In this volume, the Royal Commission examined the records, recordkeeping and information sharing of institutions that care for or provide services to children and made recommendations to improve these to better identify, prevent and respond to incidents and risks of sexual abuse.
The Victorian Government is working to improve records and record keeping practices of institutions that care for or provide services to children. The government is committed to improving information sharing between key agencies and institutions with responsibility for children’s wellbeing and safety, and between relevant professions, which is vital to achieve these outcomes.
The Child Information Sharing Scheme
The Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS) enables proactive information sharing about any person between prescribed organisations and services, and requires organisations to respond to information requests for the purpose of promoting a child's wellbeing or safety.
Since April 2021, 15,455 leaders and professionals from schools and centre-based education and care services have completed their training. The Victorian Department of Education has used a range of stakeholder engagement strategies to promote training across sectors, along with communications, attendance at forums, networks, and other events, including collaboration with CISS grant recipients to promote training and capability improvement across the sector.
The whole of Victorian Government enquiry line has taken 3,534 calls since commencing operations, and the enquiry mailbox has received 8,400 email enquiries. There are currently 8,136 prescribed organisations and services listed across all workforces.
The Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme can also be used by institutions to support the safety of, and manage risk to, a child victim survivor of sexual abuse.
Central Information Point
The Victorian Government has established the Central Information Point (CIP), which provides information from key government agencies about a perpetrator or alleged perpetrator of family violence into a consolidated report to support frontline practitioners to assess and manage family violence risk.
The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing operates the CIP in partnership with Victoria Police, the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, and Corrections Victoria. The CIP is currently available to The Orange Door network, state-wide Risk Assessment and Management Panels, Safe Steps, and the Men’s Referral Service
The CIP operates under the same legislation as the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme and can share information about a perpetrator of family violence including pattern and history of behaviour towards children, related offences and criminal history.
The Victorian Government allocated $12.9 million in 2021–22 and $28.4 million over two years in 2022–23 for the CIP.
Information sharing under CISS is also facilitated by Child Link. Child Link is a digital tool that displays factual information about every child in Victoria by combining information from existing source systems to create a single entry of aggregated information for every child.
Child Link became operational on 31 December 2021 and was piloted across 2022. It is being implemented in phases throughout 2023 after considering user feedback and a review of the pilot year. Child Link is currently available to selected authorised professionals including maternal child health nurses, school principals, key school staff and child protection practitioners.
Additional information relating to CISS commencing in Victoria and Child Link can be found in the Victorian Government 2021 Annual Report in the section on Recordkeeping and information sharing (Volume 8).
Improved recordkeeping within schools
Following the new Child Safe Standards coming into effect from 1 July 2022, all government and non-government schools in Victoria are now required to meet the same minimum record retention requirements for student health, safety and wellbeing records. These standards are set out in relevant Record Retention and Disposal Authorities released by the Public Record Office Victoria. These meet or exceed the minimum record retention requirements recommended by the Royal Commission.
Development of a national scheme for child information sharing
The Royal Commission highlighted that to identify, prevent and respond to incidents and risks of child abuse, information needs to be shared between:
- organisations with responsibilities for children’s safety and wellbeing, and
- relevant professionals who work with children such as teachers, medical practitioners and law enforcement officers.
Victoria co-leads, with the National Office for Child Safety, the development of a national scheme for the exchange of child safety and wellbeing information, as recommended by the Royal Commission. Governments are progressing this work under the First National Action Plan for the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021–2030 (National Strategy). The work will be done under ‘Measure 3: Enhance national arrangements for sharing child safety and wellbeing information’. This measure will cover a range of projects seeking to improve information sharing.
More information on this national scheme can be found in the Australian Government’s Annual Progress Report 2022
Social services regulatory reform
In September 2021, the Social Services Regulation Act 2021 was passed giving effect to a comprehensive new regulatory framework for social services providers, including out-of-home care service providers. More information on this reform can be found in the section on Contemporary out-of-home care (Volume 12) of this report.
When the new framework commences it will require all social service providers to be registered and to comply with a new set of Social Services Standards. The aim of the new standards is to ensure safe service delivery and protect the human rights of service users. In addition, the new regulatory framework will introduce a Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme and a database of disqualified workers. This will replace the current register of out-of-home carers. The Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme intends to replicate and enhance the scope of the existing Carers Register.
The new regulatory approach will improve the way social services are regulated, support safer social service delivery, and provide better protection for service users from harm, neglect, and abuse.
Improvements will include:
- better information sharing between regulatory and other bodies
- regulation of social service providers through a registration scheme and compliance with service standards, and
- a Worker and Carer Exclusion Scheme to enable monitoring of high-risk workers and carers to maintain the highest protections for our most vulnerable service users.