Children who are removed from their family and placed into the CEO's care are a highly vulnerable group. They are often exposed, through no fault of their own, to a range of complex issues and trauma, with many having had reduced and interrupted access to services they require prior to entering the CEO's care.
Early collaborative planning and access to appropriate supports and services for young people transitioning from care to independence is critical.
Rapid Response is a proactive, across-government initiative designed to assist children in the CEO's care and eligible care leavers (up to 25 years old) get timely access to a range of services and supports through State Government agencies to address their specific and complex needs, and to improve their psychological, housing, education, and employment outcomes.
Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department.
You must endeavour to work in co-operation with state government agencies when referring a child in the CEO's care to a service and wish to seek a timely response through the Rapid Response initiative.
As part of leaving care planning, you must advise a young person of their entitlements once they leave the CEO's care and transition to independence. This should include an explanation of the Rapid Response initiative and how they can seek assistance from a relevant state government agency if required.
Where a carer is seeking to become a special guardian for a child in the CEO's care, you must advise them of the child's entitlement under a protection order (special guardianship) (SGO) to continue to receive timely access to services provided through state government agencies. This should include an explanation of the Rapid Response initiative, what that means for them and how they can seek assistance from a state government agency if required.
The following children and young people are eligible under the Rapid Response initiative:
From 1 May 2022, children under an SGO will also be eligible under the Rapid Response initiative.
Linking a child in the CEO's care with early interventions, as soon as they need support, can significantly improve that child's health and wellbeing outcomes. Rapid Response was developed to provide a child in the CEO's care with the best opportunity to access timely and appropriate supports provided by certain state government agencies.
Talk with the child and carers to explore solutions which will meet the child's needs. As their primary carer, carers are generally in the best position, along with the child, to know their medical, health and developmental support needs. Work with the carer to explore appropriate services and determine how to access these supports. If there are issues, such as excessively long waitlists, and this is having a detrimental impact on the child, explore other options with the carer and Team Leader, such as seeking the services of a private practitioner.
Eligible children living in regional and remote areas are at risk of missing out on necessary early intervention and therapeutic supports due to limited service provision. Where there are services available, a child or young person may struggle to gain access to the supports and services they require due to isolation, distance, transport issues, and without someone to advocate on their behalf. The latter is particularly true for a young person no longer in the CEO's care.
The paramount consideration is always the best interests of the child or young person. If the child or young person requires support and barriers are identified in accessing an appropriate service due to living in a rural or remote area, work collaboratively and flexibly with local services that are available. Consider:
The following agencies have endorsed and support the Rapid Response initiative:
By endorsing the Rapid Response initiative, the state government agencies listed above have made a commitment to:
The Rapid Response initiative can help minimise the number of children who 'fall through the cracks' of service provision, particularly when state government agencies are working collaboratively.
From 1 May 2022, changes contained in the Children and Community Services Amendment Act 2021 commenced. This includes amendments to s.22 (Cooperation and assistance) of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act), which aim to strengthen Rapid Response by certain state government agencies prescribed in regulations (s.22(4AA) to (4AB) of the Act).
The following government agencies are prescribed in r.22 of the Children and Community Services Regulations 2006 (Regulations):
WA Health will be prescribed in Regulations from 1 November 2022.
Under s.22(4AA) of the Act, the agencies prescribed must prioritise Communities requests to provide assistance to the following:
Under s.22(4AB) of the Act, the CEO may request written reasons if one these agencies is not prioritising the request.
Once you identify that a child or care leaver requires a particular service from a Rapid Response agency, submit a referral using the service's usual referral process. You should clearly identify that the child or care leaver is eligible under Rapid Response for a prompt response. Other relevant information about the child or young person should be provided to help the agency understand the child or young person's needs. If the agency requires additional information, provide it as quickly as possible to allow the referral to be processed quickly.
To request services from the Department of Education (under Rapid Response) for a child in care, you should complete the template letter -
Request for Assistance from Department of Education and attach any supporting documentation.
If staff in the state government agency are unaware of Rapid Response and what it means, provide them a copy of the Rapid Response brochure (in related resources).
The intent of Rapid Response is to increase collaborative practice and share responsibility for this vulnerable cohort of children and young people across service areas. Where there are difficulties with this process, attempt to resolve the issue at the lowest level possible. This will result in a better long-term relationship between agencies and is likely to be in the best interests of the child or young person.
If one of the government agencies prescribed in r.22 considers it is unable to prioritise a request under s.22, and attempts to resolve the issue have not been successful:
Consult with other district staff, including the Assistant District Director and/or District Director, to consider alternative strategies for resolving the issue. For example, the District Director may contact the Regional Executive Director for assistance, through speaking with their counterpart in the relevant agency.
Where the request is again denied and the government agency demonstrates that it is unable to fulfil the request as it is not consistent with the agency's functions or will cause the service undue hardship in meeting its other obligations, consider other avenues to meet the child or young person's needs. This might include funding for a private practitioner to provide the service.
Where the request is again denied, but without adequate explanation, consult your District Director, who will determine if the matter should be escalated formally by requesting a written explanation from the agency as to why it is unable to prioritise the request (via letter template 2 in related resources). The decision to formalise the matter, and the letter, is to be endorsed by the District Director, the Regional Executive Director, the Executive Director Service Delivery, and the Deputy Director General Community Services before referral to the Director General for consideration. Formal letters from the Director General requesting a written explanation from the CEO of the government agency are to be used as a measure of last resort.