November 15, 2019
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>>Ms Sedon: I work with
the NSW Department of Family & Community
Services. Together, we’re partnering
with the Department of Social Services in
championing the challenge, sharing information
nationally to ensure child safety. [ Slide – The Child Protection
Information Sharing Problem ] There are over 200,000 children interacting
with the child protection system in Australia
each year. Each of these children
will have relationships with multiple adults,
which will also interact with the system. They could include
parents, step-parents, foster parents,
caseworkers, managers and
youth workers. This may mean that
well over 500,000 individuals interact
with the system each year. Child protection workers
need access to background information about at risk
children and adults that interact with them in
order to better understand their situation and
identify the best strategies to protect
these children. According to the
Australian Bureau of Statistics, around 300,000
people move interstate in Australia each year and,
with this high mobility, many children are at risk
and their families are moving across state
and territory borders. However, child protection
systems are managed independently by each
state and territory and, because of this, child
protection workers are not always able to easily
identify and access background information if it
is held by another state. As a result, there
have been far too many instances of children
falling through the cracks and not receiving the help
they need because child protection workers have[n’t]
been able to access the information they needed
to assess the situation. For example, a caseworker
receives a notification where a child appears to be in
a harmful situation at home. Because it is the first
time this agency has received a notification
about this child and the notifier has limited
information about what is happening, the caseworker
is not able to adequately assess the situation. The caseworker is unaware
that the child has recently moved from
interstate where the child and family have had prior
involvement with the child protection system and
there is significant information held by this
state to suggest that this child may be in danger. However, the child is not
currently subject to a child protection order,
and the state is not aware that the child has
moved interstate. At present, there is
no system to alert this caseworker that
information exists to help the caseworker in
protecting the child. [ Slide – Child Protection
Protocol ] Protocols do exist between territory – states and territories in relation to
the transfer of child protection information. The protocol for the
transfer of care and protection orders and
proceedings and interstate assistance provides a
framework for states and territories to work
together in order to promote the interests and
wellbeing of children. Provision 22 of the
Protocol requires that a department that believes
that child is known to them has gone interstate
and has determined it would be appropriate for
the other state to be aware of child protection
concerns relating to that child, to provide an
outline of these concerns and any other information
to the state where the child is now located. However, this information
is reliant on a state or territory being aware
that the child has moved interstate and also having
knowledge of where the child may now be located,
and this state also determining that their
concerns are significant enough that the other state
needs to be aware of them. Provision 25 of the
Protocol also requires that, subject to
confidentiality and privacy provisions in
a state’s legislation, a department must provide
information it holds relevant to a particular
child if requested to do so by another interstate
department for the purpose of undertaking
responsibilities under child protection
legislation. However this is reliant
upon the state first being aware that another state
holds information that is relevant to them. [ Slide – Child Protection Information ] There are several intersecting barriers that currently prevent
child protection agencies from sharing information
across jurisdictions. They include differing
privacy laws and information-sharing
policies between the various states and
territories that can prevent them from being
able to release certain information to other
child protection agencies. Cultural barriers whereby
agencies are legally able to share information, but
believe they cannot or are unsure of whether they are
able to share information. Practical barriers such
as the time and additional workload involved in
identifying and accessing information held
by another state or territory, and the
potential for child protection workers to miss
or overlook information relevant to another state
due to heavy workloads or not understanding the
other state’s needs. Differing state and
territory child protection IT systems that don’t
talk to each other, meaning that often the
only way to determine whether another state
holds relevant information is to contact each
state directly. [ Slide – The National
Framework ] The Australian Government is
working at improving these issues through the
Third Action Plan of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, which has
been endorsed by the commonwealth, state and
territory governments. This collaborative work
involving all Australian governments and the
non-government sector includes actions to
address barriers to information sharing within
