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Legal

Last Modified: 28-Feb-2022 Review Date: N/A

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation

Overview

Refer to this entry for information on how COVID-19 is impacting the way the Department of Communities (the Department) practices and delivery of child protection services in relation to legal issues and services.

You should considerthis guidance with all approved information provided on the following sites: 

When working with other organisations and agencies, work collaboratively.  Communicate with them to check how their day-to-day functioning is being affected, and their requirements for working safely.  Be mindful when undertaking case management tasks, including safety planning, that other agencies' regular provision of services may be impacted and take this into consideration in making your plans.

Refer to COVID-19 Recording in Assist in related resources for information on recording. 

Rules
Your safety and the safety and wellbeing of children, parents and families who come into contact with the Department must be the focus and priority in all interactions.

For any matters or actions in your work that relate to the potential transmission or diagnosis of COVID-19 you should:

  • consult your line manager
  • escalate issues to your district director as required, and
  • ensure accurate recording, including documenting rationales for the cancellation of activities/actions.

You must continue to refer to all usual practice guidance contained in Casework Practice Manual entries, except where an item on this page overrides guidance outlined in that entry.

The Department must continue to deliver critical essential services to the community.  

Information and Instructions

  • Physical distancing
  • Advice to clients
  • Court processes
  • Court ordered contact
  • Mediation conferences
  • Affidavits
  • Other agencies
  • Recording in Assist
  • Physical distancing

    Refer to the COVID-19 Response Management SharePoint page 'Masks, PPE and other Safe Work Practices' for current guidance.  This page also has links to online training, Safe Work Practice scenarios, exposure sites, symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and the COVID-19 Self-Reporting Tool, and other resources.  

    Staying safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic

    During this time of physical distancing and increased use of online communication, the eSafety Commissioner has released tips on how to stay safe and have more positive experiences online.  To access, visit the eSafety Commissioner 'COVID-19' page.

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    Advice to clients

    If there are safety issues and you need to cancel a face-to-face meeting or contact other with clients, follow the below steps to advice the client of the cancellation: 

    Advise the client the face-to-face meeting has been cancelled due to:

    • a high-risk situation, such as the need for an individual to isolate, where it is necessary to minimise the transmission of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of Communities' clients and staff, or
    • a specific directive from the State Government has been given, such as a lockdown. 

    Advise the client you will contact them to reschedule the meeting or contact, or to arrange a suitable alternative.

    Explain to the client they can contact the local Child Protection district office by phone for require support during business hours, otherwise they can call the Statewide Referral and Response Service (Crisis Care) after hours on 9223 1111.


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    Court processes

    The Perth Children's Court of Western Australia has been re-opened to the public, subject to a number of transitional measures to ensure the safety of the community.

    • Department lawyers to attend in person for interim hearing and trials and should otherwise attend via Teams.
    • Caseworkers can attend court in person for interim hearing and trials as instructed by their lawyer however the preference is that lawyers should be fully instructed for these matters.

    You are not permitted to enter or remain in the Perth Children's Court if:

    • you should be in isolation or quarantine
    • if you are feeling unwell and are experiencing any of the following symptoms – cough, fever, sore throat or shortness of breath
    • you fail to comply with government health directions including social distancing, mask wearing and safe hygiene practices
    • you fail to comply with the directions of security officers or court staff
    • you are a member of the public with no involvement in a matter before the Court.

    Unvaccinated court and tribunal workers in the list below are not permitted to enter the Perth Children's Court:

    • Employee of the Department of Justice or Courts and Tribunal Services who works in the Children's Court
    • A person who provides a judicial support function including all judicial support officers and staff, administrative support, custodial, security, court risk assessment and victim support officers
    • Legal practitioner
    • Assistant to a legal practitioner
    • Police prosecutor
    • Coroners' investigator
    • Sheriff or summoning officer
    • Journalist or media court reporter
    • Court cleaner
    • A person who provides court maintenance services
    • A person employed by a labour hire firm to perform one of the above functions
    • A work experience student on a placement at the Children's Court.

    In addition, all members of the public and staff should:

    • Sanitise their hands on entry and before leaving the building.
    • Avoid personal contact (stay 1.5m away from other people).
    • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the crook of your arm.
    • Dispose of tissues and wash hands after sneezing or coughing.
    • Wear a mask, unless you are able to present an exclusion document.

    Be aware that if staff levels are affected by illness or COVID-19 measures, court hearings may need to be adjourned to another day. Matters which can proceed will be assessed on a priority basis. Bail applications, new restraining order applications, accused in custody and urgent protection and care matters will take priority.

    The registry services will continue to operate as they usually do.

    For more information, refer to the following:


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    Court ordered contact

    For urgent advice or queries related to Court ordered contact during the COVID-19 pandemic, submit a request for Legal and Business Services through the SharePoint Request Form page.  

    Complete the request form, attach required document using the 'Add Attachment' link, then select 'Duty Lawyer' button at the end of the form.  Select 'Yes' from the next drop down menu and save it to lodge the request.  

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    Mediation conferences

    Contact the relevant Court to ask if there are any conditions in place. Masks must be worn in the courtrooms, hearing rooms and mediation rooms by all court staff and members of the public. There may be exceptions during proceedings, which will be determined by the judicial officer at the time.         

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    Affidavits

    E-signatures are permitted on all documents that are filed electronically with the court, until further notice. ​

    Inability to witness an Affidavit

    Should you have valid reasons for not being able to have your affidavit witnessed, such as during a lockdown, being quarantined or a lack of authorised witnesses available, you must:

    • provide a cover letter to the court attached to the unwitnessed affidavit explaining why it is not witnessed and note to the court that the affidavit will be witnessed and filed with the court in due course as soon as the opportunity presents itself, and
    • use the template letter - Affidavit Attachment EDocs (in related resources) for the Perth Children's Court to be sent with the affidavit when emailing documents to the Department of Communities Filing Clerk to be filed.

    You are also requested to insert your name and title at the bottom of letter with the date and to provide the following information in each email when sending through documents for filing if it's not already provided on the document itself:

    Courts file number/s of child/children This can be found at the top right-hand corner area of each child's application. New applications (child/children taken into care pursuant to s37) do not apply. 
    Next court date if matter is currently on foot 
    Legal and Business Services lawyer's name 

    If an unwitnessed affidavit should occur, the letter is sent with the unwitnessed affidavit to the court for their acceptance and further filing with the court. Legal and Business Services keep track of all affidavits that require witnessing in future when practicable. 

    For urgent advice or queries, submit a request for Legal and Business Services through the SharePoint Request Form page.  

    Complete the request form, attach required document using the 'Add Attachment' link, then select 'Duty Lawyer' button at the end of the form.  Select 'Yes' from the next drop down menu and save it to lodge the request.  

     

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    Other agencies

    Refer to individual organisations and agencies for decisions on how their day to day functioning is being affected

    Be mindful in undertaking case management tasks, including safety planning, that the regular provision of services may not be available and take this into consideration in making your plans.

    ​A collaborative approach should be taken when working in partnership with other agencies.
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    Recording in Assist

    For information on recording please refer to COVID-19 Recording in Assist (in related resources).

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Related Resources

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