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About exchanging information

This chapter provides guidance about how information can be shared in relation to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child or young person under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (the Act). The care and protection of children and young people is dependent upon shared information and access to accurate, relevant information will assist organisations working with children and young people to assess risks, make decisions and identify and deliver appropriate services.

The legal framework for information exchange allows organisations to share information relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of children or young people without consent.

It takes precedence over the protection of confidentiality or of an individual’s privacy because the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children and young people is considered to be paramount. However, while consent is not necessary, it should be sought where possible. Organisations should at a minimum advise children, young people and their families that information may be shared with other organisations.

While it is recognised that an organisation may provide services to a parent e.g. drug and alcohol treatment services, the Guidelines are only intended to provide assistance and/or guidance where there are concerns about the parent’s capacity to ensure the safety, welfare or wellbeing of their child.

Background

The Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW (2008) highlighted the multi-dimensional nature of risks facing vulnerable children and families where factors such as domestic violence, drug and alcohol use or mental health and neglect feature in child protection reporting, none of which can be satisfactorily addressed by any one agency working alone.

The Commission stressed the importance of interagency collaboration in the provision of services to vulnerable children, young people and their families and called for a clear and workable structure for the flow of information to facilitate this collaboration.

The Commission also highlighted the importance of information exchange to help identify cumulative harm from a combination of factors and/or over time. Sometimes it only becomes clear that a child or young person has been harmed, or is at risk, when information from a number of sources is combined to create a complete picture about their circumstances.

The Commission found that the regime of State privacy laws and regulations in place at the time of the Inquiry was a major barrier to interagency work. That regime involved considerable complexity and resulted in reluctance by organisations to exchange information because of doubts about whether or not it was lawful.

The Commission recommended legislative amendments to free up the exchange of information between government and non-government organisations in the human services and justice sectors. Chapter 16A of the Act contains those amendments.

Concerns for sensitive nature of information

Another imperative for greater information sharing among human services and justice organisations is the concerns of children and young people themselves.

While they want their privacy to be respected, they do not wish to have to repeat their story to the various government and non-government organisations assisting them. In cases where they may have suffered sexual assault, serious physical abuse or neglect, those children and young people and their carers do not wish to have to relive the trauma with multiple accounts of what happened to them.

Managing information sensitively

Given the sensitive nature of these and other issues that children and young people face it is important to manage information in a sensitive way, and where possible to inform the child or young person early on that information about them might be provided to other organisations.

Fact sheet and related documents:

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Legal framework for exchanging information

There are two schemes for the exchange of information relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of children and young persons and unborn children under the Act.

Chapter 16A

Under Chapter 16A, prescribed bodies, including many human services and justice agencies and NGOs, are able to share information relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of children or young people without consent, where necessary, and whether or not the child or young person is known to Community Services.

As Chapter 16A concerns exchange of information between organisations it cannot be used to obtain information from a person unless that person is part of an organisation, e.g. an incorporated practice.

For example, in the latter situation the request is not made of the GP for the GP’s records, but of the organisation for the organisation’s records (which include those records generated by GPs working within that organisation.

Section 248

Section 248 allows Community Services to provide or request information relating to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child or young person.

When Chapter 16A first became operational it was unclear whether Community Services was intended to be a prescribed body, especially as section 248 was not repealed and the operational implications were unknown.

Accordingly, Community Services agreed to trial exchanging information “using the objects and principles of Chapter 16A” during 2010 while still using section 248. A review of the trial confirmed no significant practice issues for Community Services or for the agency’s partners. Consequently, as of18 April 2011 Community Services now primarily exchanges information under the provisions of Chapter 16A and only uses section 248 in limited circumstances.

However, as Chapter 16A does not apply to certain Commonwealth bodies (section 245I of the Act), information exchange under section 248 for these organisations still applies.

Reporter’s identity

It is important to note that section 29 of the Act prohibits the disclosure of the identity of a reporter, or of any information which might reveal the identity ofa reporter, unless:

  • the reporter has given consent to the disclosure
  • a court or other body before which proceedings relating to the report are being conducted has granted leave for the disclosure, or
  • NSW Police require reporter identity to be disclosed in connection with the investigation of a serious offence alleged to have been committed against a child or young person (see section Disclosing reporter’s identity under Section 248 and Chapter 16A).

This is provided that it is clear that a report is made on behalf of a person in a chain of reporting the protection afforded under section 29 extends to the person who the report is made on behalf of. For example, if a principal makes a mandatory report on behalf of a teacher and it is clearly specified in the report that the report is made on behalf of the teacher, the teacher is also protected.

