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3. Implementation of the Child Information Sharing Scheme

This chapter addresses the following research question:

How effectively has the CIS Scheme been implemented to date?

In determining effectiveness of implementation, consideration has been given to:

  • greater clarity about the circumstances in which child information can be shared
  • legislative requirements for the CIS Scheme are embedded in the guidelines and processes of ISE organisations and services
  • ISE workforces are prepared to consider opportunities to share child information
  • ISE organisational systems facilitate retrieval, storing and recording of information under the CIS Scheme
  • ISE systems and processes support monitoring of implementation of the CIS Scheme

Box 3.1 Key findings – CIS Scheme Implementation

Workforce capability

  • Initial state-wide roll out of an intensive training program for Phase One prescribed workforces related to the information sharing reforms was attended by approximately 2,000 participants.
  • The initial training served to create an awareness of the reforms within three months of their commencement.
  • Additional training was provided by relevant government departments tailored to their respective workforces.
  • Follow up support for Phase One implementation is ongoing and includes a range of learning resources and an enquiry line. There have been more than 6,000 registrations for online training.
  • FSV grants to relevant peak/lead bodies have been important to extending the reach and understanding of the information sharing reforms among diverse sectors and workforces with varying experience of child-focus practice.
  • Stakeholder feedback suggests there is continuing need to upskill prescribed workforces in the legislative provisions and requirements of the CIS Scheme to support effective implementation across the information sharing entities.

Consistent practice

  • Further work is required to support a consistent and informed level of understanding of the threshold for application of the CIS Scheme.
  • There is evidence of improved workforce attitudes to child information sharing since commencement of the CIS Scheme and preparedness to share information.

Record keeping

  • While organisational policies are in place to support workforces in implementing the CIS Scheme, there may be a low level of compliance with the record keeping obligations in the Child Wellbeing and Safety (Information Sharing) Regulations 2018 and explained in the Ministerial Guidelines.

Source: ACIL Allen Consulting 2020

3.1 Greater clarity about when child information can be shared

3.1.1 Phase One prescribed workforces

As indicated at Appendix E, the majority of the Phase One organisations and services are prescribed under both information sharing schemes and the MARAM Framework. Depending on the circumstances, Phase One prescribed workforces may use either of the information sharing schemes on their own or apply both schemes where family violence is present and there are wellbeing and other safety concerns for the child/children.

As discussed under section 1.1, under the relevant information sharing scheme, prescribed workforces are authorised to request and voluntarily disclose confidential information from another prescribed entity where thresholds are met, and are required to disclose confidential information in response to a request from another prescribed entity where thresholds are met.

3.1.2 Workforce training

Impact of initial state-wide face-to-face training

Initial training related to implementation of the CIS Scheme was conducted for Phase One prescribed workforces over a ten-week period during October – December 2018. Development and delivery of the training was overseen by FSV and DET, with DET as lead. The training approach was informed by a needs analysis and the deliberations of a Child Information Sharing Working Group with membership from relevant areas of government, and consultations with a Training and Practice Advisory Group (TPAG) with expertise across relevant workforces. DHHS was part of the initial training development work and played a critical part in the TPAG. A set of principles were established for the design of the training including the adoption of an integrated approach that would cover content for both information sharing schemes and an introduction to the MARAM Framework. The training was developed by DET and FSV with support from Swinburne University and delivery across Victoria of the two-day face-to-face training was led by Box Hill Institute. The purpose of the initial training was to establish a minimum level of capability related to the information sharing reforms across workforces, coinciding with commencement of the schemes.[16]

A total of 35 training sessions were conducted across 25 locations in metropolitan and regional areas of Victoria. The training was attended by just under 2,000 participants, 35% of whom attended regional sessions. Highest attendance came from the areas of Family Services, Alcohol and Other Drugs Services, Maternal and Child Health and Mental Health Services, representing 43% of participants. Based on a workforce needs analysis a training target for Phase One information sharing entities had been estimated at approximately 4,000 workers.[17] Unmet demand was met by tailored partner departmental training programs and online training registrations. For example, training created by DHHS to meet demand amongst the DHHS workforces commenced in May 2019 and trained over 1,000 people by October 2019.

