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The information on this page is specific to Permanency Support Program (PSP) service providers.

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Yes, it is important we continue to support children, young people, families and communities in NSW. Many of our clients are already experiencing a range of hardships and it‘s important we maintain a strong level of support. 

We understand you may need to scale down non-essential services so you can continue to deliver essential services. Please inform your DCJ contract manager of any changes to your service delivery.

Read our advice on service delivery impacts.

Learn about what you can do if you’re concerned about keeping services going.

It is important to plan for the continued delivery of services to vulnerable clients. NCOSS have issued a COVID-19 Community Sector Resource to help you plan for service continuity in this challenging time.

We acknowledge that providers may need to take emergency measures in response to a COVID-19 outbreak. DCJ is committed to supporting providers in order to ensure critical services can continue.

DCJ will be establishing a process with contract managers in each District to quickly respond and pre-approve requests to undertake emergency measures that may result in additional extraordinary costs. Please alert your lead DCJ contract manager and, for residential services, the Central Access Unit, as you would in the case of a critical incident.

Yes, it’s important to let everyone know that they can ask you for help if needed.

Please ask your carers and staff check NSW Government advice about how they can protect themselves and their families, including the children in their care.

Practice advice is available to assist practitioners in talking to children and families about COVID-19 to help them make sense of what this means for their daily life, their family and what they should plan for.

Service providers are required to ensure that all OOHC placements are monitored and supported according to individual circumstances. This is to ensure children are safe and well looked after. This includes having regular contact with children and the adults caring for them.

Restrictions are now easing, placement monitoring and home visits can now occur face-to-face using health and safety precautions. Where there are concerns regarding the health of carers or other people in the home, alternative methods may need to be used to connect with and check in on children in care.

You will need to continue to make decisions on a case-by-case basis about whether it is best to conduct a home visit in person or if it should continue to occur via video. We ask that when making decisions about visiting children agencies consider factors such as:

  • the child or young person’s wishes, age and health
  • the carer’s concerns and preferences
  • placement stability
  • the safety and best interests of children
  • the health of carers, families and staff
  • technological ability and resources.

Where there are concerns about face-to-face visits, make an assessment of the risks if video visits were to occur. Please be sure to document these decisions.

A tip sheet is available to support your case managers on home visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When face-to-face visits occur, good hygiene practices and social distancing must be incorporated in any planning. This includes calling ahead to make sure everyone is healthy, physical distancing and regular handwashing.

Family time remains important for children and their families and we need to be creative and use a range of strategies to see, support and connect with kids in care. Where appropriate, alternatives to face-to-face contact should be considered to maintain family relationships including through video conferencing, calls, messages and letters.

Where appropriate, face-to-face family time should be considered to maintain family relationships. There will be circumstances where face-to-face contact needs to continue. This includes family time as part of a restoration plan or court order. Where there are health concerns then consider alternative methods of contact including video conferencing, calls, messages and letters.

It is important that any decision about family time is focussed on the best interests and needs of the child.

You will need to continue to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Consider the following factors when making decisions about family time:

  • the child or young person’s wishes, age and health
  • the parents’, carers’ and loved ones’ concerns and preferences
  • placement stability
  • any risks to the child
  • the health of carers, families and staff
  • supervision requirements and normal frequency of family time
  • restoration requirements
  • access to transport
  • technological ability and resources
  • distance and location.

Where family time occurs face-to-face you should take reasonable precautions, including social distancing, proper hygiene, and meeting outdoors.

Making decisions about family time during the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging and best done in conversation with others. Talk to staff, children, birth families and carers about the decision to change the way family time is occurring and why. You should also document this on the child’s case file. A tip sheet is now available to support your case managers with family time during the COVID-19 pandemic .

You should document any decisions and the rationale on the child’s case file.

If you are concerned about compliance with court ordered contact arrangements, other administrative directions of the court or you are unsure about what to do about changes to scheduled visits, please speak to your local Child and Family District Unit (CFDU).

What do the rules about limitations on public gatherings  mean for casework and contact?

Current limitations on social gatherings and when people can leave their home do not impact the essential work we do in supporting vulnerable families. The restrictions do not apply

  • for the purposes of work
  • for caring reasons
  • when providing care or assistance to a vulnerable person.

People are also able to leave their home where it is to continue existing arrangements for children to see their parents or siblings.