A reporter is defined as a person who makes a report to Community Services about a child or young person. The protection provided in section 29 also extends to people who make referrals to a Child Wellbeing Unit (CWU), see section 27A(7).

The protection applies regardless of whether Community Services assesses the report as meeting, or not meeting, the risk of significant harm threshold. Where a person provides information to a prescribed body under Chapter 16A or section 248, they are not considered to be a reporter, and their identity is not protected by section 29.

Providing and exchanging information under Chapter 16A

Chapter 16A of the Act allows information to be exchanged between prescribed bodies despite other laws that prohibit or restrict the disclosure of personal information, such as the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998, the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 and the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988.

Previously this information exchange was generally only possible where the information was sent to or received from Community Services.

Chapter 16A allows for the exchange of information between prescribed bodies without Community Services involvement. In this Chapter, the term “organisation” applies to all “prescribed bodies”, whether they are government or an NGO.

Objectives and principles

Chapter 16A establishes a scheme for information exchange between prescribed bodies and requires organisations to take reasonable steps to co-ordinate the provision of services with other organisations.

The four key principles to consider are:

  1. organisations that have responsibilities for children or young persons should be able to provide and receive information that promotes the safety, welfare or wellbeing of children or young persons
  2. organisations should work collaboratively and respect each other’s functions and expertise
  3. organisations should be able to communicate with each other to facilitate the provision of services to children and young persons and their families
  4. the needs and interests of children and young persons, and of their families, in receiving services relating to the care and protection of children or young people takes precedence over the protection of confidentiality or of an individual’s privacy

Prescribed bodies

Prescribed bodies may share information relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person without having to rely on Community Services as an intermediary.
A prescribed body is any organisation specified in section 248(6) of the Act or in clause 8 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2012. Generally prescribed bodies are:

  • NSW Police Force
  • a State government department or a public authority
  • a government school or a registered non-government school or a TAFE
  • a public health organisation or a private health facility
  • an accredited adoption service provider
  • a registered community housing provider
  • a designated agency
  • a registered agency
  • a children’s service
  • any other organisation the duties of which include direct responsibility for, or direct supervision of, the provision of health care, welfare, education, children’s services, residential services, or law enforcement, wholly or partly to children.

In May 2016, legislative changes expanded prescribed bodies under Chapter 16A to include the following private health professionals:

  • nurses (enrolled and registered)
  • registered medical practitioners
  • registered midwives
  • registered psychologists
  • occupational therapists (other than students)
  • speech pathologists (eligible for membership of Speech Pathology Australia).
  • an unborn child (if they have been the subject of a report to the Child Protection Helpline or to a Child Wellbeing Unit).

In February 2019, legislative changes expanded prescribed bodies under Chapter 16A to include the following:

  • Australian Capital Territory Community Services Directorate
  • Northern Territory’s Territory Families
  • Queensland Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women
  • South Australian Department for Child Protection
  • Department of Communities Tasmania
  • Victorian Department of Health and Human Services
  • Western Australian Department of Communities.

If you are unsure whether your organisation is included in the scheme of information sharing under Chapter 16A you should seek legal advice.Find out more about exchanging information and private health professionals.

Find out more about exchanging information and private health professionals.

Find out more about exchanging information with statutory child protection bodies in other states and territories.

Find out more about requesting information from NSW Health.

Unborn children

Organisations may rely on Chapter 16A to share information relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of an unborn child, but only where the unborn child is the subject of a pre-natal report to Community Services.

In accordance with the Act, organisations will need to confirm that a pre-natal report has been made to Community Services before providing information. The information that can be provided includes information about the expected date and place of birth of the unborn child who is the subject of the report.

Risk of significant harm

Information sharing under Chapter 16A applies in relation to children or young people both above and below the statutory reporting threshold of risk of significant harm. A child or young person below the statutory reporting threshold may still need assistance even if they do not need statutory intervention.

In other words, exchange of information can occur irrespective of whether a report has been made to the Child Protection Helpline.

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Informing clients about information exchange

Consent

Consent is not necessary for exchange of information under Chapter 16A. However as it is a principle of the Act that a child or young person should be given an opportunity to express views on personal matters, consent should be sought where possible. Best practice also recommends that consent is sought from family members before information relating to them is exchanged.

It is important that organisations providing a service to a child, young person or their family inform them early on what information may be provided to other organisations, if practicable.

