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Case management in operation

The nature, extent and complexity of the needs of a child, young person and their family and the type of services being provided or that need to be provided will influence whether case management is necessary and who has case management responsibility.

The benefit of case management is that it enables a comprehensive, thorough assessment of the individual, their family, their needs and strengths. Secondly, it provides a framework for responding to identified problems and monitoring progress. This is very important when more than one worker and/or more than one organisation is involved.

At an organisational level collaborative case management can lead to greater efficiency in the use of resources, improved service delivery by the avoidance of duplication and overlap and the clarification of roles and responsibilities. It can also enhance the opportunity for creative solutions.

The NSW Government has established a framework of collective responsibility and this duty to work together is legislated under section 245E of the Act. Prescribed bodies are required to take reasonable steps to coordinate decision making and the delivery of services regarding the safety, welfare or wellbeing of children and young people. A prescribed body is any organisation specified in section 248(B) of the Act and in clause 7 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2000. Further information about prescribed bodies can be found in the Exchanging Information Relating to Children or Young People in a Child Wellbeing Context chapter.

Non-statutory system

Universal Services

The provision of universal services can be the responsibility of a government or a non-government organisation. For example, health home visiting is a NSW Health funded service while the local child-care centre is privately owned and operated. Universal services are preventative in nature and designed to avert the development or emergence of problems and issues, they tend to be delivered independently of each other. Generally, case management, or a formal collaborative approach, is not required.

This does not preclude universal service workers from using other collaborative mechanisms, such as unstructured informal communication links between workers or low-key joint working on a case-by-case basis. This informal working arrangement could occur when the issues are not considerable or complex enough to warrant case management.

Early Intervention

Early intervention provides vulnerable children, young people and families with services to help prevent the escalation of problems. Early intervention aims to provide support to improve family resilience, minimise future crisis and reduce the incidence of child abuse and neglect.

If the issues faced by a child, young person or their family become more complex and/or more than one organisation is delivering services, case management may be required.

Decisions about case management responsibility should be guided by the circumstances of the case. This includes the nature and extent of the problems faced by the child, young person and their parents, required services and organisational capacity.

It is important to note that identifying who has case management responsibility will not necessarily follow a linear process. For instance, an organisation may develop or be advised of concerns about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person. Through information gathering, talking to internal and external colleagues and investigation the true nature and extent of the problems can become apparent. It is only from this point, once the problems are quantified and relevant organisations have considered and discussed the case, that the issue of who has case management responsibility can be resolved.

Not every matter will require collaborative case management and workers should consider whether the circumstances of a particular case warrant adopting a coordinated approach.

Child, Youth and Family Support

The Child, Youth and Family Support early intervention service model (within Community Services) aims to deliver a broader range of less intensive early intervention services to meet the needs of vulnerable children, young people and families who fall below the threshold for statutory child protection intervention. The Child, Youth and Family Support service model is structured to deliver two streams of service provision:

  • Child and Family Support, targets families with children aged 0 – 12 years
  • Youth and Family Support, targets young people aged 12 - 18 years or families with young people in this age range.

Case management will usually be provided to young people and families who require additional and ongoing support to access appropriate services for an average duration of three months. If there is a need to extend case management for longer a reassessment of need will be undertaken after three months and a new case plan developed.

Brighter Futures

Brighter Futures is a voluntary program delivered by non-government organisations. The program provides vulnerable families who are expecting a child or have children aged less than nine years with the services to prevent entry or re-entry into the statutory child protection system. The program delivers case management and a range of tailored services including home visiting, child care and parenting programs.

What’s New?

Family Case Management (FCM)

Under Keep Them Safe the NSW Government is piloting an integrated case management response to families who frequently come into contact with multiple government agencies and non-government organisations and show little improvement in their situations. The aims of FCM are to strengthen overall family functioning and reduce the risk of harm to children and young people. There is also a focus on improving agency collaboration so that procedural, policy and system barriers do not prevent frontline staff from effectively helping families.

FCM is running in eight sites in three regions: South West Sydney, South East NSW and Western NSW.

Keep Them Safe Whole Family Teams

The establishment and implementation of the Keep Them Safe Whole Family Teams aims to address the needs of whole families where carers have mental health and/or drug and alcohol problems and parenting difficulties, and there are child protection concerns. The teams will provide specialist comprehensive assessments; case management; and specialist group, family, and individual interventions over a six-month period. In addition, they will coordinate, link, and network with other support services to ensure that clients can be treated in a holistic manner and can continue to receive support following intervention.

The teams are being piloted in four locations:

  • Lismore
  • Newcastle
  • Gosford
  • Nowra.

Further information can be found at Keep Them Safe.

Statutory child protection

In the statutory child protection system, case management is a Community Services function. This is in keeping with the agency’s statutory responsibilities of assessing and investigating ROSH matters to ensure the safety of children and young people.

The Act states that in any action or decision concerning a particular child or young person, the safety, welfare and wellbeing of the child or young person is paramount. While other organisations may take some responsibility, Community Services cannot delegate its accountability for assessment of ROSH.

It should be noted that by virtue of the operation of section 29A of the Act a mandatory reporter is not precluded from responding to the needs of a child or young person, as appropriate to their profession, because they have made a report to the Child Protection Helpline. Organisations should consider the child or young person’s safety, welfare and wellbeing as paramount and continue working with the child, young person and their family, where appropriate.

When a child or young person has been assessed by Community Services as being above the statutory threshold and in need of care and protection, provided that the family is not being referred to a placement prevention service (such as Intensive Family Support or Intensive Family Preservation) or will be placed in OOHC, then case management will be the responsibility of Community Services.

As with non-ROSH cases, while Community Services may have case management responsibility there are other opportunities to work collaboratively so as to benefit the child or young person. This includes referrals and/or requests to other organisations.

