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Child Wellbeing Units

Role

One of the major findings from the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services was that NSW had one of the lowest thresholds for reporting child protection concerns in Australia. As a result the Child Protection Helpline was overwhelmed by reports about children and families, who needed support but did not require intervention by the State.

In response to this finding, Child Wellbeing Units (CWUs) have been established in the four government agencies responsible for the largest number of child protection reports: Department of Human Services NSW, Department of Education and Training, NSW Health and the NSW Police Force. Together, these agencies make up more than 60 per cent of all cases reported to the Child Protection Helpline.

Trained staff in CWUs assist mandatory reporters working in their agency to use the Mandatory Reporter Guide and ensure that all concerns that reach the threshold of risk of significant harm are reported to the Child Protection Helpline.

Where a concern does not meet the statutory threshold, the primary role of the CWUs is to support mandatory reporters to better respond to concerns relating to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children and young people. This can be done by identifying potential agency responses or by providing advice on referrals to appropriate services.

CWUs are aiming to drive better alignment and coordination of agency service systems, to enable better responses to children and families in need of assistance.

These alternative reporting and referral arrangements have been formalised under amendments to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (Wood Inquiry Recommendations).

There are about 100 staff employed in CWUs.

  • NSW Health has three CWUs, which align with the existing NSW Child Health Networks, and are located in Dubbo, Wollongong and Newcastle. The Units are staffed by a Manager and Assessment Officers and has an Aboriginal Assessment Officer employed at each Unit. In addition to the three CWUs, NSW Health has employed eight Child Wellbeing Area Coordinators, with one located in each Area Health Service.
  • NSW Police Force has a centralised CWU located with the PoliceLink Command at Tuggerah on the Central Coast.
  • Department of Education and Training has a centralised CWU located in Sydney’s CBD which is comprised of three teams, each with seven Assessment Officers which includes an Aboriginal Assessment Officer. There is also a Child Wellbeing Consultant (Senior Psychologist) employed within the Unit.
  • Department of Human Services has a centralised CWU located in Lidcombe, South West Sydney that supports Housing NSW, Juvenile Justice and Ageing, Disability and Home Care.

Responsibilities

  • help agency mandatory reporters identify whether a concern about a child or young person meets the suspected risk of significant harm threshold, and if so, to ensure that these concerns are reported to the Child Protection Helpline.
  • provide advice to mandatory reporters about possible service responses by the department or other services, particularly where the identified risks do not reach the statutory threshold
  • drive better alignment and coordination of agency service systems over time to enable better, more timely responses to children and families in need of assistance
  • operate as a network across the major government reporting agencies. CWUs use a common IT database, WellNet, to share key information that identifies whether another department is currently working with the child or family or previously had concerns about them. This facilitates information exchange and interagency cooperation

More information can be found at:

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Last updated: 04 Mar 2020