Safeguarding Investigations: The Interplay Between Child Safety Systems

The Client Incident Management System and the Reportable Conduct Scheme

Prior to the Reportable Conduct Scheme (the RCS) organisations managed allegations of child abuse through a variety of incident reporting systems, both internal and external.

The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (the DFFH) works with many not-for-profit organisations who are responsible for the care, supervision and authority of vulnerable children and young people. These not-for-profit organisations are required to report incidents and allegations of harm and abuse to children through a centralised incident reporting system called the Client Incident Management System (CIMS).

What is the Client Information Management System?

CIMS is the specific incident reporting system managed by the DFFH which not-for-profit organisations who have care, supervision, and authority of children are required to report to, when an employee or volunteer has been made aware that a child or young person has suffered harm or is likely to suffer harm.

Unlike the RCS, CIMS are not limited to allegations of child abuse against an employee or volunteer. CIMS can be used to report incidents of a child or young person engaging in high-risk activities which can cause harm or place them at risk of harm. CIMS are also used to report concerns for sexual exploitation and allegations of sexual, physical, financial, emotional and psychological abuse. CIMS can also be used to report on incidents that occur in a child or young person’s home such as quality of care concerns or incidents between young people who reside together.

The CIMS is an important tool for organisations and the DFFH to respond effectively and efficiently to allegations and incidents of harm to ensure the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children in the organisation’s care. The CIMS focuses on the goals and tasks an organisation will undertake to manage the incident or allegation and requires an organisation to complete an investigation and root cause analysis into an incident or allegation to ensure further incidents do not occur.

The Life Cycle of a Client Information Management System Incident:

  1. Identification and response: organisations are required to document the incident along with the immediate steps taken to ensure the safety and wellbeing of any person involved in the incident.
  2. Reporting: organisations are required to advise DFFH of an incident within three business days and advise what steps will be taken to address the risk.
  3. Incident investigation: organisations collect all information relevant to the incident, including physical evidence, interviewing anyone involved in the incident, accessing client records, reviewing past CIMS, and speaking with service providers.
  4. Incident review: organisations analyse the incident, including whether any further action is required, and provide an update report to DFFH within 28 business days.
  5. Analysis and learning: organisations are required to monitor and adopt necessary changes and recommendations to ensure further incidents do not occur.

The Reportable Conduct Scheme

The RCS in Victoria is managed by the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) and requires certain organisations to notify and respond to allegations of child abuse and other child related misconduct, made against workers and volunteers. The CCYP independently oversees the institution’s response to allegations and facilitates information sharing between other organisations and government departments.

Numerous states across Australia have now implemented Reportable Conduct Schemes, and other states are soon to follow.

The head of entity of a relevant organisation is required to make a notification within 3 business days of becoming aware of a reportable allegation against an employee or volunteer, and must provide a 30-day update, and other updates to the CCYP as required. Further, the organisation must ensure that the allegations are properly investigated, and provide an investigation report with findings to the CCYP at the completion of the investigation.

Joint Investigations

At times, an incident or allegation may be both a CIMS incident and a reportable allegation. The DFFH and the CCYP have developed guidelines for how to streamline the investigation process when an incident or allegation falls into both categories.

It is expected that if an allegation falls into both categories, the organisation should conduct a single investigation to ensure witnesses are not having to be interviewed multiple times and victims are not subjected to retelling their story multiple times which may cause further trauma. A single investigation also ensures a timely and effective investigation occurs, avoids duplication, and also streamlines the investigation and administrative process for organisations.

The types of conduct under the CIMS differs to types of reportable conduct under the RCS. The standard of proof for both CIMS and RCS is the same, the balance of probabilities to the Briginshaw standard, however an investigator conducting a joint investigation is required to make separate findings based on the different thresholds for CIMS incidents and RCS allegations.

CIMS investigations have three potential findings:

  • Substantiated
  • Unsubstantiated – no further action required; and
  • Unsubstantiated – further action required.

RCS investigations have five potential findings:

  • Substantiated
  • Unsubstantiated – insufficient evidence
  • Unsubstantiated – lack of evidence of weight
  • Unfounded; and
  • Conduct outside the scheme.

For this reason, making a finding on a CIMS incident does not necessarily mean that a finding will be made on an allegation under the RCS and vice versa.

An investigation report once completed must be submitted to both DFFH and the CCYP. Information sharing differs for both CIMS and the RCS. The outcome of a CIMS investigation needs to be provided to the subject of the allegation, the child, the parents or caregiver of the child and service providers working with the child. The outcome of the RCS investigation needs to be provided by the head of entity, the child’s parent or caregiver and the subject of the allegation.

How can Safe Space Legal Help?

The team at Safe Space Legal has extensive experience working with organisations to ensure they are meeting their child safety obligations, provides practical advice and specialises in conducting investigations which are compliant with both the Reportable Conduct Scheme and the Client Information Management System. Safe Space Legal also has significant expertise in the child protection system, and is able to provide specialised insight and guidance to properly navigate joint investigations.

In addition to child safety investigations, Safe Space Legal provides a holistic safeguarding service and can assist organisations by drafting legally sound child safety policies, procedures and codes of conduct, conducting root cause analyses and gap analyses, providing training on legal obligations, duty of care and child safety, and providing advice on risk mitigation.

Contact [email protected] or call 03 9124 7321 to organise a complementary discussion in relation to your organisation’s child safety and safeguarding needs.

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