An evaluation of the initial state-wide training approach included a post survey (response rate of approximately 73%) of the impact of training on participant understanding of, and confidence to implement the information sharing reforms. As set out in the Training Evaluation Report, key findings of the evaluation and key learnings included:

Key findings (based on the post training evaluation survey)
  • The training overall was rated from Medium to High by 77% of respondents with a further 7% rating it as Very High. 11% of respondents rated the training as Low.
  • Following the training:
    • a majority of respondents rated their understanding of the CIS Scheme as High (51%) to Very High (8%) with a further 35% recording a rating of Medium
    • a majority of respondents rated their confidence to share child information under the CIS Scheme as High (45%) to Very High (10%) with a further 35% recording a rating of Medium
    • these ratings were highly consistent with those given to their understanding of, and confidence to share under the FVIS Scheme.
Key learnings
  • participants valued:
    • the opportunity to develop their understanding of how to collaborate with other sectors
    • contextual detail to support following the Ministerial Guidelines for the information sharing schemes
    • practical application of the reforms
  • issues identified by participants included:
    • time spent covering information that could have been prescribed as pre-reading
    • a preference for more time spent on case studies, role playing and networking
    • a lack of information about ongoing support to reduce any anxiety about implementation in practice, such as links to resources and change management plans for specific workforces.implementation support for Phase One prescribed workforces

Ongoing implementation support for Phase One prescribed workforces

Government support for implementation

While participants expressed mixed views about the extent to which the initial training met their expectations, lead agencies driving the reforms considered that the initial intensive training had served to create an awareness of the CIS Scheme (and related reforms) within three months of its launch. DET and partner government departments were able to build on this awareness and refine the strategic approach to building capacity among the Phase One prescribed workforces. This included the development of training by relevant government departments that were tailored to their workforces, and support for peak bodies to develop sector specific supporting materials and resources to facilitate effective implementation of the information sharing schemes.

A range of other supports to guide practice and enable self-directed learning relating to the CIS Scheme have been progressively developed and enhanced, generally through an integrated approach. This approach reflects the overlap of workforces prescribed under the information sharing schemes, the potential for both schemes to be applied in individual circumstances and the need for a clear understanding of the different purposes of the schemes. Whole-of-Victorian Government implementation supports for the CIS Scheme that are available to Phase One prescribed workforces are provided predominantly through a variety of DET platforms and include:

  • eLearning modules available as online courses, with over 6,000 enrolments to date
  • dedicated child information sharing website with online resources including checklists, factsheets and templates
  • Ministerial Guidelines that are legally binding for prescribed entities and explain how confidential information should be handled under the CIS Scheme and the legislative principles that underpin operation of the Scheme
  • ISE list on a searchable database that assists ISEs to identify other organisations prescribed to share information under the schemes in compliance with their legislative responsibility
  • dedicated Enquiry Line and email Inbox for child information sharing queries
  • email inbox for queries related to the whole-of-government Learning Management System (LMS) that hosts the online training for information sharing

The Enquiry Line and inbox have been open to Phase One prescribed organisations and services since commencement of the CIS Scheme in September 2018. This is a shared resource available also to respond to queries related to the FVIS Scheme and MARAM. The following figure presents the number of all enquiries through both telephone and email from January 2019 to October 2020.

Figure 3.1 Enquiries through the Information Sharing Reforms dedicated enquiry line (phone) and inbox (email)

Figure 3.1 is a vertical bar graph representing the number of phone  enquiries made through the information sharing reforms dedicated Enquiry Line and a line graph representing the email enquiries made to the Enquiry Line inbox. The y-axis shows the number of enquiries and the x-axis shows the timeframe, starting from January 2019 to October 2020.
Source: ACIL Allen Consulting 2020, based on data provided by Department of Education and Training
Figure 3.1 Enquiries through the Information Sharing Reforms dedicated enquiry line (phone) and inbox (email)

Figure 3.1 is a vertical bar graph representing the number of phone enquiries made through the information sharing reforms dedicated Enquiry Line and a line graph representing the email enquiries made to the Enquiry Line inbox. The y-axis shows the number of enquiries and the x-axis shows the timeframe, starting from January 2019 to October 2020. Over this time, 362 phone enquiries were made to the Enquiry Line and 86 email enquiries were sent to the Enquiry Line inbox, making a total of 448 enquiries.

Download Figure 3.1 Enquiries through the Information Sharing Reforms dedicated enquiry line (phone) and inbox (email)

Based on data collected about telephone calls and emails to the Enquiry Line over this period, the average number of monthly contacts decreased after a peak in July 2019 and remained relatively steady until the middle of 2020, most notably for telephone calls. This trend suggests that Phase One ISEs have an increasing understanding of the information sharing schemes but may also be a response to awareness of, and access to a wider range of resources. Over the period January 2019 to June 2020, enquiries have most commonly (92%) sought information to verify ISEs, seek policy guidance, access training or resources and seek practice guidance. Enquiries categorised as policy questions have related to obtaining consent to share, who information can be shared with and sharing of perpetrator information. Practice guidance has related to assistance in determining threshold for sharing information, extent of information sharing and action available when a request to share is refused.

From mid-2020, there has been an increase in contact to the Enquiry Line across both mediums (see Figure 3.1). Anecdotal evidence from DET suggests that this increase has been related to Phase One ISEs seeking information on the timing and scope of Phase Two implementation and how they may have to respond to that implementation. Approximately 60% of all queries related to the CIS Scheme, suggesting that the Enquiry Line will continue to be a valuable source of support for ISEs. The following table provides a breakdown of the queries by area of enquiry (see Table 3.1).