Where appropriate, a child, young person and family should be informed that information about them will be disclosed to another organisation so long as this does not place the child or young person at further risk. Obtaining consent and/or keeping the child, young person or family member informed is considered best practice and helps to maximise engagement and avoid dis-engagement.

This includes informing children, young people or their family about their right to provide feedback, including complaints, about the care or services they are receiving or the disclosure of information under Chapter 16A.

Where a discussion is held with a child, young person and/or their family to inform them about services they will be referred to, the organisation should try and seek consent to making a referral to another service(s).

It should also be explained that this will mean that relevant information about the child, young person and/or their family will be provided to that organisation. Irrespective of whether consent is obtained, the discussion and outcomes should be documented in accordance with organisational policy and procedures.

Generally, children over the age of 12 are considered capable of understanding aspects of their own privacy and information sharing issues. Younger children may also be able to express a view. Some circumstances in which you would not seek consent or inform the child/young person or their family about exchanging information include:

  • where you believe it is likely to further jeopardise a child or young person’s safety, welfare or wellbeing
  • where you believe it would place you or another person at risk of harm
  • where you are unable to contact a parent/carer and the matter is urgent.

An example could be where a school is seeking information from an organisation that is working with the family about whether it is safe to permit the child to be collected from the school by specific family members.

Providing information

It is important from an interagency collaboration perspective that organisations should be able to provide information they believe is relevant to the safety, wellbeing or welfare of a child or young person without having received a request.

The legislation provides that an organisation that is a prescribed body may provide information relating to a child or young person to assist another organisation to:

  • make a decision, assessment or plan relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person, or
  • initiate or conduct any investigation relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person, or
  • provide any service relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person, or
  • manage any risk to a child or young person that might arise in the recipient’s capacity as an employer or designated agency.

Information should be only be provided if the provider reasonably believes it may assist the receiving organisation for the purposes above. This means the person providing the information has well founded reasons for his or her belief. The legislation makes it clear that information may be provided with or without a request being made. Examples of when information may be provided include:

  • different organisations working together to assess a child or young person or coordinate services
  • a CWU exchanging information to assess whether or not concerns about a child or young person meet the threshold of being at risk of significant harm for reporting to the Child Protection Helpline
  • a CWU advising a mandatory reporter that another organisation is involved with a child or young person and suggesting the mandatory reporter contact this organisation
  • a mandatory reporter giving information about a family to a Family Referral Service
  • a worker involved with a family who has concerns about a child or young person and believes that a particular service offered by another organisation would be beneficial
  • providing information to support the assessment of a prospective foster carer by a designated out-of-home-care agency
  • providing information to assist an organisation to investigate allegations against an employee under Part 3A of the Ombudsman Act 1974.

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Requesting information

An organisation that is a prescribed body can be requested to provide any information it holds relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a particular child or young person. Although, if information is being requested from a Commonwealth or an interstate prescribed body, there is nothing in Chapter 16A that imposes a requirement on a Commonwealth or an interstate body to comply with a request.

An organisation may request information from another organisation about a particular child or young person and/or their family if it will assist the requesting organisation to:

  • make a decision, assessment or plan relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person, or
  • initiate or conduct any investigation relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person, or
  • provide any service relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person, or
  • manage any risk to a child or young person that might arise in the recipient’s capacity as an employer or designated agency.

The request must be clear about its purpose and how the information is expected to assist.

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Agreeing to a request for information

A request for information should be agreed to if it will assist the requesting organisation to:

  • make a decision, assessment or plan relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person, or
  • initiate or conduct any investigation relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person, or
  • provide any service relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person, or
  • manage any risk to a child or young person that might arise in the recipient’s capacity as an employer or designated agency.

Before agreeing to the request, a person in the provider organisation must reasonably believe that the information will assist the other organisation for one of the purposes outlined above. This means the person has well-founded reasons for his or her belief. It also means that the organisation requesting the information must have provided sufficient detail to enable the provider organisation to form the belief before agreeing to the request.

Organisations receiving requests for information are responsible for identifying which parts of their organisation may hold relevant information.

Before disclosing information a worker should generally consult their manager, except in very urgent situations. Your organisation’s policies on information sharing should also be consulted.

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Declining a request for information


In most cases, organisations will be able to provide information. However, there are certain circumstances under which the provision of information is exempted. These exemptions are contained in section 245D (4) of the Act.

