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4.2.7 Notification of death, serious injury or critical incident

Last Modified: 03-Aug-2018 Review Date: 02-Jan-2016


This entry details the procedures to be followed by child protection workers in relation to critical incident notifications such as death, serious injury or critical incident (any incident that may give rise to a potential viable legal claim for a child).

Separate entries in the Casework Practice Manual outline procedures to be followed regarding allegations of abuse of children in the CEO’s care (refer to Chapter 2.1 Assessing and Responding to Child Protection Concerns for Children in Care).

Practice Requirements

  • Where a child in the CEO's care has sustained a serious accidental injury, been involved in a critical incident or has died, the child protection worker must immediately advise the team leader and district director. 
  • The parents and carers (if applicable) should be made aware of the incident as soon as possible in respect to death, serious injury or a critical incident.
  • A comprehensive assessment of the critical incident or serious injury must be undertaken in a timely manner to ensure the child’s care arrangements are safe and protective, to confirm their care plan is appropriate and their legal rights are protected. The assessment should include talking to the child and/or another independent party. 
  • Where a child has died, the circumstances surrounding the child’s death must be fully assessed along with an assessment of any other children in the care arrangement and, where necessary, action taken to ensure their safety.
  • The assessment, including any decisions and the rationale for those decisions, must be clearly documented in the Incident Notification endorsed by the team leader and district director and submitted to the Duty of Care Unit (DoCU).
  • The client file must contain detailed information regarding the incident and Communities' response. For example, medical reports, case notes, interview transcripts, witness reports or psychological reports.

Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities.

Process Maps
Not applicable


  • Notification of a death, serious injury or critical incident to the Duty of Care Unit
  • Consultation
  • Lodging an Incident Notification
  • Follow up action
  • Briefing package for the General Law Unit
  • Notification of a death, serious injury or critical incident to the Duty of Care Unit

    Notifications are required so that children are protected from harm and that their legal rights are protected under the Bennett Principle.

    Any incident that results in, or is likely to result in, a child experiencing significant loss, harm or injury or that may result in a potential viable legal claim for a child, must be notified. Some initial assessment will need to be undertaken to determine which incidents need to be notified, but broadly speaking notification should occur within five working days of Communities becoming aware of the incident.

    Incidents that may need to be notified include, but are not limited to, serious accidental injury requiring significant medical treatment, a car accident, death of a parent or significant other, a standard of care issue which does not include a safety or wellbeing concern, and a victim of crime or serious bullying - refer to the DoCU for further detail.

    If a child protection worker receives information that a child in the CEO’s care has experienced a serious accidental injury or other incident that has resulted in, or may result in, harm or loss or the child has died, the information must be recorded on the child's file.



    Child protection workers must consult immediately with their team leaders and district director to plan an immediate response and to decide if an Incident Notification is required.

    Where a child in the CEO’s care has sustained a serious injury, been involved in a critical incident or has died, the child protection worker should confirm carers and families are appropriately debriefed and are aware of the range of supports available. For further information please refer to Chapter 3.1: Supporting foster carers.


    Lodging an Incident Notification

    When it is decided that an Incident Notification is required, the child protection worker immediately completes an Incident Notification in Assist and submits it to the team leader and district director for endorsement and approval. The Incident Notification must outline:

    • the child’s background - including parents’ names, when and why the child came into the CEO's care
    • details of his/her current care arrangement including the name and type of carer and the date the placement commenced
    • details of the incident including the date we became aware of the incident, when the incident occurred, who advised us of the incident, a clear description of what happened, details of any factors that may have contributed to the incident or concern, and who else, if anyone, was present, and
    • a response plan must also be developed and included in the notification in the Proposed Action field

    On approval, the Incident Notification is lodged in Assist.

    In the event of a death of a child in the CEO’s care, child protection workers must immediately advise their director and the Executive Director. Child protection workers must also liaise with the senior practice development officer, Professional Practice Unit (in head office) regarding any communication with the Office of the State Coroner. For details refer to Chapter 4.2: Notification of a child death by the State Coroner and exchange of information.

    The lodged Incident Notification is published to the case file and is available to the DoCU in Assist. The DoCU then carries out an initial quality assurance check on the Incident Notification and the initial field responses according to casework guidelines. If necessary, further information is sought from child protection workers. The notification may be returned to draft for updating by the child protection worker.

    Once this work is completed, the Duty of Care Registrar submits the Notification to the relevant directors and/or Executive Directors, and in some instances, the Director General for comment, identification of required action and endorsement.


    Follow up action

    The DoCU will forward the endorsed Incident Notification to the district director with a covering memorandum outlining the follow up requirements, including whether an outcome report is required.

    For critical incidents (critical incidents include death and serious injury), child protection workers provide Form 466 Follow up Duty of Care Outcome Report to the Duty of Care Registrar within 10 working days of the conclusion of the assessment. This form must be signed by the team leader and the district director.

    Other relevant documentation should be submitted with Form 466, for example, medical reports, police reports, witness statements, interview transcripts or psychological reports.

    Once Form 466 is received by the DoCU, the date of receipt is recorded on the Incident Notification screen in Assist and quality assured against case practice guidelines. If necessary, additional information will be sought from child protection workers.

    Where appropriate, Form 466 is then submitted to the relevant directors, Executive Directors and in some instances the Director General for comment and endorsement.

    Once returned to the DoCU, any comments from senior management are noted and forwarded to the relevant district director, along with the paperwork, for placing on the child’s file.


    Briefing package for the General Law Unit

    The DoCU is responsible for briefing the General Law Unit. This briefing must include a copy of the original Incident Notification, Form 466, assessment of case practice compliance and any relevant supporting documentation obtained from the child protection worker.

    Potential legal claims must be progressed in a timely manner, whenever possible, otherwise an individual may become ineligible to make a claim. The prescribed timeframes are set out in the Limitations Act 1935 and the Crown Suits Act 1947. Child protection workers should consult with the General Law Unit on such matters.