New Children’s Court Practice Note regarding PSP provider involvement in Court proceedings
On 9 January 2023, the Children’s Court of NSW introduced Practice Note 17: Designated Agencies in Children’s Court care proceedings. The Practice Note was updated on 17 March 2023. The Practice Note will better support PSP providers to provide information to the Court, contribute to court proceedings and access filed evidence.
This Practice Note will support the commitment and continued collaboration of providers in making sure courts have the right information to make important care and life decisions for children in out-of-home care.
Practice Note 17 details the expectations of the Children’s Court when a child is, or has been, the subject of care proceedings and is in the primary case responsibility of a PSP provider. It acknowledges that PSP providers can provide the Court with critical evidence that will help the Court make decisions in the best interests of children.
Practice Note 17 identifies the processes for a PSP provider to:
- access evidence filed in proceedings when they have primary case responsibility for a child
- provide relevant information to the Court, and
- contribute to court proceedings, including that designated agencies will ordinarily be invited to participate in Dispute Resolution Conferences.
Unless a party to proceedings files an objection, the Practice Note specifies that DCJ will give PSP providers copies of all filed court documents, except for Court Clinic Assessments, Expert Reports and subpoena material. Access to Court Clinic Assessments will continue to be dealt with separately by the Court as those reports are the property of the Court rather than a party to the proceedings. Access to subpoena material will also continue to be dealt with separately as this material may be the subject of objection by a party or specific access orders.
The revised Practice Note dated 17 March 2023, can be viewed here.
New Notice and Confidentiality Statement
Practice Note 17 states DCJ must provide the court with the name and contact information of the PSP provider with primary case responsibility, along with a confidentiality agreement, within 14 days of case transfer.
To comply with the above requirements, a new form Notice of transfer of primary case responsibility to a Designated Agency and confidentiality statement has been created. The form includes a section with the PSP provider’s details, details of case transfer and the confidentiality requirements. A copy of this document for information only can be viewed here.
A representative of the PSP provider with direct knowledge of the court matter needs to sign the form (DCJ suggests the equivalent of Manager Casework or above). The signature indicates that the PSP provider has acknowledged and agrees to abide by the confidentiality requirements of Practice Note 17.
Revised Summary of Proposed Plan Form
As part of the revised Practice Note 17, the Summary of Proposed Plan Form (‘SOPP’) has been updated. The update requires a representative of the PSP provider with direct knowledge of the court matter to co-sign the form at the time of filing of the SOPP. DCJ suggests the equivalent of Manager Casework or above.
PSP providers must maintain high levels of confidentiality and security with respect to Court documents
At a minimum, Court records should be securely stored and only accessed by staff who need to review the documents in order to assist with their work with the child. PSP providers do not share Court documents with third parties without the express consent of the Court.
The PSP Funding Deed and Program Level Agreement provide a number of clauses on handling and storing sensitive information. Provider staff with concerns regarding confidentiality and court records can speak with their manager or seek legal advice independent of the Department.
DCJ has acknowledged both ACWA and the Children in Care Collective for their key advocacy on behalf of the sector, in suggesting that a Practice Direction of this type be developed. The role of the Children’s Court in coordinating this work is also acknowledged.
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