It is recommended that case managers supervising family time or face to face client contact, carry their employee ID and copies of any court orders/case plans. If desired, case managers may also carry a letter from their manager declaring that they are an essential worker. NGO managers can author letters for staff  (or carers); they do not need to be signed by a DCJ manager.

If approached by a police officer during family time or other face-to-face client contact, case managers should produce their employee ID (and their letter, if they have one) and explain they are undertaking essential support of vulnerable people. If police continue to have concerns case managers should ask that they contact the Police Operations Centre for guidance.

Where a carer is supervising or facilitating family time and a decision is made that it will continue to occur face-to-face (i.e. to support restoration or to fulfil a court order) they should be provided with a letter authorising them to provide an essential service to children by your agency.

Please read, and ask carers to read, the NSW Government advice on self-isolation.

Service providers should take appropriate measures to ensure the health and safety of the young person and others in close proximity. This would extend to applying the principles and procedures outlined in the NSW Joint Protocol.

Ask carers to read and follow NSW Government advice on how they can protect themselves and the children in their care.

There may be cases where a carer cannot continue looking after a child because of COVID-19. In that instance, a person the child knows can be authorised to be a provisional carer. Such a person must be considered capable and suitable.

Check this Children’s Guardian fact sheet for more information.

Remember, it’s important that you are planning for continuing services in an emergency. If a carer is no longer able to care for a child, we ask that you speak to the carer about finding someone else to care for the child temporarily. This may be:

  • another member of the carer’s family
  • someone from your pool of carers
  • someone provided by your local CFDU.

Please contact your local CFDU if you are concerned about not having an available, suitable carer.

People with chronic health conditions may be at a greater risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. They may need additional support at this time.

If these carers are no longer able to care for a child, you may need to move quickly so that an alternative, authorised person can be found to care for the child.

Remember:

  • Let your local CFDU know of any changes to a child’s care arrangements.
  • Make sure you update any changes in ChildStory.

How can family and friends help a carer provide care for a child?

Where a carer requires practical assistance due to COVID-19, the priority is to put in additional supports to ensure the child can remain with their carer. It’s important during times of stress and anxiety for children to stay connected to the adults in their life. Where this is not possible, there may be other adults in the child’s life who can support the carer such as an existing respite carer, relative or family friend of the carer. Where support from other adults who have pre-existing relationships with the child is not possible then an alternate placement may be required.

  • If a family member or friend are helping on an irregular basis (i.e. just a few of days), they don’t need to be authorised as a carer or require a Working with Children Check (WWCC).
  • If a family member or friend are helping the carer on a regular basis (i.e. 3 times a week for the next few months) they will require a WWCC.
  • If family members or friends want to take on the full-time care of a child in care, and the child already knows them, your agency can conduct an assessment and provisionally authorise that person.
  • If the person will be taking on the carer duties and it’s for more than a very brief period, they would need to be fully authorised.
  • None of the above requirements apply to a child’s parents, however placement of a child with their parents requires DCJ approval in accordance with a court approved restoration plan.

Will the Department provide extra financial assistance for carers?

The Australian Governmentis providing additional financial support to those impacted financially by COVID-19. Carers should check with Centrelink to determine eligibility for new COVID-19 allowances.

Agencies should treat carer requests for additional financial assistance on a case-by-case basis, as they usually would, with particular consideration of the immediate needs of the family (e.g. emergency funds to buy medicine or food).

It is vitally important that families continue to be supported, and critical services continue to be delivered during this time. Many of our clients are already experiencing a range of hardships and vulnerabilities and it is important that we maintain a strong level of support.

For the delivery of frontline services that involve face-to-face contact, get in touch with clients ahead of time, where possible, and ask them:

  • Have you or anyone in your household returned from overseas within the last 14 days?
  • Are you or anyone in your household exhibiting flu-like symptoms or any of the symptoms associated with coronavirus?
  • Are you or anyone in your household required to self-isolate?

If clients cannot be contacted, staff should ask the same questions shortly after arriving or receiving clients face-to-face.

If the answer is yes, assess whether the visit can be delayed or if you can support clients over the phone or via video software.

See our advice on restoration assessment and planning during COVID-19 . This factsheet includes information about what you need to consider when making decisions about restoring a child during the pandemic.

You must seek approval from DCJ (through your local CFDU) if you are:

  • changing the way court order family time occurs
  • restoring a child or young person home (in accordance with a court approved restoration plan)
  • delaying the start of a transition plan to restore a child.

