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4.2.8 Working with other agencies - memoranda of understanding and information sharing

Last Modified: 16-Jun-2022 Review Date: 01-Jan-2020

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation

Overview

According to s.23 of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act), the Department of Communities (the Department) can share,  receive or discuss relevant information with other agencies and individuals, both verbally and in writing, where it is in the child's best interest. You can also share relevant information where it is in the best interests of an adult who has been subjected to, or is at risk of family and domestic violence (FDV). 

The information below sets out specific processes for sharing information with individuals and other agencies in-line with our legislative authority. These guidelines aim to balance the need to promote safety, while maintaining the privacy and dignity of those involved as much as possible.

Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department. 

Rules


Process Maps

Flowchart - Process for requesting copies of prescribed reports under s.24A

Information and Instructions

  • Information sharing
  • Reciprocal memorandum of understanding agreements
  • Exchange of information between prescribed public authorities and authorised entities
  • Information sharing between the Commonwealth and the Department
  • Information sharing between other child protection agencies in Australia and New Zealand
  • Power to obtain copies of certain prescribed reports from the Department of Justice
  • Release of information to carers
  • Release of information to an employer
  • Family information
  • Information sharing

    You may share relevant information with other agencies without client or parental consent under s.23 of the Act, if it is relevant and supports the:

    • wellbeing of a child or a class or group of children

    • wellbeing of a person who qualifies for assistance on leaving the care of the CEO, or

    • safety of a person who has been subject to, or exposed to, family violence.

    Agencies do not have to disclose information requested.  If individuals and agencies do disclose relevant information we have requested and they share that in good faith they are protected from liability under s.23(5) and s.129 of the Act.

    Wherever possible, speak to the person before sharing information about them. Explain what information will be shared, why is will be shared and who you will be sharing it with. If it will place the child or adult victim at risk to alert an individual that you have or will share information about them, reconsider telling them or ensure you are able to manage the risks via safety planning. 

    If a client does not consent to you sharing information about them, consult with your Team Leader (TL), Assistant District Director (ADD) or District Director (DD) on whether the information should be released and record the consultation on the child's case plan.

    Record your consultation and the outcome in the child's case plan or in a case note. 

    Information requests from other agencies

    If an agency seeks information from us about a shared client, assess the request and check that the information you provide:

    • is factual, not opinion
    • is relevant (it promotes the safety and wellbeing of the child), and
    • will be used for a legitimate purpose (determine the requesting agency's role and involvement with the client).

    The way you share information may be determined by the agency's involvement with the family and how closely you are working together to support the family. Formal requests may be appropriate where there is one-off contact, but informal verbal information sharing may be more conducive to on-going collaborative joint work with the family. 

    Your primary guiding principle and on when and what information to share must be based on the child's best interests. 

    When an agency makes a request for information, ask that the request is made in writing and forward Form 439 - Release of Information to Another Agency for completion. This allows you to confirm the identity of the individual and that they work for the agency in question. Agencies with their own specific forms for requesting information may submit those.  

    For urgent requests, it may be appropriate for the information to be provided verbally in the first instance, with the requesting agency providing a written confirmation of the request, where required, as soon as practical. When receiving a request, consider:

    • what level of access to client information is required, and

    • how this information should be shared on a case-by-case basis (for example, release of part or full reports, or verbal advice).


    The Statewide Referral and Response Service (SRRS) may receive requests for information afterhours. Consider these requests on a case-by-case basis and determine if this request is in the best interests of the child. 

    Confirm the identification of the individual by calling the agency's main number. When speaking with police officers, always ask and document their identification number or their "PD" number. 

    If the request is not urgent, forward it to the appropriate district office for follow-up on the next business day. 

    Record all requests for information received from other agencies and the information provided on the client's file.

    Information requests to other agencies

    In addition to providing information to relevant individuals and agencies, we can also ask them for information to help us with an assessment or on-going intervention with a family. When making a request for information from another agency, identify yourself and explain the reason of the request. For example, explain that you are conducting a Child Safety Investigation (CSI) and how the information will help you to assess the needs of the child. This will help the agency to provide you with the most relevant information.