Table 3.1 Proportion of enquiry line contacts by area of enquiry
Area of enquiry Proportion of enquiries (%)
Both CIS and FVIS Schemes 39%
FVIS Scheme only 29%
CIS Scheme only 11%
CIS Scheme, FVIS Scheme and MARAM 10%
MARAM only 7%
Other 3%
Does not add to 100% due to rounding
Source: ACIL Allen Consulting 2020, based on data provided by Department of Education and Training Jan 2019-June 2020

In addition, there is a dedicated inbox for queries in relation to the whole-of-government LMS. The following figure presents the trends in relation to queries regarding access to online training through the LMS.

Figure 3.2 Email enquiries in relation to online training through the LMS

Figure 3.2 is a vertical bar graph representing the number of enquiries about online training received by the Department of Education and Training. The y-axis shows the number of enquiries and the x-axis shows the timeframe, starting from October 2018 to September 2020.
Source: ACIL Allen Consulting 2020, based on data provided by Department of Education and Training. Note: LMS refers to the whole-of-government Learning Management System hosted by DET for the information sharing online training.
Figure 3.2 Email enquiries in relation to online training through the LMS

Figure 3.2 is a vertical bar graph representing the number of enquires about online training through the Leaning Management System received by the Department of Education and Training. The y-axis shows the number of enquiries and the x-axis shows the timeframe, starting from October 2018 to September 2020. Between October and December 2018, 11 enquiries were received. Between January and December 2019, 547 enquiries were received. Between January and September 2020, 1,036 enquiries were received.

Download Figure 3.2 Email enquiries in relation to online training through the LMS

Enquiries in relation to online training peaked in the middle of 2019 and remained steady until March 2020, where it increased more than threefold, peaking in June and July 2020 before declining (see Figure 3.2). This increase, according to other data provided by DET, reflected a similar doubling in the number of registrations for online training. It is likely that this increase in online training was due to workforces who were required to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic restrictions having more time to participate in training. 

Enquiry Line and LMS inbox will continue to be available to Phase Two workforces when they are prescribed in 2021. Given the recent increases in 2020, it may be important to understand the capacity of the team to handle enquiries as Phase Two is implemented, as it appears both Phase One and Two workforces require assistance to implement Phase Two of the CIS Scheme. It is noted that the Two-Year Review of the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme recommended that the hours of operation of the Enquiry Line be extended and that it be fully resourced for at least two years following commencement of Phase Two of the information sharing schemes.

In addition, the DET Enquiry Line could be harnessed to provide a better understanding in real time of the nature and proportion of enquiries related to the CIS Scheme and the category of information sharing entity seeking clarification. This information could inform monitoring of the implementation of the CIS Scheme and any gaps in understanding at workforce and service level that might warrant targeted or different support.

Recommendation 1: Enquiry line data collection
That operation of the Enquiry Line be funded to accommodate the expansion of information sharing entities under the information sharing reforms, and to facilitate the collection of ‘real time’ data to inform effective implementation of the child information sharing reforms.

Sector Grants Program

The FSV Sector Grants Program, introduced in 2017-18 has provided sector implementation support funding to key representative and state-wide bodies for implementation of the information sharing and MARAM reforms. In 2020-2021, grant funding of $1.5 million was allocated to projects delivering tailored initiatives to key workforces relating to all three reforms. Suggested targeted areas for project proposals had included awareness raising, practice guidance and up-skilling of information sharing and family violence risk assessment and management change champions within organisations[18]. Sector Grants have been accessed by peak/lead bodies including the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, Municipal Association of Victoria, Council to Homeless Persons, Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association and the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency. There has also been collaboration across peak bodies to address the need for a common language to facilitate clarity around information sharing requests. The work of the peak/lead bodies has been an important avenue for promotion of the information sharing schemes and specifically for addressing the level of change needed in some sectors and programs where there has been little exposure to accounting for the wellbeing of children. Peak bodies are well placed for engaging their respective sectors in the development of resources that draw from the experiences of service providers and facilitating cross-sector collaboration.

The Sector Grants Program focuses on implementation of the information sharing reforms in a family violence context. Whilst the activities supported by the FSV grants have benefited operation of the CIS Scheme, peak/lead bodies have not had the resources to bring a similar focus to the CIS Scheme and its wider application. Feedback from peak bodies indicates that there is continuing work to successfully embed the CIS Scheme in prescribed organisations and services, including current planned activity. While the immediate priorities of the coronavirus pandemic have interrupted some of this work, the present and predicted health and economic consequences of the pandemic have highlighted the importance of services having the tools to enable best practice in acting early to foster the wellbeing and safety of children.

