KTS KIT Summary

KTS Keeping it Together (KIT) is a project by the Association for Children’s Welfare Agencies to support the sector during time of significant change resulting from Keep Them Safe. This project was funded by Community Services.

The project conducted in 2009-2011 supported non-government agencies during the period of extensive changes. The sector was informed of the changes, provided with support, collaboration was promoted, and the sector was consulted with regularly.

A number of diverse activities were conducted in this project including:

  • The development of a child protection policy that all sector non-government agencies can adopt as their own organisational policy. This is a collaboration of the peaks including: YAPA, FamS and LCSA.
  • A total of 11 regional forums conducted in Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, the Mid North Coast, and the Hunter and Central Coast. Attended by a broad range of the service types in the sector.
  • A regional media project, which developed eight articles of positive collaborative practice in eight regional locations, with four of these articles being covered by local media. 
  • A review of HSNet functionality and a preliminary mapping of services in the HSNet database.
  • The development of a non-government sector oriented KTS website for disseminating information and responding to questions.

The project highlighted the goodwill in the sector to work more cohesively and collaboratively for better outcomes for families and their children.

The following recommendations are suggested:

  • Promote and facilitate local interagency communication and collaboration.
  • Resource and support the service system adequately in order to achieve the objectives that are stated in KTS and the Wood Report.
  • Utilise and harness the potential that is in HSNet.
  • Continue with existing channels of information dissemination and further develop these to promote best practice.

Child Protection Guide to Policy and Practice

Keep Them Safe involves a number of significant changes to how the child protection system operates. There is a need for non-government agencies to update their policies in this new work environment.

YAPA, FamS, ACWA and LCSA have worked together to develop a child protection policy that non-government agencies members of the four peaks can adopt. Bronwen Elliott was engaged as a consultant to develop this resource.

It is an all-inclusive guide that can be adopted by agencies “off-the-shelf” as their organisational child protection policy. The guide consists of:

  • Quick guides – one-page helpful practitioner resources on ‘reporting risk of significant harm’, ‘exchange of information’, and ‘promoting child safety in the workplace’.
  • Sample policies – a range of policies that cover the breadth of child protection responsibilities of agencies.
  • Practice guides – resources that promote good practice principles in relation to child protection and child welfare.

The guide is robust and accurate with it being widely consulted and vetted legally and by government agencies.

Please follow the link to download the guide. Agencies are asked to register so that they can be kept informed revisions.

https://yapa.wufoo.com/forms/child-protection-guide-to-policy-and-practice/

Regional Forums

ACWA conducted a total of 11 regional forums. These were held in Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Hunter, Central Coast, and Mid North Coast. It enabled ACWA to engage local community services providers. We disseminated up-to-date information on the implementation of KTS, to clarified any misunderstandings, and provided sources of information so that agencies could continue to remain current with the changes.

The forums were also an ideal opportunity to understand the needs of the local community and local implications of the KTS implementation. This feedback contributed to understanding and prioritising the issues that the sector faced. This helped to inform ACWA’s work and our advocacy platform. The discussion that occurred in the forums also helped to identify the positive outcomes of KTS.

Feedback from the forums

Participants in the forums provided feedback on both the aspects that were encouraging and working well in the implementation, as well as highlighting the shortcomings and areas requiring improvement.

Participants viewed positively:

  • Information exchange provisions
  • Mandatory reporter guide
  • Cultural change

Key areas of concern raised by participants were:

  • Funding and resources
  • Capturing cumulative risk
  • Cold referrals
  • HSNet
  • Public media communications strategy
  • Training/Skills development
  • Culture change
  • Regional workforce issues

Regional Media Project

The regional media project promoted successful local initiatives based on the principles advocated by KTS. The aim was that it would raise awareness in regional communities of the collaborative approach to child protection and child wellbeing. With the support of agencies and peak partners, ACWA targeted eight regional communities and highlighted positive and collaborative work of local community services, reflecting the principles promoted under KTS.

Far South West, Mallee Family Care - Positive impact of community expo is starting to show
Central West, Western Plains Development Inc - Local program delivering better education outcomes for Aboriginal children
South Coast, Nowra Family Support Service - Newly-crowned princess a role model for others
Central West, Lithgow Family Support - Shared community approach is lifting education outcomes for kids
Mid North Coast, Taree Good Beginnings - Local centre celebrates secure new outdoor area for kids
Mid North Coast, Kempsey Family Support Service - Local program aims to create futures without violence
Central Coast, Horizons Central Coast Family Services - Dental care program raises smiles for Central Coast families
Far North Coast, Family Support Network Inc - Child-focused program fills a gap in local mental health services

HS Net

The sector has commented about the functionality of HS Net and perceived it to be not user friendly. There are also concerns about the currency of information on HS Net, which is dependent on agencies maintaining an up-to-date record of their service. In some regions there are not many services that are registered on HS Net.

ACWA used HSNet to build a service map detailing what services are registered on HSNet and the location of the services. The information can be used to establish what gaps in service provision exists in a location, or identify locations where there is not a thorough take up of HSNet.

ACWA have also developed a quick information sheet on HSNet to inform non-government services about it and encourage greater uptake.

ACWA’s recommendations on addressing the barriers to utilising HSNet are:

  • Conducting searches

There is no way to refine existing search results. This meant that when a search returned too many results to be helpful, a ‘new search’ needed to be conducted, which became time-consuming.

  • Automatic log-out

HSNet logs the user out automatically when not being used. This could be problematic if a person has been diverted from their task and comes back to find they have been logged out and unable to resume their search.

