Contacting the Child Wellbeing Unit

Steps for contacting the Child Wellbeing Unit.

When is the Child Wellbeing Unit contacted?

Child Wellbeing Units have been established on the premise that the Child Protection Helpline should only be contacted for matters that require a statutory response. Where there are risk of harm concerns about children and young people that do not meet the threshold of suspected risk of significant harm, the Department's Child Wellbeing Unit can provide advice and support for appropriate local responses.

The Child Wellbeing Unit (staff only) is available to principals and workplace managers to assist and support them in meeting their legal obligations in responding to concerns about the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children and young people. Principals and workplace managers may delegate the role of contacting the Child Wellbeing Unit in some circumstances, with approval of the director educational leadership, to an appropriate senior executive. Refer to How is a report made to Family and Community Services?

The role of the department's Child Wellbeing Unit is to:

  • advise, support and educate principals and workplace managers to assist in determining whether their concerns about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of children and young people reach the threshold for making a mandatory report to the Child Protection Helpline, that is suspected risk of significant harm
  • assist principals and workplace managers to identify and implement appropriate local responses to support the child, young person and their family where the suspected risk of significant harm threshold is not met, but there are concerns for the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person
  • work within and across agencies to better coordinate and align service systems to improve responses to child wellbeing issues.

The Child Wellbeing Unit must be contacted when:

  • there are concerns about risk of harm that do not meet the threshold of significant harm but are not trivial,
  • the Mandatory Reporter Guide indicates this should be done,
  • there is an observable pattern of cumulative harm that does not meet the threshold of significant harm, and/or
  • when a report has been made to the Child Protection Helpline but has been screened out as not reaching the threshold of risk of significant harm.

During the telephone conversation, the assessment officer may apply or reapply the online Mandatory Reporter Guide with the principal or workplace manager.

Principals and workplace managers may also contact the Child Wellbeing Unit by eReporting following the use of the Mandatory Reporter Guide by using the link on the decision report - when contact with the Child Wellbeing Unit is recommended. eReports may be made 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The Child Wellbeing Unit will aim to respond to electronic contacts within one business day.

There may also be times where the Child Wellbeing Unit asks the principal or workplace manager to gather further information or clarify a situation so that they can make an informed decision about their legal obligations to help ensure the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person involved. The Child Wellbeing Unit will not ask staff to conduct investigations.

The Child Wellbeing Unit should also be contacted if Family and Community Services have requested that an action be taken and concerns are held about taking that action.

What happens when the Child Wellbeing Unit is contacted?

When the Child Wellbeing Unit (staff only) is contacted where there are concerns about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person, assessment officers can provide advice on:

  • use of the Mandatory Reporter Guide
  • whether the child or young person has an active or open case with Family and Community Services, is under the parental responsibility of the Minister or is part of the Brighter Futures Program
  • whether other agencies may be involved with the child, young person or family
  • what further action can be taken and work with the principal or workplace manager to determine how this will occur
  • potential responses and referrals within the department or other appropriate external services to assist the child, young person and/or their family.

The Child Wellbeing Unit will advise if a report must be made to the Child Protection Helpline.

When a principal or workplace manager contacts the Child Wellbeing Unit, the details of the call will be recorded on an electronic database, which is shared with the two other Child Wellbeing Units established by the NSW Police Force and NSW Health. This will help ensure that families that come in contact with multiple agencies are identified and that a cumulative appraisal of risk can be conducted across agencies.

The principal or workplace manager will be given a Contact Reference Number when they contact the Child Wellbeing Unit about concerns for a child or young person. They will not be given a reference number when contact is made for advice.

When the delegate of a principal or workplace manager contacts the Child Wellbeing Unit, the assessment officer will seek consent of the delegate for all information about the contact to be provided to the principal or workplace manager. This enables more coordinated management of information relating to child protection concerns within education settings and better management of support to the children and young people involved.

What documentation is required after contact with the Child Wellbeing Unit?

When principals or workplace managers  make contact with the Child Wellbeing Unit about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person, a record must be kept in a central location in the workplace.

This can be a record, a note or the decision report (where the Mandatory Reporter Guide has been used). It must include the date, name of the child or young person who is the subject of concerns, details of the concerns and the advice received from the Child Wellbeing Unit. The record must be signed and dated. The contact reference number provided by the Child Wellbeing Unit must also be recorded.

If the matter later needs to be reported to the Child Protection Helpline, the Child Wellbeing Contact Reference Number should be provided to the Helpline.

Any documentation sent to or received from the Child Wellbeing Unit or another agency in relation to the case, should also be recorded or stored. This documentation should be retained for 70 years (according to Functional Records Disposal Schedule FDA 141.18.12.01) and should be kept confidential. It is not necessary for principals or workplace managers to forward a copy of their records regarding contact with the Child Wellbeing Unit to the director educational leadership.

Information related to discussion between the principal or workplace manager and the Child Wellbeing Unit should remain with that person. Only information relating to follow up required of the school counsellor may be recorded on the school counsellor’s file.

What if contact with the Child Wellbeing Unit is unsatisfactory?

If a principal or workplace manager is unhappy with their contact with a Child Wellbeing Unit (staff only) assessment officer and this cannot be resolved during their contact with the assessment officer, this should be brought to the attention of the assessment officer’s team leader by email or by contacting telephone (02) 9269 9004.

If the principal or workplace manager remains concerned following contact with a team leader, they can escalate the matter to the director educational leadership or the officer responsible for learning and wellbeing who can refer it to the Director Child Protection Services. If the concerns remain unresolved, it should be brought to the attention of the Executive Director, Learning and Wellbeing.

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