An organisation is not obliged to provide any information requested if the organisation reasonably believes this would:

  • prejudice the investigation of any contravention (or possible contravention) of a law
  • prejudice a coronial inquest or inquiry
  • prejudice any care proceedings
  • contravene any legal professional or client legal privilege
  • enable the existence or identity of a confidential source of information in relation to the enforcement or administration of a law to be ascertained
  • endanger a person’s life or physical safety
  • prejudice the effectiveness of a lawful method or procedure for preventing, detecting, investigating or dealing with a breach (or possible breach) of a law, or
  • not be in the public interest.

It will usually be self-evident if one or more of these exemptions apply. Where there are unusually complex issues, it may be necessary to obtain legal advice.

Organisations may also have their own policies and procedures to assist workers to understand these exemptions. If an organisation declines to provide information, it must notify the requesting organisation in writing of its refusal and the reasons for refusal, in relation to the exemptions listed above at the time of the refusal.

Where there is a disagreement between prescribed bodies about the exchange of information the agreed process for interagency dispute resolution should be followed as set out in any relevant bilateral agreement or under the Child Wellbeing and Child Protection – NSW Interagency Guidelines.

As outlined above, if information is requested from a Commonwealth or an interstate prescribed body, there is nothing in Chapter 16A that imposes a requirement on a Commonwealth or interstate prescribed body to comply with a request. This is provided for in section 245I of the Act.

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Protecting the confidentiality of information under chapter 16A

Chapter 16A establishes a scheme for information exchange between prescribed bodies while still protecting the confidentiality of the information.

Chapter 16A prohibits organisations from using or disclosing information received under Chapter 16A for any purpose that is not associated with the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person to whom the information relates, except as otherwise required or permitted by any law. An example of this is where information is required to be given in response to a subpoena in court proceedings or reportable allegation to the Ombudsman under section 25C of the Ombudsman Act 1974.

It is important to be mindful of any personal information relating to individual workers that may be contained within the body of information. Irrelevant personal worker information should be kept confidential where possible to avoid any possibility of worker safety issues arising.

The Act does not impose any particular requirements around storage of the information requested or provided under Chapter 16A. Storage of information should be consistent with the State Records Act 1998, even where that Act might not otherwise apply to the organisation.

The State Records Act 1998 imposes an obligation to ensure the safe custody and proper preservation of records and the maintenance of accessibility to electronic records.

Relevant privacy requirements applying to storage of information under the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (PPIPA) or the Health Records and Information Protection Act 2002 (HRIPA) will also apply. These include the requirements relating to the retention and security of personal information or health information under those Acts (section 12, PPIPA and clause 5, Schedule 1 of HRIPA).

Designated agencies should also be mindful to fulfil the requirements set out in section 170 of the Act in relation to the placement of a child or young person in out-of-home care (OOHC). Each designated agency must keep the records made by it in relation to the placement of a child or young person in OOHC for seven years after the designated agency ceases to be responsible for the placement of the child or young person.

At the expiration of this period or, if, within that period, the agency ceases to be a designated agency, it must deliver the records required to be kept under this section to the Director-General.

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Protection for staff

If a person acts in good faith when providing any information under Chapter 16A, he or she:

  • is not liable to any civil or criminal action, or any disciplinary action, for providing the information, and
  • cannot be held to have breached any code of professional etiquette or ethics or departed from any accepted standards of professional conduct.

Opportunities for feedback or complaint

If a child, young person or their family members feel that there has been a misuse of Chapter 16A, or that there has been an unreasonable breach of privacy, the organisation should be advised of the concern or complaint. If the matter is not satisfactorily resolved the complaint can be escalated to the relevant funding or oversight body.

In NSW, the relevant oversight body is the NSW Ombudsman or phone: 02 9286 1000.

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Responding to information requests or directions

What sort of information can be requested or provided under Chapter 16A and Section 248?

A prescribed body may request information from another prescribed body or Community Services may direct the provision of information (already held by an organisation) on the following:

  • a child or young person’s history or circumstances
  • a parent or other family member
  • any person/s having a significant or relevant relationship with a child or young person
  • the facts surrounding whether a person poses a risk to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person
  • the organisation’s dealings with the child or young person, including past support or service arrangements subject to the exemptions set out in section 245D(4) of the Act and the outcomes of these dealings.

Information can only be shared under Chapter 16A if it is:

  • related to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person or class of children or young persons (in compliance with legislation).

Information can only be shared under section 248 if it is:

  • related to the safety, welfare and well-beingof a particular child or young person or class of children or young persons.