Stronger Families

Community Services’ early intervention program focuses on families whose needs are complex enough to put them above the statutory threshold and/or who have had previous or ongoing involvement with the statutory child protection system. This is in line with the evaluation results which showed that a Brighter Future type intervention worked effectively with families that had previous contact with the child protection system. Stronger Families provides the same services as Brighter Futures.

Government departments and non-government organisations in receipt of government funding can be requested to provide a service to a child, young person or their family that will promote and safeguard the safety, welfare and well-being of a child or young person (sections 17 and 18 of the Act). The organisation must use its best endeavours to comply. Best endeavours means to ‘make a genuine and considered effort’.

Community Services will make a request for services in writing. Organisations are required to provide written advice of their response including:

  • providing information about the service or program that they considered for the family or family member
  • what they can actually provide, or alternatively
  • reasons for their inability to provide the required service.

Requests will not usually be made as a first-attempt referral. The prerequisite conditions for a section 17 request are that the:

  • identified service or program is necessary for the child or young person’s safety, welfare and wellbeing
  • requested service or program is run by a government department, agency or a non-government organisation in receipt of government funding
  • usual referral channels or referral procedures have not been successful (such efforts may have been made directly by the family themselves or by an officer of Community Services).

Under section 85 the Act the Children’s Court can also request a government department or a funded non-government organisation to provide services to assist in the restoration of children and young people to their families. Best endeavours to comply also apply for these requests.

What’s New?

Community Services is implementing new guidelines to manage the allocation of RoSH, and certain non-RoSH events , within Community Services Centres. The primary aim of the process is to support the effective utilisation of resources by targeting intervention to children and young people who are at the highest ROSH.

A key element on the process is the Interagency Case Discussion Meetings (ICDM). Where Community Services has been unable to allocate a ROSH report; safety and/or risks may still be apparent; the child, young person and/or family are involved with other services and a mandatory reporter has made the report to the Child Protection Helpline Community Services will consider whether an ICDM is required.

The purpose of the ICDM is to enable organisations supporting the family to share information and expertise. It will also enable identification and discussion of appropriate actions or services that may be implemented to reduce risk to the child or young person.

If Community Services identifies that an ICDM would be beneficial, the mandatory reporter and other relevant services will be invited to participate.

Placement prevention

If Community Services determines that a child or young person is at ROSH and is at risk of being placed in OOHC then the family may be referred to an Intensive Family Support Service (IFS) or Intensive Family Preservation Service (IFP), provided they meet the eligibility criteria and the service provider has the capacity to accept the referral.

IFS differs from IFP in terms of the service delivery intensity and target group, with the former focusing on families who have children at ROSH, but are not at imminent risk of removal. Whereas IFP targets families where the risk of placement in OOHC is imminent.

Case management responsibility will transfer from Community Services to an IFS or IFP, in some cases, at or after referral. Case management will transfer if: \

  • Community Services child protection action is complete and there is no court action
  • other long-term orders, such as a supervision order which places the child or young person under the Director-General’s supervision, are in place
  • joint case planning is done with the service before case transfer
  • there is an express agreement in the case plan that if the risk for the children or young people in the family becomes unacceptable, the case will be referred back to Community Services.

Where a service has case management responsibility each family will have an assigned case manager to plan, coordinate and implement the best service mix.

Case management in both IFS and IFP is time limited and goal directed. Both IFS and IFP will supply direct services, as well as coordinate and make active referrals to other service providers and appropriate community-based programs as necessary

Intensive Family Based Services (IFBS) are a culturally relevant, time-limited, home based voluntary program for Aboriginal families in crisis whose children are either at risk of entering OOHC placement due to safety and protection concerns or whose children have already been placed in OOHC with a restoration plan in place. IFBS work intensively with families for a period of up to three months. Community Services refers eligible families to an IFBS and retains case management responsibility, with specific tasks contracted to the IFBS.


For children and young people under a care order or living in OOHC, case management may be with Community Services or a designated agency (which is a government department or other organisation that is accredited to arrange OOHC) or be a joint responsibility.

For OOHC, case management will transfer from Community Services to a non-government (contracted) agency in the following circumstances:

  • Community Services child protection action is complete and Community Services is not undertaking court action
  • final Children’s Court Orders for sole or shared Parental Responsibility to the Minister are in place
  • final Children’s Court Orders for restoration are in place
  • other long term orders, such as a Supervision Order, are in place.

Case management will not transfer in the cases where the child or young person satisfies all of the following criteria:

  • has significantly complex needs, and
  • is assessed as at high risk of immediate or serious harm, and
  • case management requires high level collaboration from other government agencies that is unable to be achieved by non-government organisations.

What’s New?

Transfer of OOHC to the non-government sector

Keep Them Safe sets out the NSW Government’s policy to transfer the majority of OOHC placements and case management to the non-government sector. This is a substantial reform and a transition plan is being finalised by Community Services in order to commence the transfer.

Practice Point

Working together

The following points suggest some practical ways in which organisations can work collaboratively:

  • identify and establish formal and informal communication networks with relevant organisations and build partnerships
  • maintain current knowledge about local organisations
  • use the information exchange provisions to gather relevant information relating to a child or young person’s safety, welfare or wellbeing
  • request the involvement of organisations where a need to work collaboratively has been identified
  • discuss and reach agreement on how the collaborative arrangement will work, including the child, young person and their family
  • nominate a ‘key worker and/or organisation’ to lead or oversee the collaborative arrangement, where required
  • formalise collaborative relationships where necessary through policies, protocols or agreements
  • establish mechanisms to resolve differences or disputes, such as the model to resolve any interagency differences.
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Last updated: 24 Sep 2019