… Living through a pandemic has required us to change and adapt to challenging circumstances. For those of us working in the child and family services sector, it has meant being innovative in the ways we work with families to keep children visible and safe.
… this pandemic has thrown a spotlight onto current stressors and weaknesses in our service responses and on existing social and structural inequalities and disadvantage. What is clear is that we have a steadily growing group of children and families that need help.
… This means changing our focus from a crisis response to a whole-of-family approach that works to support families to keep children safe and to access the services they need…
Child Protection Week, Let’s not ignore the long term impact of COVID-19 on children. Deb Tsorbaris, CEO Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare. September 2020

The FSV Sector Grants Program has demonstrated the value of supporting targeted initiatives for key workforces in promoting effective implementation of reforms. There is opportunity to better leverage the support of peak/lead bodies in complimenting other efforts to promote early intervention and prevention through improved child information sharing. This support would be especially timely in also facilitating collaboration between peak/lead bodies representing sector workforces prescribed in Phase One of the CIS Scheme and proposed for Phase Two. A similar model to that implemented by FSV for promoting sector capacity building through the formation of working groups in which sector grants recipients are expected to participate could be considered for CIS Scheme sector capacity building[19].

Recommendation 2: Sector support
That support be provided to sector peak/lead bodies, similar to the Family Safety Victoria sector grants, to strengthen the response to sector-specific needs of information sharing entities in understanding and applying the CIS Scheme in a range of circumstances and to promote cross sector collaboration and consistency.

Perspectives of prescribed workforces

Feedback in 2020 through open-ended questions in the follow up workforces survey and workshops with prescribed organisations and services, suggests that CIS Scheme training and supporting resources continues to be a priority issue for prescribed organisations and services.

While many organisations have developed training for staff that links to changes to policies and procedures aligned to the requirements of the CIS Scheme, there are a range of challenges to effective implementation of the CIS Scheme that include:

  • Not all staff within information sharing entities have been trained potentially limiting operation of the CIS Scheme as intended and achieving the aims of extending permissions and supporting early intervention.
As an organisation it is taking time for us to develop our internal documents/policies and for staff to have adequate time and support to implement the required changes in practice and recording. (Maternal and Child Health (MCH) workforces survey respondent).
Agencies need to continue to drive this over time, not a set and forget; would have more momentum in the beginning and now it seems to have slightly dropped off. Been more of a push with information and training posted online, need to leverage this to keep momentum going. (Workshop participant).
Requires a lot more persistence to embed these changes. (Workshop participant)
  • Interactions with other information sharing entities has demonstrated a lack of understanding of the CIS Scheme which appears to reinforce the importance of training in both creating an awareness of the CIS Scheme and understanding of its provisions
We were advised by family services staff that they could not discuss any of their clients without seeking client permission. We find we are still needing to educate family services of the need to share information for the benefit of the carer and child. (MCH workforces survey respondent)
  • Continuing challenges in interpretation of ‘wellbeing’ associated with use of the CIS Scheme which suggests a lack of confidence in the capacity for professional judgement in determining application of the CIS Scheme and highlights the varied familiarity of prescribed entities with child-focused practice frameworks.
Many workforces are uncomfortable with the breadth of the term ‘wellbeing’. There is a lack of a framework like MARAM for the FVIS Scheme to guide interpretation of wellbeing for the CIS Scheme. (Workshop participant)

The CIS Scheme Ministerial Guidelines provide guidance on determination of the threshold relating to promotion of child wellbeing and safety, recognising the practice and human rights frameworks that might influence decision making and identifying that the concept of wellbeing is broader than safety alone extending to support for good health, positive relationships and age appropriate learning and development. Feedback from key informants reinforces the importance for different workforces to respect and adapt to how other workforces perceived and understood wellbeing (consistent with the legislative principles for the CIS Scheme), particularly as it relates to early identification and intervention to improve the wellbeing of children. It was considered necessary to balance the original intent of the legislation regarding the importance of the breadth of circumstances relevant to wellbeing, while providing additional guidance to workforces on how they should assess and understand wellbeing for the purposes of the CIS Scheme. This may include developing additional material/guidance that may contribute to a professional’s understanding of the promotion of a child’s wellbeing without narrowing the definition of wellbeing.

While the workforces to be prescribed under Phase Two have a working familiarity with wellbeing frameworks in their capacity as wellbeing/child focused services, the same does not apply to Phase One prescribed workforces that operate primarily with a risk focus and an adult user group. The continuing concern of many Phase One prescribed workforces about the need for additional support in assessing the threshold for ‘wellbeing’ in the context of the CIS Scheme should be investigated in order to ensure a consistent interpretation that accords with the intent of the legislation and to remove any barrier to effective implementation. Other strategies to build professional skills and confidence in this area might also be considered as part of cultural change to improve child information sharing including sectoral and organisational leadership on ‘professional judgement’.