Organisations can only request information that already exists. They cannot require an organisation to collect new information, or to undertake a separate assessment and report, to meet the information request or direction. The providing organisation is responsible for decisions about what information is relevant to the request but needs to make these decisions in accordance with the criteria set out in the Act.

It is important to note that information that has been received under Chapter 16A can then be requested and provided under Chapter 16A to a different organisation at a later date.

For example, the Department of Education may receive information, requested under Chapter 16A from NSW Health about a particular child. If the Department of Education subsequently receives a Chapter 16A request from NSW Police about that child, provided there were no grounds to decline the NSW Police request and the information fell within the scope of Chapter 16A, the Department of Education would be obliged to share the information it received from NSW Health.

However, organisations should always consider the relevance of the information they hold and may advise the requester that they are likely to get more complete and up-to-date information by directly contacting the original source of the information.

Background to requests or directions for information

When requesting information under Chapter 16A, or when Community Services directs the provision of information under section 248, the organisation should:

  • identify the subject of the information request/direction and, if it is not the child or young person, identify the subject’s relationship to the child or young person (particular identifying information should be provided so that organisations can be sure that they are talking about the same person)
  • explain how the request for information relates to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person (for requests under Chapter 16A)
  • explain how the direction for information relates to the safety, welfare and well-being of the child or young person or class of children or young persons (for directions under section 248)
  • explain why the information will assist it to make a decision, assessment or plan, or to initiate or conduct an investigation, or to provide any service, or to manage any risk to the child or young person (for requests under Chapter 16A)
  • provide a sufficient level of detail to assist the other organisation to understand the purpose of the request and to locate the relevant information in an efficient manner
  • provide background to the request/direction, including whether or not consent has been obtained and/or the organisation has informed a child, young person and/or family member that the information has been sought and if not, why not (for example, where there are safety concerns)
  • indicate the time period for which the information is sought (e.g. for the last six months, three years) and the type of information sought
  • provide a realistic time frame for the organisation to provide the information noting that communicating/negotiating a due date is best practice as it promotes collaboration and can ensure urgent matters are prioritised (unless the information is required for court proceedings where a more limited time frame may be required)
  • preferably contact the providing organisation by phone before making the request to discuss needs and ensure the request is well targeted that is, ask for the relevant information and avoid requesting all files/documents.

Should information be exchanged verbally or in writing?

Information must be requested and provided in a secure way. Each organisation will have its own procedures as to how information is given or received. Some organisations may also have agreements in place outlining how information will be exchanged with other organisations, e.g. a memorandum of understanding.

There may also be organisational delegations determining who can approve the release of information. Workers should familiarise themselves with relevant documents and practices to ensure information is exchanged in accordance with policies and procedures.

Information requests and responses can be oral or in writing, via hard copy or email. However, in most circumstances it is best practice to communicate with the receiving organisation prior to drafting a request.

Standard forms and letters to communicate with other organisations can be used, citing the relevant sections of the Act that apply to the sharing of information in particular cases. A separate form or letter should be used to request information for each person or class of children or young persons.

Given the consequences of acting outside the protections offered by Chapter 16A, a written record of the exchange should be made and stored on file in a way that is consistent with the State Records Act 1998.

Alternatively, information can be shared over the phone, or in person. In cases where information is requested or provided orally, it is expected that there will be an established local arrangement between workers. Where information is exchanged orally, each organisation should ensure that there is a concise written record kept of the details of the exchange.

If an organisation has any doubt about the identity of a person requesting information orally on behalf of an organisation, they should confirm their identity by contacting the organisation before providing the information, or ask that the request be put in writing.

While formal records should be kept of requests for information, it may be necessary for a requesting and receiving organisation to communicate informally about the request perhaps to clarify what is requested or what is relevant.

A common example of oral exchange of information would be at an interagency meeting. In these circumstances the record of the meeting would form the record of information exchange, subject to it being circulated on a confidential basis.

Public access to government information

The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA), which replaced the Freedom of Information Act 1989, governs public access to government information and focuses the legislative onus in favour of the release of government information through consideration of the public’s best interest. GIPA will not affect how information is exchanged under section 248 or Chapter 16A.

Information for court proceedings

When child protection matters proceed to the Children’s Court there are specific procedural arrangements that apply to information collection.

Where information provided to Community Services under Chapter 16A or section 248 is required by the Children's Court, Community Services policy is to seek the consent of the organisation which provided the information for its inclusion in materials provided to the Court. Government agencies are currently discussing the operation of this policy.

