Frequently Asked Questions

A PDF version of these FAQs is available here: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Strong Families, Safe Kids Implementation Project?

The Strong Families, Safe Kids Implementation Project will implement the 30 Actions identified within the Strong Families, Safe Kids Implementation Plan.

The Implementation Plan articulates how government agencies will work together, to ensure the wellbeing of children, and how the Tasmanian Government will invest over $20 million towards the actions identified in the Implementation Plan.

This Implementation Plan not only addresses the specific recommendations of the Strong Families-Safe Kids Report, but also the steps required to fundamentally change the way government and non-government agencies work collaboratively to deliver services to improve the wellbeing of all Tasmanian children.

What are the outcomes being sought?

The intent behind Strong Families - Safe Kids is a more integrated and professionally capable system for the wellbeing and protection of children, with a strong focus on building strength in children and families.

Such a system emphasises the need to protect children at high risk, but also provide access to a range of integrated government and community support and intervention services to build support for families and children.

This reform recognises that the statutory child safety system plays a very small, albeit important, role in a broader system for protecting vulnerable children. Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, and supporting families is a shared responsibility. It requires families, communities, non-government and government agencies to work  together and to shift the focus from the singular end message of child protection to a bigger picture of child wellbeing.

How much has is to be invested in the changes?

The Tasmanian Government has committed $20.6 million over four years to implement actions in the Implementation Plan.  Thisis in addition to current funding for Child Safety and support services.

How long will it take?

The Implementation Project will run for a two year period, and commenced on 1 July 2016.

How many new staff are being recruited?

31 new permanent staff will be recruited as part of the implementation project.

This includes 10 Clinical Practice Consultant and Educators, six Unit Coordinators, two additional THS - Child Safety Liaison Officers, four Training and Development roles, two Aboriginal Liaison Officer roles, five additional Support Workers and two Staff Health and Wellbeing Support roles.

In addition, there are a number of fixed-term roles to assist elements of the implementation, either as a member of the project team, or from within Children and Youth Services.

When will these new staff be on board?

The 31 new permanent roles are to be recruited over the two years of the project, with the majority in the first 12 months.

Recruitment for the new roles is staged to allow for the progressive restructure of the service (for example, bringing new senior practice and unit coordinator roles online alongside structural change such as the Advice and Referral Service during Quarter 1 2017- 18).  This approach also avoids creating unforeseen gaps in existing service provision if existing staff transition to the new positions.

What will the new positions do?

The new roles are described briefly below:

Clinical Practice Consultants and Educators

These positions are intended to take a lead role in clinical governance within the Child Safety Service, promoting and supporting high standards of ethical and professional practice. This includes mentoring new staff, professional consultation with staff, as well as critical reflection on practice, and practice support and development within a Signs of Safety Framework in order to ensure that services to children and families are consistent with statutory requirements and reflect best practice.

THS – Child Safety Liaison Officers

These roles will mirror the the existing position currently based in southern Tasmania; and will facilitate the provision of information, advice, assistance and support to THS Hospital staff in child safety cases of a complex and critical nature.  This includes working with hospital staff to assist them in decision making and duty of care considerations before proceeding to notify statutory authorities of children considered to be at risk and, helping to facilitate and improve access to statutory Child Safety Service and other services designed to support vulnerable children

Unit Coordinators

These positions are still subject to consultation with staff and unions however, as noted in the implementation plan, these positions are intended to provide administrative support to Child Safety Teams for practice related tasks. Broadly, the intent of these (and other) support roles is to enable frontline staff to focus on their critical role.

Staff Health and Wellbeing Roles

The aim of these positions is to support to health and wellbeing of the Child Safety Service staff members through provision of counselling, group work, health promotion and critical incident debriefing as well as consulting on issues related to providing a safe and positive Child Safety Service work environment.

Aboriginal Liaison Officers

These positions are still subject to consultation with Aboriginal community organisations, however, as noted in the implementation plan, the overall intention of these positions is to enable the Child Safety Service (particularly the Advice and Referral Service) to connect with the Aboriginal community, respond in a way that is culturally sensitive and provide services that are linked with existing support networks and services available in the Aboriginal community.

What do we mean by Child Wellbeing?

The term Child Wellbeing is used in the context of the Strong Families, Safe Kids Implementation Plan to denote a holistic understanding, and service system response, to a child’s needs.

This understanding recognises that safety is only one component of child wellbeing, and that the Child Safety Service is only one of a number of service responses to the needs of children. For the system for protecting children in Tasmania to work effectively, all parts of the system have to focus on support for children, young people, families and communities to promote health and wellbeing, prevent problems and enable early and effective intervention when problems do escalate.

Why change the name from Child Protection Service to Child Safety Service?

The Strong Families-Safe Kids Report emphasised the need to shift the focus from a singular child protection response, to one that recognises that child safety is just one critical component of the wellbeing of children. Renaming the Child Protection Service into the Child Safety Service, within which there will be Child Safety Teams, makes it clear that it is only one part of the child/young people and family support network/system involved in the wellbeing of the child or young person.

This action does not lessen the responsibility of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) role in responding to safety concerns for children, or as guardian of children in care. Rather, it emphasises that DHHS must collaborate with others to build strength and resilience in children, just like any other parent.

What will the new Child Safety Teams do?

The specific structure and functions of new Child Safety Teams is still subject to consultation with staff and unions, however, as noted in the implementation plan, broadly speaking these teams will be structured as outlined below:

Court Teams

Court Teams will provide a liaison, coordination and support function between Advice and Referral, short-term reunification, or permanency teams; the Child Protection Legal Group (CPLG) within Crown Law and the Magistrates Court. Members of this team will be given the tools and support to become familiar with each care application to be considered by the Court, ensure the collation of relevant documents and provide quality assurance for material provided to the CPLG and the Court.