Recommendation 3: Assessing threshold for ‘wellbeing’
That further guidance be provided for prescribed workforces regarding expectations associated with ‘promoting child wellbeing’ under the CIS Scheme. That this further guidance be informed by an audit of state-wide and sector specific resources with the aim of identifying guidance gaps, particularly in relation to promoting a shared understanding of child wellbeing and risk thresholds, and child and family service system roles and responsibilities in relation to child wellbeing.

There is support for ‘refresher learning’ to maintain momentum and consolidate learning and knowledge to support implementation of the CIS Scheme. There is also recognition of the value of extending lessons from Phase One collaboration to facilitate operation of the CIS Scheme with the broader cohort of information sharing entities to be included in Phase Two:

Prescribed workforces from Phase One may need a top-up of training to deal with different types of organisations in Phase Two that have a different way of working. (Workshop participant)
Recommendation 4: Strengthening capacity of Phase One workforces
That change strategies and ongoing training of information sharing entities related to the information sharing reforms continue to develop capacity among Phase One prescribed workforces and to facilitate integration of practice between Phase One and Phase Two prescribed workforces. This could be facilitated through workforce forums developed in collaboration with peak/lead bodies, and through support for local and place-based networks across sectors and promotion of local champions.

3.2 Embedding CIS Scheme in polices and guidelines

Given the complexity and legislative requirement for implementation of the CIS Scheme it has been important for prescribed organisations and services to ensure that internal policies and guidelines support their workforces in the appropriate sharing of information. Workforces responding to both the 2019 and 2020 survey of attitudes and practices related to the CIS Scheme indicated that for a large majority (84%) their organisation had policies covering the sharing of children’s information with external organisations at the time of the follow up survey in 2020 (see Figure 3.3). This represented an increase from 68% of this cohort who reported in the baseline survey about information sharing policies in place prior to commencement of the CIS Scheme.

Figure 3.3 Proportion of workforces indicating their organisation had policies covering CIS prior to and following commencement of the CIS Scheme

Figure 3.3 shows two donut graphs comparing the proportion of workforce representatives that indicated their organisation have policies that cover child information sharing. The first graph presents data relating to the period prior to commencement of the Child Information Sharing Scheme from the Wave 1 baseline survey in 2019 and the second graph presents data relating to the period following commencement of the Child Information Sharing Scheme from the Wave 2 follow up survey in 2020.
Source: Based on Phase One workforces survey, Wallis 2020 Note: Responses are to Q6: Does your organisation have policies covering the sharing of children’s information with external organisations? (n=194). Wave 1=2019 baseline survey; Wave 2=2020 follow up survey. Green triangle indicates increase is statistically significant; red triangle indicates decrease is statistically significant.
Figure 3.3 Proportion of workforces indicating their organisation had policies covering CIS prior to and following commencement of the CIS Scheme

Figure 3.3 shows 2 doughnut graphs comparing the proportion of workforces indicating their organisation had policies covering child information sharing. The first graph presents data relating to the period prior to commencement of the Child Information Sharing Scheme from the Wave 1 baseline survey in 2019 and the second graph presents data relating to the period following commencement of the Child Information Sharing Scheme from the Wave 2 follow up survey in 2020. For both surveys, 194 responses were received to the question.

From the 2019 baseline Wave 1 survey, 68% of respondents indicated their organisation had policies covering the sharing of children’s information with external organisations, 23% indicated their organisations did not and 9% did not know or preferred not to say. From the follow-up 2020 Wave 2 survey, 84% of respondents indicated their organisation had policies covering the sharing of children’s information with external organisations. This increase is statistically significant. 11% said their organisations did not. This decrease is statistically significant.

5% responded that they did not know or preferred not to say.

Download Figure 3.3 Proportion of workforces indicating their organisation had policies covering CIS prior to and following commencement of the CIS Scheme

Looking at how the organisational policies changed after the implementation of the CIS Scheme, there is generally an improvement in workforce perceptions of the policies. Among those survey respondents who identified that their organisations did have policies on sharing child information prior to commencement of the CIS Scheme (2019 baseline), there was mixed perceptions of the policies’ currency and value in enabling information sharing (see Figure 3.4). Change at follow up, however, included a larger proportion of respondents reporting that the policies were up to date (85%, an increase from 65%), are sufficiently flexible and provide clear guidance on permission to share. There is a reduction in the perception that policies sometimes hinder early identification of needs or prevention of issues. Curiously, there is a small decrease in the proportion of respondents who perceive that policies are adhered to by relevant staff suggesting that further work is required to ensure all relevant staff have the knowledge and skills for child information sharing.