Where criminal proceedings have been initiated organisations should be mindful that if the prosecution relies upon information contained in organisation records there is an obligation on the prosecution to disclose to the defence the existence of that information. In practice, this can mean that a record of an interview or an assessment report is potentially available to the accused through their legal representative.

Issues of this nature that arise in a specific case should be discussed with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Police Prosecutor with responsibility for that case.

When Community Services has obtained information under section 248 or Chapter 16A and then receives a subpoena to produce documents, if the information obtained under Chapter 16A or section 248 falls within the scope of the subpoena Community Services must produce the documents.

However, Community Services will advise the provider organisation of this production. The organisation could then appear at court and object to the parties to the proceedings accessing the material (in part or entirely) or make other requests in relation to the documents.

Cross border information exchange

In February 2019 NSW made a significant step towards greater cross border information exchange.

Amendments to Clause 8(2) of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2012 have made statutory child protection bodies in other states and territories ‘prescribed bodies’ for the purposes of Chapter 16A.

The new interstate prescribed bodies are:

  1. the Australian Capital Territory Community Services Directorate
  2. the Northern Territory’s Territory Families
  3. the Queensland Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women
  4. the South Australian Department for Child Protection
  5. the Tasmanian Department of Communities
  6. the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services
  7. the Western Australian Department of Communities

This means that a prescribed body in NSW can now directly share information with the above interstate prescribed bodies if  the information relates to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person and the NSW prescribed body reasonably believes the information will assist the interstate prescribed body to:

  • Make any decision, assessment or plan or to initiate or conduct any investigation, or to provide any service or
  • Manage any risk to a child or young person, or class of children or young persons that might arise in the recipient’s capacity as an employer2.

Find out more about exchanging information with statutory child protection bodies in other states and territories.

Community Services can also use the provisions within Chapter 14A of the Act to disclose information to statutory child protection bodies in other states and territories and New Zealand. For example, where Community Services is aware that a child or young person is alleged to be at risk of significant harm and that child or young person resides in, or receives services from, another state or territory, Community Services provides relevant information to the counterpart statutory child protection agency in that state or territory.

Other information exchange arrangements

In addition to Community Services, there are other statutory agencies that can direct that information be provided about individuals or classes of persons. Certain prescribed bodies have a duty to comply with these requests and should do so according to the relevant law and organisational policies and procedures. A written request identifying the legislative powers relied upon is a requirement.

Some examples of directions for the provision of information are detailed below.

The NSW Police Force can make a written request to government agencies for any information that is relevant to the assessment of the risk posed by a registrable person to the lives or sexual safety of children, under Section 16 of the Child Protection (Offenders Prohibition Orders) Act 2004. Agencies are obliged to provide this information unless it is subject to legal or other professional privilege.

Where search warrants or subpoenas have been issued by a court, organisations must comply with the terms of the warrant or subpoena.

The Children’s Guardian has the power to direct Community Services, designated agencies and authorised carers to provide information relating to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a particular child or young person or class of children or young persons. Further information is available at section 185 of the Act, on information exchange arrangements with the Children’s Guardian.

The NSW Ombudsman can obtain information under the Ombudsman’s general powers related to proposed and current investigations.

The Office of the Children's Guardian and other approved screening agencies can request information when undertaking a Working With Children Check, which can include relevant employment proceedings.

The Health Care Complaints Commission is an independent body which acts to protect public health and safety by dealing with complaints about health service providers in NSW. The Commission has the power to obtain information and/or documents (including medical records) from any person to help it in assessing complaints about health service providers.

Child Death Review Team – There are provisions under the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998 for the exchange of information about children and young people who have died.

Commonwealth Government and Community Services - Under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to the development of new Commonwealth-State measures to improve information sharing about children, young people and families at risk. Under these arrangements, Community Services is able to access certain information held by Commonwealth agencies while complying with Commonwealth privacy legislation.

An Information Sharing Protocol between the Commonwealth and Child Protection Agencies January 2009 outlines how the Commonwealth and statutory child protection agencies can share information in order to provide more responsive care and protection services.

The Department of Human Services can make a request to government agencies for information under a number of legislations, including A New Tax System (Family Assistance) (Administration) Act 1999, Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 and the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989.

It is underpinned by a separate appendix for each Commonwealth Agency joining the Protocol. Appendix One relates to Centrelink, which became operational in NSW from 1 March 2009. Appendix Two relates to Medicare, and became operational in NSW from 1 November 2009. Extending the Protocol to encompass the Child Support Agency, the Family Court and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship is scheduled for future development.

The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 provides more information.

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