This chapter addresses the following research question and includes consideration of the impact of the CIS Scheme on workforces including the interface of the CIS Scheme with the FVIS Scheme:
- How successful has it been to prescribe entities for child information sharing?
Box 7.1 Key findings – prescription of Phase One entities under the CIS Scheme
- Alignment of implementation of the CIS Scheme with the FVIS Scheme and MARAM framework was seen by Phase One prescribed workforces as consistent with the integrated way in which these reforms were being operationalised in practice.
- Interface of the FVIS and CIS Schemes has highlighted practices that can be strengthened to ensure the successful implementation of the CIS Scheme that include reinforcing the importance of routinely gathering accurate information, formalising standards for information collection and developing processes for documenting information sharing occasions and outcomes.
- Improved sharing of information between secondary/tertiary and universal services was considered to be more likely to deliver the early intervention benefits intended for the CIS Scheme, and the opportunity to promote child wellbeing outside of family violence contexts.
- For some Phase One prescribed organisations and services, expanding the CIS Scheme under planned Phase Two will enable a whole of organisation approach to the CIS Scheme and collaboration with other internal services to be prescribed under Phase Two.
- Choice of information sharing entities for Phase One has been appropriate when reflecting on the scale of implementation and the training required. There is a continuing need to build child information sharing capacity among Phase One information sharing entities.
- The selection of Phase One information sharing entities has illustrated the breadth of service providers in contact with children directly or indirectly through a family context and supports provided to parents/carers, and the opportunities to build a wider network of services able to participate in promoting child wellbeing and safety.
Source: ACIL Allen Consulting 2020
In proposing a child information sharing scheme for Victoria it was intended that the model recognise the primacy of the principle of child wellbeing and safety, facilitate interagency collaboration in providing services to children, assist in identifying factors contributing to cumulative harm over time and improve the exchange of information between relevant government and non-government organisations. Prescribing information sharing entities would determine the scope and scale of reforms. It was also proposed that because of the significant overlap of family violence and child safety and wellbeing reforms, activities to support the reforms would be rolled out together to reduce any confusion amongst the workforce and community.
In considering the impact of the proposed regulatory reform, the phased implementation of the CIS Scheme would involve both government and non-government organisations and align to implementation of the FVIS Scheme. Phase One prescription would focus on entities providing support for the most vulnerable children and who were considered to have a level of reform readiness.
Feedback from Phase One information sharing entities suggest that the overlap in workforce responsibilities for CIS and FVIS Schemes has demonstrated the value of a more formalised approach to child information sharing and the importance of accurate recording of information. It has also highlighted for adult-focused services, the opportunity to improve consideration of child wellbeing and safety. In terms of intervening earlier, while Phase One information sharing entities understood this intent for the CIS Scheme, for some the current restriction on prescribed entities was seen as a limitation to achieving this aim. The planned introduction of Phase Two information sharing entities with a stronger emphasis on universal/upstream services was seen as offering the potential to engage a wider workforce in promotion of child wellbeing and safety.
Where there was feedback from stakeholders on the prescription of ISEs, there was generally acceptance or understanding of the overall policy direction – government was responding to the issues of both women and children, and therefore the implementation of the FVIS and CIS Schemes and MARAM framework together was perceived as a reasonable way to approach the reform.
I see them as part of an integrated package of keeping people safe. In practice FVIS and CIS Scheme sharing and coordination happens in an integrated way where there are children involved. (Workforces survey respondent)
Communication of the relationship between these reforms has improved over time, with stakeholders indicating that:
The messaging and rollout across government has become more sophisticated over time, it has been modified and tailored to better communicate in a more coherent manner for workforces. (Key informant)
The significant overlap of workforces prescribed under both the CIS and FVIS Schemes has provided a logical framework for integrated training but has also highlighted practices that can be strengthened to ensure the successful implementation of the CIS Scheme. Lessons for the CIS Scheme that have been drawn from among workforces responding to the follow up survey who were also working with the FVIS Scheme, include reinforcing the importance of routinely gathering accurate information, formalising standards for information collection and developing processes for documenting information sharing occasions and outcomes.
Qualitative feedback in relation to accuracy and comprehensiveness of records (respondents, follow-up workforces survey):
Continue to document case notes accurately.
Email requests; easier to action specifically what is required, by whom and for what purpose.