Figure 3.4 Workforce perceptions of information sharing policies

Figure 3.4 is a horizontal bar graph presenting the percentage of workforce representatives that support statements related to information sharing policies. The graph compares the respondents’ support of these statements from the Wave 1 baseline survey in 2019 and the Wave 2 follow up survey in 2020.
Source: Based on Phase One workforces survey, Wallis 2019/20. Note: Responses are to Q7: How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements? (Wave 1 (2019 baseline survey): n=132, Wave 2 (2020 follow up survey): n=162). Green triangle indicates increase is statistically significant; red triangle indicates decrease is statistically significant.
Figure 3.4 Workforce perceptions of information sharing policies

Figure 3.4 is a horizontal bar graph presenting the percentage of workforce representatives that support statements related to information sharing policies. The graph compares the respondents’ support of these statements from the Wave 1 baseline survey in 2019 (132 responses received) and the Wave 2 follow up survey in 2020 (162 responses received).

To the statement that information sharing policies ‘enable exchange of certain children’s information, between our organisation and other permitted entities’, in 2019 85% agreed and in 2020 90% agreed.

To the statement that information sharing policies ‘are widely adhered to by relevant staff within the organisation’, in 2019 76% agreed and in 2020 72% agreed.

To the statement that information sharing policies ‘provide clear guidance on when information sharing is permissible’, in 2019 72% agreed and in 2020 85% agreed. This increase is statistically significant.

To the statement that information sharing policies ‘are flexible enough to be applied across many situations likely to be encountered’, in 2019 65 percent agreed and in 2020 82% agreed. This is a statistically significant increase.

To the statement that information sharing policies ‘are up to date’, in 2019 65% agreed and in 2020 85% agreed. This increase is statistically significant.

To the statement that information sharing policies ‘may sometimes hinder early identification of needs and issues or early prevention of issues’, in 2019 36% agreed and in 2020 15% agreed. This decrease is statistically significant.

Download Figure 3.4 Workforce perceptions of information sharing policies

Comparing the results of those who answered in the 2020 follow up survey only (n=50) and those who answered in both 2019 and 2020 surveys (n=194), while not significantly different, there were fewer respondents in the follow up survey only (68% compared to 82%) who agreed that the policies ‘were flexible enough to be applied across many of the situations likely to be encountered’.

3.3 Preparedness to consider opportunities for child information sharing

Asking workforces how they perceived staff attitudes at their organisation in the 12 month period up until the commencement of the CIS Scheme in September 2018, while the majority (83%) felt that their organisations were generally open to sharing information with other agencies within the legal frameworks and that the organisations understood how information sharing could benefit children (89%), this increased after the implementation of the CIS Scheme to 90% and 91% respectively (see Figure 3.5).

Similarly, while prior to commencement of the CIS Scheme 74% of survey respondents reported that they were aware of their legal responsibilities and even fewer, 67%, knew where to go for guidance on how to share information, at follow up this had increased to 83% who were now aware of their legal responsibilities and 85% who now knew where to go for guidance.

Prior to the implementation of the CIS Scheme, only 27% of respondents felt that there was reluctance in the organisation to share information. After the implementation of the Scheme, fewer (21%) respondents felt this way. The response from workforces who completed the survey in 2020 only was more marked with only 10% feeling reluctant to share information because they may be doing the wrong thing.

Figure 3.5 Workforce attitudes towards information sharing

Figure 3.5 is a horizontal bar graph which presents the percentage of workforce representatives that responded positively to various statements related to information sharing. The graph compares the respondents’ support of these statements from the Wave 1 baseline survey in 2019 and the Wave 2 follow up survey in 2020.
Source: based on Phase One workforces surveys, Wallis Consulting 2019/2020. Note: Responses are to Q5: How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements? (n=194). Wave 1=2019 baseline survey; Wave 2=2020 follow up survey. Green triangle indicates increase is statistically significant.
Figure 3.5 Workforce attitudes towards information sharing

Figure 3.5 is a horizontal bar graph which presents the percentage of workforce representatives that responded positively to various statements related to information sharing. The graph compares the respondents’ support of these statements from the Wave 1 baseline survey in 2019 and the Wave 2 follow up survey in 2020. For both surveys, 194 responses were received to the question.

To the statement that the workforce ‘understood how information sharing could benefit children’, in 2019 89% agreed and in 2020 91% agreed.

To the statement that the workforce is ‘open to sharing with other agencies within existing legal frameworks, in 2019 83% agreed and in 2020 90% agreed.

To the statement that the workforce ‘are aware of their legal responsibilities when sharing information, in 2019 74% agreed and in 2020 83% agreed. This increase is statistically significant.

To the statement that the workforce ‘know where to go for guidance on how to share information’, in 2019 67% agreed and in 2020 85% agreed. This increase is statistically significant.

To the statement that the workforce ‘promote information sharing to others, where it may be of benefit, within existing legal frameworks’, in 2019 64% agreed and in 2020 67% agreed.

To the statement that the workforce is ‘reluctant to share information, in the fear that they may be doing the wrong thing, in 2019 27% agreed and in 2020 21% agreed.

