Assessing wellbeing, safety and risk
Children and families need to be provided with timely and effective assessment to determine the factors affecting the safety and wellbeing of their children.
Child Protection Helpline
The Child Protection Helpline (the Helpline) is a 24/7 telephone service that receives information from reporters and undertakes assessment of information on child protection concerns.
Before making a report to the Helpline mandatory reporters should complete the MRG by referring to the definitions, to determine whether a report to the Helpline or CWU (if available) is needed, or whether there are alternative ways to support vulnerable children and their families.
The MRG is not designed to determine whether the matter constitutes risk of significant harm. Rather it provides information about what initial action to take in response to concerns about abuse or neglect.
Refer to Part 6 of the Interagency Guidelines for more advice about reporting and responding to child wellbeing and safety concerns.
Mandatory reporters from Education, Health and Police are also recommended to contact their relevant CWU to assist in effectively applying the MRG to assess the level of risk to children and determine whether a report to the Helpline is required.
What is involved in an assessment at the Helpline?
Screening and Response Priority (SCRPT) Tool
The SCRPT is used by the Helpline’s practitioners to help them determine whether a report meets the risk of significant harm (ROSH) threshold. Helpline practitioners use the Response Priority Tool within the SCRPT, as well as professional expertise, to assess how quickly a response is needed.
Helpline practitioners also take into consideration whether a report meets the referral criteria for the Joint Child Protection Response Program. They consider whether the report is indicative of sexual abuse, serious physical abuse or serious neglect, and whether:
- a crime has been committed
- it requires referral to NSW Police.
When assessing reports, Helpline practitioners take into account a range of information and considerations including:
- the nature of the concerns (extent of harm)
- the immediacy of contact between the child and the person believed to be causing harm
- if there is forensic evidence that needs collecting or the child requires urgent medical intervention
- if the person believed to be causing harm has previously seriously harmed a child
- if the family is likely to move to avoid investigation
- an established pattern of behaviour by the person believed to be causing harm to the child
- the age of and/or the level of functioning of the child
- if a High Risk Birth Alert (HRBA) exists and a safety assessment is required at the time of delivery.
The application of SCRPT to a report can result in the report being ‘screened out’ when the information is not significant and when a new statutory investigation is not required. Many reports that are screened out still involve information being forwarded to a CSC when the child is already known to the child protection system.
If the report is ‘screened in’, the Response Priority Tool helps workers determine how swiftly an investigation must be initiated for those reports accepted for investigation.
What is a response priority?
A response priority is the time within which assessment or other action on the report should be initiated. Determining a response priority assists Community Services Centres and the Joint Child Protection Response Program to prioritise and allocate reports, having regard for the urgency of the situation.
Response priorities are:
- within 24 hours (< 24 hours)
- within 3 days (< 72 hours)
- within 10 days (< 10 days)
NOTE: The CSC and the Joint Referral Unit may reassess response priorities. See section below on triage assessment at the CSC.
When a report is screened in, it will be forwarded to a CSC, DCJ triage team (e.g. CCMARC), or the Joint Referral Unit (JRU). The JRU, comprising DCJ, NSW Police and NSW Health staff, will review and assess the referral. They determine whether a specialist response within the JCPRP is required, or alternatively whether a local Police, DCJ and/or Health response is warranted.