The Department for Child Protection and Family Support is pleased that the quality of its screening and assessment framework has been acknowledged and is already acting on recommendations to further improve the effectiveness of its functions following a review of its legislation in late 2012. It was opportune that this audit occurred during the implementation of a new information system and work practices that are aimed at improving the timeliness of the Working with Children Screening Unit’s decision making.
Whilst the Department welcomes suggestions to streamline its operations, it does not accept that cases are not being effectively prioritised and considers that risk to children has been appropriately managed at all times. Although such risk cannot be eliminated, there has not been a case of a person harming a child they are working with while an application has been in process.
The new application management system will provide the type of information recommended by this audit and has been specifically designed to assist in streamlining the Unit’s work and to provide improved decision making and management data.
The risk to children of certain behaviours will continue to be the major factor in prioritising cases and the time taken will remain an important but secondary factor. The focus must be on making the right and not a quick decision and this includes meeting administrative and case law standards to obtain information that is often not readily available. The Department accepts the need to finalise guidelines and will include time frames where appropriate.
The Department also accepts that the capacity of the Unit needs to increase and strategies to enable more effective use of current resources are currently being implemented. Further resources will also be requested when legislative amendments are proposed in the next few months.
The Department notes the case identified where formal notification of a new charge was not received by the Unit and supports the view that the chances of a similar case happening again are low. The Department and WA Police have been working on ways to improve the notification process including the information system linkages.
The Department is currently increasing the capacity of its compliance function, which will allow for greater auditing capabilities. Audits are currently targeted where there is risk and this focus will continue when there is sufficient capacity to expand to more proactive audits.
Whilst the Department continues to strive for full compliance in relation to foster carers having a valid working with children card, there are some unique challenges with relative foster carers renewing their cards in a timely manner. It remains particularly difficult to achieve full compliance where such carers don’t see the home provided to their grandchildren, nephews and nieces as ‘work’ and are reluctant to renew cards after they expire.