Housing Plus cares about the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children, young people and their families and play an important role in the child protection system. As a Social Housing and Community Services provider, our 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, Housing Plus will work with other government agencies and non-government organisations to identify services’ responses to support children, young people and their families. Housing Plus will use 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.
In undertaking its role in child protection, Housing Plus staff are required to comply with the following Acts:
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:
All Housing Plus 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. Housing Plus staff are not authorised to investigate suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.
Key responsibilities for Housing Plus includes:
Housing Plus also has a responsibility to ensure that:
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.
Housing Plus works directly with other government and non-government organisations with the aim of improving access to services and strengthening partnerships and early intervention approaches, including:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
All information concerning a report is treated in the strictest confidence. Housing Plus 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.
Under these two Acts, there are a number of exceptions to the general rule of nondisclosure, whereby Housing Plus 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.
The making of child protection reports by Housing Plus is not appealable. Housing Plus 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.
Updated – November 2018
Housing Plus is a progressive social enterprise that re-invests ALL profits back into improving social outcomes for individuals and communities in regional NSW. Housing Plus is a registered not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, and is a Tier 1 accredited community housing provider.
Suite 8, Level 2, 113 Byng Street
Orange NSW 2800
PO Box 968 ORANGE NSW 2800
Phone: 1800 603 300
Fax: (02) 6361 1609