    As with information being provided, any information request being sought must be based on the best interests of the child.

    The legislation specifically states who we can ask for information from. This includes:

    • An interested person: an individual who knows the child in some capacity and who is relevant to the assessment. This might be a child's teacher, a family friend who is acting as a support person or the person who submitted the initial referral.

    • A public authority: an agency or Department run by the local, state or commonwealth government. This includes the Departments of Health and Education, the Mental Health Commission, local government run services and others.

    • A corresponding authority: a child protection agency based in any of the other Australian states or in New Zealand.

    • A non-government provider: a service run by a local charity or welfare organisation, such as Wanslea or an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation.

    Most agencies will have their own information sharing processes, including their own forms for you to complete when requesting information. For example, the Department of Health does not accept requests for client information via email due to security concerns and you may be asked to fax an information request form.

    You may also be asked to provide your departmental identification to prove you have the authority to request information on behalf of the CEO. In these instances, you can scan and share an image of your identification card.

    Agency feedback and when to provide follow-up information

    Wherever possible, provide appropriate feedback on actions taken or planned to referring agencies. Use the relationship of the referring agency to the child and family, and the referrer's ongoing role as a guide when determining what detail of information is appropriate to share.

    If the agency has an on-going working relationship with the family that is likely to be impacted by departmental involvement, and it is in the best interests of the child, you should work as collaboratively as possible. This may include asking the agency to participate in case planning meetings and informing them of significant decisions.

    Referrals for provision of a service

    When making a referral to an agency for a client, you should only include information relevant to the specific service provision you are requesting. You should not disclose information about other people not covered by referral, unless it is relevant to worker safety. 

    When releasing copies of reports, or providing written or verbal information, include an explanation in your correspondence that the information is confidential and should not be circulated, published or distributed without first obtaining the Department's permission.


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    Reciprocal memorandum of understanding agreements

    Various strategic bilateral memorandums of understanding (MOUs) and Agreements have been developed to facilitate interagency work between the Department and the Commonwealth, State and non-government partner agencies. 

    The MOUs and Agreements set out the requirements for joint case practice, and the procedures for sharing or exchanging information about children and families engaged with us. For specific information on working with another agency, refer to the relevant MOU or Agreement on the Common.

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    Exchange of information between prescribed public authorities and authorised entities

    In addition to s.23, s.28B of the Act allows you to share relevant information with other agencies, prescribed public authorities, NGOs and non-governments schools. As with s.23, the decision to exchange relevant information between the CEOs of prescribed public authorities (and their delegates) should be based on the best interests of the child, or an adult victim of FDV.

    State government agencies can share information to work together on child protection matters, including joint case planning and decision making.

    Sharing information with Western Australia Police Force

    The Department and Western Australia Police Force (WA Police Force) is able to exchange relevant information where: 

    Under these agreements, authorised officers are able to provide all necessary and relevant information to WA Police Force to progress joint investigations to meet the safety needs of children and adult victims.

    Sharing information with the Department of Education You can request school enrolment information from the Department of Education (Education) for a child enrolled in a public school by completing Form 586 - Request for School Enrolment Information and forwarding it to the Student Tracking Coordinator at Education. 

    • Record any information received in response and place it on the child's file. 

    • If additional information is required from Education, complete Form 542 - Request for Relevant Information and refer to the requests for relevant information section above.

    Sharing information with the Public Trustee

    The Public Trustee may request our assistance to: 

    • identify potential beneficiaries of an Aboriginal person who has died without a valid will (intestate)

    • information about children in the CEO's care whose parents have left a will with the Public Trustee, or

    • information about our former clients, such as children who were in the CEO's care.

    These requests are usually managed by the coordinator freedom of information and release of information. However, on occasion, the Public Trustee may contact district offices directly for information (these requests are more likely to occur in regional and remote areas).

