Housing Pathways

Children and Young People at Risk Policy

Policy Last Amended: 11 October 2017

1. Background

Social housing providers care about the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children, young people and their families and play an important role in the child protection system. Social housing providers’ role in child protection is to report to the Child Protection Helpline any reasonable suspicion that a child or young person is at risk of significant harm.

Where the suspected risk of significant harm is below this statutory reporting threshold, social housing providers will work with other government agencies and non-government organisations to identify services’ responses to support children, young people and their families.

Social housing providers will use their best endeavours to comply with a request for assistance from FACS (Community Services), if the request is consistent with its own responsibilities as a social housing provider. In addition, the Children's Court may make an order directing social housing providers to provide assistance to a child or young person.

The purpose of this policy is to outline the role of social housing providers in child protection matters.

2. Scope

This policy applies to all clients applying for housing assistance, or tenants living in dwellings owned or managed by FACS or community housing providers, including tenants of the Aboriginal Housing Office.

3. Policy Statement

The NSW Government five year plan to change the way children, young people and families are supported and protected in NSW is outlined in Keep Them Safe: A shared approach to child wellbeing

Keep Them Safe aims to provide support to families earlier, by agencies working collaboratively, to prevent children and young people requiring statutory child protection intervention.

Social housing providers are committed to the principles of Keep Them Safe and work in partnership with other agencies concerning the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children and young people by:

  • Recognising the signs of abuse and neglect and reporting the name or a description of a child or young person reasonably suspected of being at risk of significant harm to the Child Protection Helpline.
  • Working with other government and non-government agencies to monitor instances where a child or young person is reasonably suspected of being at risk of significant harm.
  • Making appropriate referrals to agencies that support children, young people and families.
  • Providing appropriate housing assistance to children, young people and their families.

Social Housing Responsibilities

All social housing staff are mandatory reporters by law and if, during the course of their work, staff have a reasonable suspicion that a child or young person is at risk of significant harm, a report will be made as soon as practicable to the Child Protection Helpline.  Social housing staff are not authorised to investigate suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.

Key responsibilities for social housing providers include:

  • Providing housing assistance to eligible households where children and young people are at risk.
  • Assisting children and young people in the transition from out of home care to independent living in private and social housing
  • Taking into consideration the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children and young people when assessing applications for priority assistance from eligible clients who are experiencing domestic violence.
  • Referring families in crisis to appropriate support services.
  • Seeking assistance from a local Family Referral Service where available.
  • Reporting to FACS (Community Services) if the child or young person is known to be currently under the care of the Minister.

FACS has a responsibility to ensure that organisations funded or regulated by FACS are aware of their responsibilities under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.

All social housing providers also have a responsibility to ensure that:

  • Staff receive training in how to recognise and report cases of child abuse and neglect.
  • Child protection policies, guidelines and procedures are properly implemented
  • Any allegation of child abuse made against a member of staff is reported to FACS (Community Services) and the NSW Ombudsman.

Top of page

Working with other agencies

The Child Wellbeing and Child Protection – NSW Interagency Guidelines (2009) set out in practical terms the ways that the wider community and human services agencies can collaborate in their work with children, young people and their families where there are concerns of at risk of significant harm. The guidelines detail general indicators of child abuse and neglect, which can assist staff in identifying whether a child or young person is being abused or neglected.

Social housing providers work directly with other government and non-government organisations with the aim of improving access to services and strengthening partnerships and early intervention approaches, including:

  • FACS (Community Services)
  • NSW Police Force
  • NSW Health
  • Corrective Services NSW
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Local Government Authorities
  • National Disability Insurance Agency
  • Other organisations that supervise and are responsible for the provision of health care, welfare, education, children's services and residential services.

Exchange of information with other government and non-government agencies

Under Chapter 16A of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998, government agencies and non-government organisations have the authority to request and release information about a child or young person and their parent, without consent, if it relates to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child or young person.

The exchange of information only relates to information already held by the agency and where the information will assist in:

  • Making a decision, assessment or plan,
  • Initiating or conducting an investigation,
  • Providing a service relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person (or class of children or young persons), and/or
  • Managing a risk to a child or young person.

In situations where sharing information under Chapter 16A of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 is related to a domestic violence matter that puts the victim’s safety and/or health at threat, information can be exchanged under Part 13A of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007. For more information go to Privacy and Information Sharing Policy.

Top of page

Working with FACS (Community Services)

FACS (Community Services) is the lead agency in providing care and protection to children and young people and is prescribed by the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. The primary role and responsibility of FACS (Community Services) involves receiving, assessing, investigating and responding to reports of child abuse and neglect and providing statutory intervention when required.

Under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998:

  • A child is under 16 years of age; and
  • A young person is aged 16 years or above but under 18.

Requests for information from FACS (Community Services)

FACS (Community Services) can request information from Housing Pathways providers, as a prescribed body under Chapter 16A of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.

Where a request for information under Chapter 16A is received, and the social housing provider  is confident the request meets the principles of Chapter 16A, the information must be supplied.

Social housing providers can decline a request for information under Chapter 16A from a prescribed body if the request does not meet the principles of Chapter 16A. FACS (Community Services) however has the power by a notice under Section 248 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 to compel social housing providers to disclose existing information relating to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child, an unborn child or a young person.  Social housing provider staff are legally obliged to provide this information to FACS (Community Services). However, FACS (Community Services) can only collect information that already exists. It cannot require social housing provider staff to collect new information or to undertake a separate assessment and report.

Requests for information made under Section 248 will only occur after discussions between senior management of both agencies have taken place.

Requesting information from FACS (Community Services)

Social housing providers can request information from FACS (Community Services) under Chapter 16A if it relates to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child or young person. FACS (Community Services) is a prescribed body under Chapter 16A and is legally required to provide this information, if the request meets the principles of Chapter 16A.

Top of page

Safeguarding of people who make reports

Reports relating to child wellbeing are confidential. The identity of a reporter cannot be disclosed without their permission or unless directed by a judge or magistrate during court proceedings.

Disclosure to a law enforcement agency is also authorised (subject to conditions) under Section 29(4A) of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 if it is investigating a serious offence against a child or where disclosure is necessary for the protection and safety of the child and any other child.

Confidentiality

All information concerning a report is treated in the strictest confidence.  Social housing provider staff must not inform parents or caregivers that FACS (Community Services) or the Police are investigating an incident of suspected child abuse or neglect. Any person making an inquiry or complaint concerning a report will be referred to FACS (Community Services) or the Police.

Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 and the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002

Under these two Acts, there are a number of exceptions to the general rule of non-disclosure, whereby social housing provider staff may disclose or exchange relevant personal information to or with other agencies if lawfully authorised or required to do so. Under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998, the non-disclosure provisions of Privacy or other laws are specifically excluded from operating to prevent the proper provision or exchange of information under that Act.

Top of page

4. Legislation and Compliance

In undertaking its role in child protection, social housing providers are required to comply with the following Acts:

5. Related documentation

6. Further Information

Appeals and review of decisions

The making of child protection reports by social housing provider staff is not appealable. This is social housing provider staff are legally required to make a mandatory report to FACS (Community Services) if, during the course of their work, they have reasonable grounds for suspecting a child is at risk of significant harm. Housing Pathways provider staff are also authorised by legislation to make non-mandatory reports with respect to children and young people.

Top of page

www.facs.nsw.gov.au