and across jurisdictions for government and
non-government agencies where there are concerns about
child safety and wellbeing. The Inter-jurisdictional
Child Protection Information Sharing
Project is being implemented under Strategy
3 of the Third Action Plan. This project, which is
being led by the NSW Department of Family
& Community Services, is exploring gaps
and barriers to the inter-jurisdictional
exchange of child protection information and
will consider options for improving
information exchange. The key focus points of
this project will be in addressing legislative
policy and organisational cultural changes required
to facilitate the sharing of information across
jurisdictional borders. The IT solution we’re
looking for will work in with this project by
addressing the practical and IT-based barriers to
information sharing as states improve
their legislation, policies and culture around
information exchange As such, it’s important
that the solution developed is scalable
to work with, not only under the current
conditions of the child protection system,
but also as states and territories make changes
to their systems. [ Slide – The IT Solution ] The solution we’re looking for is a near real
time check system which interacts with the
existing information systems of child protection authorities nationwide. Ideally, the system will
operate automatically as caseworkers enter new
information into their systems, as usual, and
identify whether a child or an adult of interest
that is being entered into the system is known
to child protection authorities in
other jurisdictions. If a match is identified,
the system should alert the caseworker that
information exists elsewhere and provide
the caseworker with information on who to
contact in order to access that information. Once legislative
and policy areas are addressed, the system
may also need to transfer background information
and case files across jurisdictions and the
solution should be scalable to meet
this future need. [ Slide – Types of Systems ] As an example of the complexity of the types
of systems involved in jurisdictions, we’ll use
NSW Family & Community Services, also known
as FACS, as an example. So FACS currently uses a number
of different IT systems. The main is the Key
Information Directory System, also
known as KIDS, the Child
Protection Helpline, ChildStory and the
Corporate Information Warehouse. KIDS is used by
caseworkers to record child protection
information, which is accessible
state wide. The Child Protection
Helpline is a phone service for reporting
about children at significant risk of harm. Data is recorded along
with the calls received. ChildStory is a new
solution for multiple user groups relevant to
child protection. It will replace a number
of existing IT systems in FACS. It is currently in its
build phase with the first release for caseworkers
expected to be rolled out in early 2017. The Corporate Warehouse
information is less for frontline service
providers, and more for
corporate services. This information is used
for internal management decision-making purposes. [ Slide – Information ] There are several criteria that the solution
will need to fulfil, including that it must
address the provisions of the various privacy
acts and to protect the sensitive information and privacy of all parties involved. It will need to identify
business rules required to capture information from
disparate data sources governed by different
legislative requirements. It will need to cope with
partial data for matching. Importantly, it will need
to be scalable to allow for implementation
incrementally to include further categories of
related information, such as information
from Justice, Health, Child Support and the
non-government sector as legislative policy and
cultural barriers to information sharing
are addressed. It is also important to
highlight that we are not looking for a database,
as all information in case files will need to
be retained by the originating agency. [ Slide – Security ] It must have a high degree of information security, and
comply with all relevant security standards. It will need to include
an audit log function. It will not be a mechanism
to navigate policy or legislative barriers,
rather it will work with any of these existing
restrictions. It will need to feature
user-centred design that is easy to operate and
does not create additional workload for users. It will need to be
accessible by state and territory government
authorities providing statutory child
protection. It should have
the potential for notifications to be sent
to caseworkers where information changes
post-search. It will need to be
available via various digital channels, for
example, mobile, app, tablet or PC to facilitate
timely access to information, and should
also be useable across internet, high usage and
lower usage internet areas. [ Slide – Rollout ] We expect that the successful solution will be initially
trialled across two jurisdictions, which are
likely to be New South Wales and the ACT. If this trial
is successful, it is anticipated that
the solution will be implemented across child
protection agencies in all states and territories. There is also potential
for the solution to later be expanded to include
information from other sectors, for instance
from Justice, Health and
Education sectors. [ Slide – Contact ] If you have any questions, please email them to
[email protected] Thank you for your time.

Robin Kshlerin

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