Download Figure 3.5 Workforce attitudes towards information sharing

While there are positive indications of an improved level of workforce understanding of, and receptiveness to information sharing, there is a continuing conservative position regarding willingness to promote information sharing where it may be of benefit. This position supports stakeholder feedback about the evolving nature of the culture change that needs to occur and the further work to be done to embed the CIS Scheme in practice. (Also see section 4.3 and section 5.2.)

3.4 ISE systems and processes support monitoring of implementation of the CIS Scheme

Information sharing entities were expected to leverage their existing systems to meet the record keeping requirements under the CIS Scheme. A selection of prescribed organisations and services were asked about whether there had been a need to make changes to their record keeping systems in anticipation of, and subsequent to introduction of the CIS Scheme.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of organisations (n=54) indicated that changes had been made to record keeping arrangements in response to the CIS Scheme (see Figure 3.6). This was made up of over one-third of organisations who indicated that changes to processes had been made both before and after the introduction of the CIS Scheme, while a smaller proportion had made changes only before or only after implementation.

For some organisations, changes made in anticipation of the CIS Scheme were ongoing after introduction of the CIS Scheme. For other organisations additional changes were made following introduction of the Scheme. 

Figure 3.6 Proportion of survey respondents by changes to organisational record keeping before and after implementation of the CIS Scheme

Figure 3.6 is a horizontal stacked bar chart showing the percentage of survey respondents who indicated there were changes to organisational recordkeeping practices before the implementation of the CIS Scheme; after the implementation of the Scheme; both before and after implementation; or no changes, either before or after implementation.
Source: Survey of record keeping systems and practices. ACIL Allen Consulting 2019. Note: Responses are to Q14 Did you make any changes to your record keeping system in anticipation of the introduction of the CIS Scheme in September 2018? and Q16 Have you made any changes to your record keeping system since the implementation of the CIS Scheme? (n = 54).
Figure 3.6 Proportion of survey respondents by changes to organisational record keeping before and after implementation of the CIS Scheme

Figure 3.6 is a horizontal stacked bar chart showing the percentage of survey respondents who indicated there were changes to organisational recordkeeping practices before the implementation of the CIS Scheme; after the implementation of the Scheme; both before and after implementation; or no changes, either before or after implementation. Fifty-four responses were received to the questions ‘Did you make any changes to your record keeping system in anticipation of the introduction of the CIS Scheme in September 2018?’ and ‘Have you made any changes to your record keeping system since the implementation of the CIS Scheme?’.

20% of respondents indicated there were changes to organisational recordkeeping practices made only before the implementation of the CIS Scheme; 15% of respondents indicated there were changes to organisational recordkeeping practices made only after the implementation of the CIS Scheme; 39% indicated that there were changes to organisational recordkeeping practices made before and after the implementation of the CIS Scheme; and 26% indicated that there were no changes to organisational recordkeeping practices made before or after  the implementation of the CIS Scheme.

Download Figure 3.6 Proportion of survey respondents by changes to organisational record keeping before and after implementation of the CIS Scheme

Some of the changes made in preparation for the CIS Scheme included developing forms, improving and updating processes, updating client management systems, improving data protection processes, and developing spreadsheets to hold new information.

Changes made following the implementation of the CIS Scheme included additional items such as adapting tools and processes based on feedback since implementation and conduct of reviews of existing record keeping systems.

The Ministerial Guidelines[20] provide a list of required information for record keeping, which is set out in the Child Wellbeing and Safety (Information Sharing) Regulations 2018. Organisations surveyed in 2019 about their record keeping were asked about the extent to which they adhered to the list of required information in relation to each of the key activities in information sharing. Required information relating to the category of receiving a request had the highest rate of compliance with 74% of respondents reporting that all mandatory items were recorded. While noting that this category has the smallest number of required items, the remaining categories relating to information requirements for responding to a request, voluntary disclosure, and receiving and responding to a complaint, had an appreciably lower level of full compliance.

Required information for record keeping provides information sharing entities with an important source of internal monitoring of effective implementation of the CIS Scheme and an ability to assess any improved outcomes for children and their families. If capacity allows, the information collected by information sharing entities could potentially be aggregated by government to enable measurement of the contribution of the CIS Scheme to the intended outcomes, such as earlier intervention and prevention.

Recommendation 5: Compliance with record keeping requirements
That CIS Scheme partner government departments work with information sharing entities in their respective sectors to promote compliance with the legislated record keeping obligations under the CIS Scheme, as explained in the Ministerial Guidelines.

More recent feedback from prescribed organisation and services highlights ongoing refinement of processes and tools to support the service’s commitment to taking responsibility for children. This has included amendment to intake forms for services that deal predominantly with adults to record any involvement of children and consent forms that raise client awareness of information sharing schemes.