    When releasing information to the Public Trustee, ensure the information:

      •  is provided in writing,
      •  does not disclose address details, and 
      •  follows the usual recording procedures.

    For more information about releasing information, refer to the  Release of Information page on SharePoint or email: Releaseof.Information@communities.wa.gov.au 

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    Information sharing between the Commonwealth and the Department

    The Information Sharing Protocol between the Commonwealth and Child Protection Agencies (the Protocol) was developed to improve information sharing about children and families at risk.  The aims of the Protocol are to improve the care, safety, welfare and health of children. 

    The Protocol operates in conjunction with Commonwealth legislation and s.23 of the Act.

    All referrals to Services Australia, the overarching agency covering multiple Commonwealth services such as Centrelink and Medicare, should include a clear rationale for how the information, if provided, will "prevent or lessen a threat to life, health or welfare of a person", or will assist you to contact the parent of a child.

    Your referral should set out:

    • the nature and seriousness of the risk
    • the likelihood of the threat occurring
    • the consequences if the risk materialises, and
    • how the information is proposed to be used by the Department to remove or reduce the risk. 

    Examples of the kinds of information that may be requested include (but are not limited to):

    • the current or last recorded address of a child or parent
    • the names and dates of birth (as recorded on Centrelink records), and
    • the names and dates of birth of other children who are at risk in the care of a person.  

    To make a referral to a Commonwealth Agency, refer to the guidance below and follow the procedures set out in the Information Sharing Protocol between the Commonwealth and Child Protection Agencies - Schedule 1: Centrelink Information Request Procedure (page 11). 

    Centrelink

    Centrelink requests can also be used to assist in locating a parent or relative of a child.

    Complete Form S1041 Request by a Child Protection Agency for Information from Centrelink and email it to Centrelink.InformationRequests@communities.wa.gov.au (our nominated contact officer).

    Providing information to Centrelink regarding family arrangements

    Communities may be asked by family members or significant others to provide a letter to Centrelink that outlines who is caring for subject children, to ensure that the appropriate person receives any Centrelink benefits.  It is always preferable that this information be provided to Centrelink by the children's parent/legal guardian. 

    If this is not possible a worker can provide a standard letter (Centrelink letter – Family arrangement) that outlines how the child is known to the Department and confirming any known private arrangement the family has made regarding care arrangements, noting that these arrangements are not assessed by the Department and are a private family arrangement. 

    Medicare

    If you do not have client consent, you can only request information relevant to your child protection assessment. You can request recent information only, with a 12 to 24 months maximum.  Refer to the Information Sharing Protocol between the Commonwealth and Child Protection Agencies - Schedule 3: Medicare Information Request Procedure (p.18). 

    Under the protocol, Medicare may disclose the following information:

    • Medicare claims – treating or referring doctor's name and address, service item number and description, date of service, Medicare benefit paid and the fee charged.
    • Medicare enrolment – address, date of birth, phone number and email address (if provided by the person).
    • Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) – prescriber's name, dispensing pharmacy name, PBS item code and description, dates prescribed and supplied, quantity and number of repeats. 


    To request information about Medicare claims, enrolment or PBS, complete Form S1042 Request by a Child Protection Agency for Informaiton from Medicare and send to contact the Central Documents team via BSC-ChildDocs@communities.wa.gov.au 

    For information relating to immunisation records, refer to the section 'Immunisation' in Chapter 3.2 Medical and Dental treatment.

    Child Support Agency

    The type of information you can request from the Child Support Agency includes, but is not limited to:

    • the current or last recorded address of a child or parent

    • the names and dates of birth (as recorded on Child Support records), and

    • the names and dates of birth of other children who are at risk in the care of a person. 

    To request information from the Child Support Agency, complete Form S1043 Request by a Child Protection Agency for Information from Child Support and email it to Centrelink.InformationRequests@communities.wa.gov.au

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    Information sharing between other child protection agencies in Australia and New Zealand

    If you are undertaking a CSI with families from another State refer to the Information Sharing Protocol between the Commonwealth and Child Protection Agencies (the Protocol).  The Protocol provides a framework within which States work together to promote the best interests and wellbeing of children.