Child Safety Teams

Child Safety Teams are small units where team members can work collaboratively for a group of children. Children at risk will be allocated to teams, as opposed to individual workers so that multiple skill-sets can be directed towards addressing the safety issues for the child. Working in teams will also help to use resources flexibly to address times when the needs of a child are high, or when members of the team are unexpectedly absent.

There will be two types of Child Safety Teams:

Short Term Teams

Short Term Teams will focus on working with families to safely return children home. Success in this process relies on a strong capability to work with the child, their carer/s and family, and a capacity to engage appropriate services to address the issues that led to the removal of the child in the first place.

These teams will be structured to reflect the intensive nature of reunification, and will work in partnership with services across government and the community sector that are supporting and assisting parents and the child.

Long Term Teams

Permanency Teams will be tasked with securing and maintaining permanent (or up to 18 years) arrangements for the care of a child where the child is not able to safely return home. Dedicated teams will assist in building the capabilities and capacity required to manage this process compassionately and professionally.

Why change Intake Service to Advice and Referral Service?

The vast majority of incidents considered at Intake result from mandatory reporting arrangements, and despite the legal ability for such reports to be made to Gateway services, the reality is that the overwhelming majority are still made to the Intake service.

This means that the reports not reaching the threshold for a Child Safety Service intervention are either closed and/or referred to other universal or secondary services, including the Gateway for further assessment and engagement if appropriate.

In addition, the dual entry point can also result in complex, or difficult to engage families being caught in the gap between the two services and not receiving a service, until a crisis point is reached and the threshold of Child Safety Service intervention is exceeded, by which point the situation may not be easily addressed.

This means that there is a need to better manage the reports that will continue to be made, including establishing a single front door (combining elements of the Gateway and Child Safety Service Intake) that can assess and refer matters to an appropriate service, which may be the Child Safety Service or another service, including family support services..

Consultation sessions are being held with Child Safety Service staff around the State throughout September and October 2016 as part of developing a model for the delivery of the Adivce and Referral Service. It is envisaged a proposed model will be released for broader consultation across the sector in late 2016/early 2017.

There are six key elements to the statewide Advice and Referral Service: a broadened risk focus, the provision of additional decision-making and coordination resources, increased after hours capacity, continued provision of culturally sensitive responses, development of a consistent statewide service, and an increased ability to gather information.

Therefore, the model will need to address: core functions required of the service, the need for statewide consistency, the expertise currently within regional Intake and Response teams, the functions of the current Gateway service, the extended or after hours response of the service, and the need for co-located liaison or other linkages with key referral services.

What about Family Support Services?

From the Reference Group consultation process undertaken during the development of the Strong Families – Safe Kids Report, it is clear that there remains a cohort of children and families that have a level of assessed need that exceeds the services provided by the current Gateway portal, but do not meet the threshold for a Child Safety Service response.

Families who are in real crisis, approaching the point of crisis, or are unwilling to receive help through traditional service networks, are often unable to be assisted in the current child safety system. These families may ultimately end up in the statutory system, simply due to the cumulative effect of their failures to access help at an earlier point.

Investment in assertive family support will enable children to remain safely in their family home where possible, without the need for removal and entry into the out of home care system. Establishment of an evidence based model will address a significant gap in service provision, which is currently placing increasing pressure on the child protection service.

The development of this model will be supported by an interim investment of $1.5 million over two years to allow for the short-term purchase of additional intensive family support services for children and families who are on the brink of entering the statutory service system.

The Child Safety Service needs to be supported by appropriate universal and secondary support services. These support services will span a continuum of need, ranging from general advice to more assertive engagement with intensive support services. As part of a redesigned service system,  the Tasmanian Government’s current investment in family support services will be realigned to ensure it continues to meet the needs of the Tasmanian population and compliments the broader change agenda of the redesign.

How can I have input into the Implementation Project?

Each of the 30 actions outlined in the Strong Families-Safe Kids Implementation Plan will be supported by opportunities for you to contribute, including providing feedback on proposed new models and ways of working; staff consultation sessions and staff surveys.

Alongside these opportunities, there is a formal staff reference group, which meets on a regular basis to consider project material and provide feedback. This group is also tasked with seeking feedback on project activities from their work teams and areas as well.

Outside these formal opportunities, the Project Team welcomes feedback or questions at any stage, which by email cpredesignteam@dhhs.tas.gov.au or phone 6166 3803

How can I find out more about the project?

Regular updates on the project are being placed on the project intranet page (staff only) and are also publicly available on the Strong Families - Safe Kids webpage, along with copies of Professor Harries report, the associated implementation plan and other relevant information.

There are also regular staff video conferences and a general email address for questions or comments (cpredesignteam@dhhs.tas.gov.au) which can be used for any general questions about the project.

Who is making sure the project stays on track?

A Child Protection Redesign Oversight Committee has been established, comprising the Heads of Agency from the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Justice, and Police, Fire and Emergency Management.

As part of their role the Oversight Committee ensure that these reforms are progressed collaboratively and with a shared vision and purpose. The Oversight Committee will report directly to their portfolio Ministers on implementation progress, with any significant cross-portfolio decisions to be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

Quarterly reports on progress are also provided through the Oversight Committee to Cabinet.

How are we making sure the changes make a difference?

The Oversight Committee is currently considering a suite of indicators (to be drawn from both the Child Safety Service and broader population level measures) to track the impact of the reforms over time.  Once finalised, this collection of indicators will be used to report regularly.