[addressing the] Attitudes of staff who feel sharing information may impact on their relationship with the adult who is usually their client. [ensuring they] Know how to record/store shared information when it relates to a person who is not our direct client. Reminding our staff that we need to know there are children involved and therefore ask clients if they have children and keep those records up to date. We are changing forms to make this easier. (Workforce survey respondent)
A challenge is consumer anxiety about what information is being shared about you and your family and how well it is explained to the family and how well it is communicated to them about what information is shared by clinicians. (Workforce survey respondent)
Frontline staff - how to change consent forms so that staff can build these schemes into conversations with clients so that there are no surprises for clients down the road (Workshop participant)

A consistent conversation across services to ensure that service users are aware of and understand the information sharing reforms is important to effective implementation of the CIS Scheme and the ongoing process of engagement with service users and consumers (individuals, families and communities) more broadly.

Recommendation 6: Service user awareness
That training modules and templates identify information sharing entity responsibility for, and provide resources to support a consistent approach to service user awareness of the information sharing reforms and ensuring they understand their implications, the obligations of information sharing entities and the service user’s rights.

Organisations have also spoken about approaches to improve sharing of information through documentation of refusals to share as a means of prompting further consideration of the request.

Use of documentation regarding requests that have been knocked back to ensure that all organisations are clear of the consequences of not sharing the information; allowing them to escalate the issue where necessary. (Workshop participant)

Some organisations have implemented centralised systems for information sharing under the CIS Scheme. This has the advantage of a more streamlined, consistent and systematic response with the ability for continuous monitoring of the organisation/service’s performance. An illustration of this process and its impact on the best interests of the child is provided in Box 3.2. Note that potential unintended consequences of a centralised system are discussed in Chapter 6.

Box 3.2 Case study in implementation – Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)

Situation and context

DHHS has established a central unit, the Information Sharing Team (IST). The IST is responsible for responding to requests for information from prescribed ISEs that request details of the Department’s Child Protection actions where there is no current Child Protection involvement (i.e. historical involvement only). Requests for current Child Protection information are triaged and where an open child protection case is identified, referred to the allocated Child Protection Practitioner There is a degree of interplay between the Child Protection Intake team and the IST, where there can be internal referrals to each other based on an assessment of the risks faced by the child.

In one situation, a request for information was received from a mental health facility that was prescribed under both FVIS and CIS Schemes. The request sought information on historical family violence perpetrated by a father.

Action

The request was allocated within IST, and a search of the Child Protection electronic client database revealed there was no current involvement with Child Protection. However, IST identified significant Child Protection history for the father’s children. The most recent Child Protection involvement stipulated that all contact with the father should be supervised.

The request did not provide sufficient information regarding the purpose of the request. An advisor from IST phoned the requestor to discuss the request further, and it was revealed that the father was recently involuntarily admitted and that the children were having unsupervised contact at the time.

Outcome

IST shared the relevant information with the requestor, including the information that Child Protection stipulated that all contact with the father should be supervised. The IST advised the requestor that a new assessment by Child Protection Intake was required to ensure that the children would continue to be kept safe. The requestor agreed to report to Child Protection Intake that day. The following day the requestor phoned the IST to confirm they made a report and will continue to liaise with Child Protection to ensure appropriate arrangements for supervised contact be put in place prior to the father being discharged. The IST engaged with the requestor successfully, provided them with the relevant information and also supported them to share that information with other relevant organisations (Child Protection Intake).

While there may have been other avenues for the requestor to access information, it appears that they may not have done so without the ability to confirm any previous history through use of the CIS Scheme, highlighting the ability of the Scheme to bring providers together to discuss the best possible actions for the child’s safety and wellbeing.

Source: Based on material provided by Department of Health and Human Services 2020

There was little change reported by workforces in their perception of the level of effort needed to align their organisation’s practices, procedures and systems to the CIS Scheme over the period of the two workforces surveys. The average ranking of level of effort was 6.2 in the 2019 survey and 6.4 in the follow up 2020 survey (0=very little effort and 10=extremely high level of effort; n=194). This result supports qualitative feedback from stakeholders that adjusting systems to the CIS Scheme have been ongoing in the period since commencement of the CIS Scheme, and that for many organisations, this has not been an inconsiderable effort.

[16] Department of Education and Training (2019). Information Sharing and Introduction to MARAM Training. Evaluation Report. Victoria State Government.

[17] Ibid

[18] Information Sharing and Family Violence MARAM Framework sector implementation support funding 2020-2021. Project Proposal. Family Safety Victoria.

[19] FSV convenes the MARAMIS Sector Capacity Building Working Group and the MARAMIS Sector Capacity Building Aboriginal Working Group

[20] Child Information Sharing Scheme Ministerial Guidelines. Guidance for information sharing entities. State of Victoria, Department of Health and Human Services, September 2018. Available at www.infosharing.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 30 March 2021

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