  • Relevance of search results

The search results do not appear to be listed in a particular order. It would be helpful if it was made explicit how the results were sorted and if it were possible to customise the sorting.

  • Accuracy of information provided

The usefulness of HSNet is reliant on having up-to-date information. It would be helpful if a last updated date was recorded or displayed, or if agencies are prompted to regularly verify their profile.

  • Speed of the searches

Depending on the search term and the number of results, the search can take a longer than expected time to load.

KTS Website

ACWA developed a comprehensive KTS website. This ‘mini-site’ was launched in February 2011. The updated ACWA KTS mini-site provides visitors with an overview of child protection in NSW, with a focus on the developments from the recent Inquiry, the Wood Report, and Keep Them Safe.

There is a ‘Question and Answer’ page that allows visitors to ask questions about KTS that may not have been answered already either in existing information resources or other sources on the internet. 

When questions were received, answers were sought through reviewing existing resources online (including the government hosted Keep Them Safe website), and current policies or legislation. Where this did not satisfactorily address the question, ACWA staff sought clarification from the appropriate KTS implementation personnel in the Department of Premier and Cabinet or Community Services.

The most received enquiries were on information exchange provision, mandatory reporting and child wellbeing units. Questions on the availability of training were also common. A sample of questions include: 

  • “Are psychologists operating as a private practice in the same situation as stand alone GP's and private medical practitioners in terms of requirements to share information under Ch 16A?”
  • “What happens if I report to the Community Services Child Protection Helpline where the situation is below the 'risk of significant harm' threshold? Does my report still get recorded?”
  • “What are the roles and responsibilities of CWU workers? Are there different approaches between CWUs?”
  • “Can you provide me the contact details of a service that can provide the training for us?”

Findings and Recommendations

From ACWA’s forums and consultations with non-government organisations, ACWA made several findings. Some of these findings are elaborated on in the project update reports and contributed to the work that ACWA undertook in the project.

These findings are:

  • Agencies wanted opportunities to hear and learn more about Keep Them Safe initiatives. Agencies wanted to be active partners in this process and contribute to the development and be a part of it.
  • In some cases, information dissemination on Keep Them Safe did not reach all agencies. Some agencies were not familiar with Keep Them Safe. These agencies included both government and non-government organisations, and tended to be organisations that had similar characteristics: i) where child protection is not a primary function of the service, or ii) where the agency has resource constraints.
  • Agencies found it difficult to progress the interagency principles outlined in Keep Them Safe. This is because of multiple and different interagency meetings that exist, and the varying levels of attendance. There was no singular meeting where all agencies both government and non-government is present to discuss child wellbeing on a local level.
  • There needs to be more opportunities for government and non-government agencies to be in the same room to network and develop ways to work together. Despite the joint approach to safeguarding the wellbeing of children promoted in Keep Them Safe, agencies report that there was limited opportunity to meet government and non-government counterparts.
  • Family Case Management is currently in a staged implementation. Feedback received from this initiative has been positive and that the interagency model used is good and effective.
  • Agencies have experienced that they need to work longer with families, thus placing a strain on the organistion’s resources and ability to work with new families.
  • HS Net as a database needs further improvements. Agencies found that it was not intuitive to use, and it does not contain a complete listing of services in their area.
  • There is anxiety for some agencies about how to operate under the current systems, in response to the perceived need to hold and manage risk. Agencies feel unprepared and need training in order to develop their skills.

Recommendations

Keep Them Safe has ushered in many changes over the past 18 months. While most of the foundations of Keep Them Safe have been implemented – completely or initially – in this period, there remains work to be done to continue the transformation.

Many of the key initiatives implemented are still in their infancy with the efficacy of these not fully understood. There also remain the longer-term actions in KTS to be implemented such as the transfer of OOHC services to the non-government sector. 

The following recommendations are made based on the activities and findings that were made during this project. 

1. Promote and facilitate local interagency communication and collaboration.

Keep Them Safe promotes a shared approach to child wellbeing. To achieve this there needs to be ongoing dialogue and collaboration between all agencies engaged in working with children and families, including both government and non-government services. While interagencies already exist, these often do not encompass all agencies that have a responsibility for child wellbeing. There is also a need to reinforce and facilitate networks between government and non-government agencies. While these don’t necessarily need to be frequent, they must be regular and consistent.

2. Resource and support the service system adequately in order to achieve the objectives that are stated in KTS and the Wood Report.

There are efforts underway to determine gaps within local services systems led by the KTS Regional Project Managers. At the same time as this, the service system that supports families and children below the threshold has been remodeled. There is a need to monitor whether the changes to the service system meet the needs of families and their children.  Gaps or flaws in the service system design that have been identified need to be addressed. There needs to be a firm commitment that these will be rectified and resourced. Early intervention and prevention services need to be designed and resourced to help families and stem the escalation of the familial issues.

3. Improve the functionality of HSNet and expand its usage.

HSNet is referred to frequently in KTS documents as the source to retrieve information on services. While it is a somewhat useful resource in its current forum, there are issues about its functionality and the completeness of its database. If these issues were addressed there is the potential for HSNet to truly be the single all-encompassing sector service directory and resource. Innovatively, HSNet can also be a resource that can be used by the public. By opening up a part of HSNet and making it a public portal, it can enable self-referrals and facilitate self-directed help seeking behaviour. 

4. Continue with existing channels of information dissemination and further develop these to promote best practice. 

That there is ongoing communication and updates available to sector workers. This can be in the form of the existing KTS website or the e-newsletter. These resources have proven to be and effective means of conveying information to sector workers who are aware of them. These resources could be further developed to include case examples of good practice and promote these.