To have the accurate information is very crucial to be able to protect, help, planning and make the right decisions in keeping and monitoring children’s safety and assess their physical and mental needs.
Feedback in relation to systems and processes (respondents, follow-up workforces survey):
Develop internal program systems at worker level that includes formal information gathering/sharing as a standard part of risk assessment and safety planning is important.
Develop clear and consistent processes for reviewing, responding to requests and recording the outcomes.
There was also recognition among workforces that the CIS Scheme was supporting the greater awareness among family violence services of the need to consider the significant impact on the child of family violence and the often intersecting issues of mental health and alcohol and other drug use.
I think that it is important that the status of both schemes is held to be equal. This is an issue in an organisation that has adult clients who experience family violence, but the safety and wellbeing of the child is less obvious to nursing and medical staff. It has been the social work role to assess the risks and needs of the child even though they may be regarded as a secondary/indirect client in the eyes of the organisation. (Workforces survey respondent – ‘other’-health related organisation)
There were a small number of stakeholder responses which indicated that they would have liked prescription of ISEs to be broader However, most of these stakeholders also reflected upon the implementation effort and were cognisant that broader implementation would have required even more effort and could have created other barriers to effective implementation.
One of the main reasons why these stakeholders would have liked a broader prescription of ISEs was related to the intent of the CIS Scheme. The focus for the CIS Scheme, particularly in relation to improving wellbeing, was on early identification and intervention. These stakeholders felt that ISEs in Phase One of the CIS Scheme were primarily working at the crisis end or where issues were severe and required significant intervention. These stakeholders, therefore, felt that universal services were really where the opportunity was for early identification and intervention. It could be expected that expansion of the CIS Scheme also will provide the opportunity to promote child wellbeing outside of family violence contexts.
Universal services will probably use the CIS Scheme better because they are more likely to think about wellbeing…an example being schools and how they work with Child Protection. Schools provide information to Child Protection but never receive information, which is important because they are so involved in early intervention, prevention, and support of children on a day-to-day basis. (Peak/lead body)
In some other cases, stakeholders indicated that prescription of only selected program areas or functions within an organisation created difficulties in establishing a whole-of-organisation approach in implementing the CIS Scheme. This included policies and procedures, case management systems, and operational workflows having to be split into CIS Scheme and non-CIS Scheme areas, which caused difficulties for some organisations. In addition, this prevented different service areas within the same organisation from potentially working together to create better outcomes for clients.
Parts of the organisation are in the Scheme and parts are not…we cannot develop an organisation-wide system or policy. The workarounds are that certain elements of information are not shared, and artificial blockages are being created. (Workshop participant)
Only a few of the programs within our organisation are prescribed services; it is hard to develop an organisational policy and procedure. (Workforces survey respondent - Family Violence Therapeutic Responses and Counselling)
Some workforces indicated that the non-prescribed program areas or functions of their organisation were already thinking about the potential benefits that could occur once they become prescribed as a part of Phase Two implementation. Knowing that they would be a part of Phase Two has also helped to temper their disappointment at not being prescribed as a part of Phase One.
Only MCH nurses are prescribed at the moment, but we expect that other early years’ services and educators are coming into the Scheme in the near future…we can then align the whole department’s family and children services policies and procedures with the Scheme’s requirements. (MCH workforces survey respondent)
It could be expected that initial engagement of Phase One information sharing entities in the CIS Scheme will ensure that these services, acutely aware of how unsustainable downstream support is and the impact of entrenched and intergenerational disadvantage, can champion prevention and earlier intervention initially within secondary and tertiary services and ultimately among services operating across the continuum of care. The selection of Phase One information sharing entities has also served to illustrate the breadth of service providers in contact with children directly or indirectly through a family context and supports provided to parents/carers, and the opportunities to build a wider network of services able to participate in promoting child wellbeing and safety. As suggested elsewhere in this report, further support and time is required to ensure that Phase One information sharing entities fully operationalise the CIS Scheme and can work effectively with an expanded Scheme to improve equity of outcomes for children and young people.
 Children Legislative Amendment (Information Sharing) Bill 2017. Legislative Impact Statement.
 Regulatory Impact Statement. Child Wellbeing and Safety (Information Sharing) Regulations 2018.
 This use of ‘department’ by the stakeholder refers to the Child, Youth and Family Services department of a local council, as opposed to a government department elsewhere in the report.
Reviewed 30 March 2021