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Law change will benefit children and young people

Law change will benefit children and young people

Planned changes to the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act will enable more flexible and appropriate responses to reports of children and young people in need of support, Child, Youth and Family Minister Ruth Dyson said today.

“The proposed legislative amendments will improve the flexibility of service responses for children, young people and families. They will allow the department to authorise non-government providers approved under the act to provide more timely support for children and families not at immediate risk of harm.”

Under the proposed ‘differential response’ model, Child, Youth and Family will undertake a preliminary assessment of all reports of children and young people in need of care or support, and then choose from a number of options:

a care or protection statutory investigation: this can only be conducted by a social worker employed by Child, Youth and Family;

child and family assessments: a new approach enabling the department, non-governmental organisations and other approved bodies to identify the care and protection or support needs (if any) of the child or young person, and services they may require;

referral to other organisations (including non government organisations) or departments for the provision of services;

any other action to give effect to the objects of the CYPF Act;

a decision that no further action is required, where appropriate.

Ruth Dyson said the new system would allow Child, Youth and Family social workers to provide the most appropriate response to notifications, and focus their work where it is most effective.

“A social work investigation is appropriate and necessary when dealing with cases involving a high risk of harm to a child or young person and the need for protection, such as sexual and physical abuse. This is the appropriate role for Child, Youth and Family social workers, often in conjunction with the police.

“However, many less urgent reports received by the department are about the general welfare of the family, or about behaviour problems, where the child or young person is not at immediate risk of harm. In some of these less urgent cases, a more appropriate response is to engage with families and assess needs, rather than undertake a formal statutory investigation.”

Ms Dyson said that, under the new model, NGOs and other bodies could have a role in carrying out child and family assessments and in service provision.

“The involvement of non-governmental organisations will lead to better engagement by families, better use of services and better outcomes. However, responsibility for the preliminary assessment, including determining the appropriate response, will remain with Child, Youth and Family or the Police, depending on which agency receives the call.”

Police processes and policies will remain the same under the proposed changes, Ms Dyson said.

“When the Police receive calls in respect of a notice of abuse or neglect, they will continue to carry out their own investigation and decide the appropriate response.”

She said the legislation was being amended to keep pace with current international best practice.

“Differentiated response systems operate very successfully overseas. The changes will require Child, Youth and Family to work closely with non-governmental organisations. There will be attention to issues of workforce development, and appropriate accreditation standards and monitoring systems for NGOs and other providers.”

The proposed changes have been referred to the social services committee today, for consideration alongside other changes to the act. They are expected to be enacted by the end of the year.

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