    The Protocol makes provision for the sharing and exchange of information between child protection agencies to enable you to assess:

      • the safety and wellbeing of children, and
      • the suitability of prospective carers.


    For all requests for information complete Form 901 Request for Interstate Information/Child Protection History and email it to the Interstate Liaison Officer at WAInterstateLiaison@communities.wa.gov.au

    Written consent is required in some situations - refer to Chapter 3.3: Interstate and New Zealand Liaison.

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    Power to obtain copies of certain prescribed reports from the Department of Justice

    If there is an immediate risk to a child, ask for relevant information from the Department of Justice (Justice) to be provided verbally.

    A case is not required to be opened to make a request under s.24A of the Act.

    The Department of Justice are required to procure official reports under various legislation. These reports are for different purposes in relation to that individuals' Court and judicial proceedings and are referred to in the Act as 'prescribed reports'.

    Prescribed reports are to assist relevant staff and the Courts to determine the level of risk an individual poses to the community. These reports can contribute significantly to any investigation where we are determining the risk an individual may pose to a child.

    You have the delegated authority to request these reports from the CEO of the Department of Justice, if the report is, or is likely to be, relevant to the wellbeing of a child.

    The following prescribed reports can be requested:

    If you identify that a person who may pose a risk to a child is currently or has recently been in prison or is under Orders from the Department of Justice, request any of the above reports using the Power to Obtain Copies of Prescribed Corrections Reports -Form 896 Adult or Form 897 - Child. The form you use is dependent on whether the offender is an adult or a child. Seek TL approval prior to submitting the request. 

    Consider what information you are seeking and be clear what you are asking for. Clearly note the purpose of your request if you are seeking one or more of the following:

    • An extensive history for a new assessment – all available reports to inform a new assessment
    • The most recent information where we have previous reports
    • Any current Orders or conditions
    • Any treatment outcomes that may evidence behaviour change.

    The Department of Justice should provide a response within five days. However, this timeframe may be delayed if clarification is required or if the reason you are seeking the information is unclear. Once they have completed their search, you will be provided with:

    • a request for further clarification
    • copies of relevant reports, or
    • notification that no relevant reports are available.

    Prior to making the request, ensure:

    • the request is, or is likely to be, in the best interests of the child

    • the offender has been advised this information is being sought. This step is not required if there are safety or other reasons not to advise them and you have consulted with the TL about this decision

    • you are cognisant that the report provides a specific snapshot of a time and context. Consider this when using the information to support any investigation or decision

    • the information is shared respectfully, particularly when it was provided verbally, and

    • the specific details of the report are recorded and that the reports are stored safely and securely.


    Once the forms have been completed and you have documented your consult with the TL, send the completed form to:

    informationrelease@justice.wa.gov.au

    Freedom of Information (FOI) processes are only for people seeking their personal information. Do not send formal requests to FOI as this will delay the process.

    For information about obtaining prescribed reports from the Department of Justice refer to the following related resources:

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    Release of information to carers

    For information relating to the release of information to carers, refer to Chapter 3.4 Care Arrangement Review. Before deciding what information is appropriate to share with the carers, you should consider what is in the best interests of the child, as well as the child's age and their views and wishes. For children in the CEO's care, refer to 3.4 Charter of rights for children and young people in the CEO's care.

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    Release of information to an employer

    Contacting or releasing information to an employer may affect a person's employment and their livelihood. Information should not be released to a person's employer until the information has been reviewed by the Screening Unit and where required, considered by the Probity Panel.  

    Before contacting or releasing information to a person's employer refer the request to the Manager Screening Unit, Legal and Business Services for consideration and approval. 


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    Family information

    ​Family information can be obtained through the coordinator freedom of information and release of information, or via the StateRecords Office of Western Australia - Aboriginal Family History website (in related resources).

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