator freedom of information and release of information, or via the State Records Office of Western Australia - Aboriginal Family History website (in related resources).

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