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4.2.6 Notification of a child death by the State Coroner and exchange of information

Last Modified: 11-Sep-2019 Review Date: 02-Jan-2019

 Legislation

Purpose

To provide guidance to child protection workers on the methods and procedures by which information, notifications and reports are exchanged with the Office of the State Coroner (the Coroner).

Practice Requirements
  
  • Information exchanged between the Coroner and the Department of Communities (the Department) should be through the Central Review Team.

  • You must refer any request for information on the death of a child by the Western Australia Police Service (WA Police) to the Central Review Team.

  • You must advice the Central Review Team of any request for information on the death of a child from an outside source. 

  • You and/or your team leader must assess the information received in the Form 469 and determine further action, such as:

    • recording the date of the child's death in our information systems
    • assessing the care and safety of remaining siblings, which may include making a determination as to whether a Child Safety Investigation is necessary
    • assessing supports and services that may be required, or 
    • the provision of financial or other assistance.
Process Maps
Not applicable

Procedures

  • Information exchange
  • The notification process
  • Responding to contact from family
  • Information exchange

    The Coroner’s Act (1996) enables the Coroner to obtain information from any source to assist in the investigation and determination of a person’s death. The Coroner also notifies the Department of the reportable death of any child under the age of 18 years. 

    A reportable death is defined under the Coroner’s Act (1996) and includes any child who is in the CEO's care at the time of his or her death. It also includes any child whose death “appears to have been unexpected, unnatural or violent, or to have resulted directly or indirectly from injury”.

    The Department in turn provides information which may assist or have a bearing on the Coroner’s Inquiry.

    The Department may seek details about the circumstances of the death of a child where it is believed that these may indicate risk or harm to another child.  Requests for such information, including post mortem information, should be made via the Central Review Team, who forward the request to the manager at the Coroner. The request should include the reasons the information is being requested. The information is confidential and is only to be used for promoting the safety of children believed to be at risk.

    The Central Review Team and the Coroner’s Counselling Service may discuss issues relating to a group of deaths or a specific child death before formal written notification is made. Such discussions may be needed to assist coronial investigating officers, WA Police and pathologists.

    Child protection workers should refer to the Reciprocal Child Protection Procedures – State Coroner of Western Australia (in related resources).

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    The notification process

    1. The Coroner’s Counselling Service forwards a notification of a reportable death to the Central Review Team.

    2. The Central Review Team searches our client record systems to determine the nature and extent of contact with the subject child and/or family. The search is conducted on the subject child, the parents and any significant others, such as siblings.

    3. The Central Review Team provides information about the Department's contact with the family to the Coroner and the WA Police Coronial Investigation Squad.

    4. The Central Review Team notifies relevant Department staff of the death. The notification provides details about the child, the child’s parents, the circumstances of death, the extent of our contacts and identifies any issues of significance for the child and/or family.

    5. The child protection worker and/or team leader must assess the information received in Form 469 Child Death Notification and determine further action, such as:

      1. recording the date of the child's death in our information systems

      2. assessing the care and safety of remaining siblings, which may include making a determination on whether an investigation is necessary

      3. assessing supports/services that may be required, or 

      4. the provision of financial or other assistance.

    6. The minimum action required is that Department staff are aware of the death if the family seek financial or other types of assistance.  If the notification is in relation to an open case, child protection workers must record the date of death on our information systems.

    7. The Central Review Team will coordinate the preparation of any further information requested by the Coroner.

    8. If the Coroner (or WA Police officers on behalf of the Coroner) need to make an after hours notification of death and/or require information, the Coroner will notify the Crisis Care Unit (CCU).

    The CCU advise the Assistant Director General, relevant Executive Director (metro or regional) and Director, Cental Review Team of the child's death.

    The Executive Director advises other officers, such as the district director or Corporate Communications, as per standard critical incident requirements.

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    Responding to contact from family

    The death of a child is a traumatic, painful and difficult time for a parent.  Parents (particularly those whose child was in the CEO's care) may have many questions about the circumstances and causes of their child’s death. Staff are requested to refer all enquiries received from parents or persons acting on behalf of parents to the counselling staff at the Coroner. The Coronial Counselling Service has been established to facilitate communication between the next of kin and all other parties and to provide counselling and support at this difficult time. The counselling service can be contacted on 08 9425 2900. 

    The  Coronial Counselling Service webpage has ‘Information for Families’ resource documents in English, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Italian and Vietnamese.  

    The Central Review Team must be advised of any request for information about the death of a child received from an external source, including parents or persons acting on their behalf.

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