Guidance about domestic violence, problematic use of alcohol or other substances, neglect and culturally safe practices for Aboriginal communities is available in the restoration practice tip sheet .

How do you do good leaving care planning during COVID-19?

Now, more than ever, young people who are leaving, or have recently left care, really need our support. We must help young people through the leaving care planning process in any way we can and provide high quality aftercare support.

Read the supporting care leavers during COVID-19 fact sheet for more information.

This application form and support checklist will also help if you need to make changes to a young person’s leaving care plan.

At this time, to ensure the safety of everyone involved, you should continue to limit face-to-face case plan meetings especially where there are multiple people involved. Virtual meetings can take place using a range of platforms.

. A tip sheet is available to support your case managers in case planning during COVID-19 .

The department is not approving any overseas travel for children and young people in care.

This is designed to protect everyone’s health and safety. These restrictions are for a limited time. We will advise you when overseas travel is being approved again.

At 11:59pm on Tuesday 7 July, the NSW border closed to anyone from Victoria.

If you work with children, young people or families who are visiting Victoria, please help them return to NSW.

Children in OOHC who now reside in Victoria do not need to return to NSW.

Please work with families to cancel school holidays and other non-essential travel plans to Victoria.

If you require additional support with a child or family living in Victoria, contact the Interstate Liaison team at Interstate.Liaison@facs.nsw.gov.au

Self-isolation & returning to NSW after the border closes

After returning from Victoria NSW residents will require a border entry permit to return to NSW and will are should self-isolate for 14 days if you have been to the areas listed on the NSW Government website .

During the 14-day period, you must not leave the home except:

  • to seek medical care or medical supplies
  • to comply with a legal obligation
  • in an emergency
  • to leave NSW by a direct route.

Please do not come to work if you are self-isolating. Speak to your manager about working from home during self-isolation.

For information on self-isolation and Melbourne’s hotspot locations, visit the NSW Government website.

Can a child, carer or family member travel across the border for family time or other contact arrangements?

Children, carers or family members are eligible to apply for a border entry permit if they are:

  • entering for child access and care arrangements
  • applying on compassionate grounds.

If applying on compassionate grounds, individuals will first need to apply to NSW Health for a Compassionate permit exemption code before applying for a border entry permit.

Find out more on the Service NSW website .

Border town/regions information

Residents of border communities will require a permit to enter NSW. Each person will require a permit, including children.

A border community is a community located at or near the border of NSW and Victoria. A border community resident is someone who:

  • is usually a resident of a border community
  • has reasonable cause to travel between NSW and Victoria in the ordinary course of their, work, education or daily life
  • crosses the border between NSW and Victoria.

Find out more on the NSW Government website.

Border permits and travel permission for children in care

Everyone requires a border permit to travel to and from Victoria. This also applies to children, families and staff who live or work across the border.

Children and young people in OOHC require permission from DCJ Deputy Secretary for Child Protection & Permanency, District and Youth Justice Services, to cross state borders. Please liaise the COVID-19 Support Team at COVID19.Support@facs.nsw.gov.au for more information or speak with your local CFDU.

Service NSW will accept online applications for border permits. The Premier has advised that essential workers will be permitted travel and applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Please note, as this is a new process, it is anticipated that there will be delays in gaining a border permit. Please consider this when planning ahead.

Unfortunately at this stage, there is no timeframe for when borders will be opened again.

DCJ will provide further information on border closures, what they mean for our work, and how we can best support the children and families we work with as soon as possible.

School

There will be provisions in place for children and young people travelling to school.

Year 11 and 12 VCE students, and students at specialist schools will return to face-to-face learning from Monday.

All other students will have an extended school holiday, with five pupil-free days in the week commencing Monday 13 July.

Children of essential workers will be able to attend school for supervised school holiday activities.

Who to contact if you have further questions

If you have any immediate questions regarding border closures or another COVID-19 related matter, please email the COVID-19 Support Team at COVID19.Support@facs.nsw.gov.au.

Children may be able to travel in and out of NSW domestically under some circumstances. Each state and territory has different rules to follow. You can find these rules on the Healthdirect website. Ensure up-to-date border restrictions are reviewed prior to any travel.

Currently an overseas travel ban for Australian citizens and permanent residents is in place. Check the Australian Department of Home Affairs website for the most up to date information.

During COVID-19 additional approvals are required. This includes:

  • You will need approval from the Deputy Secretary of DCJ for a child or young person in OOHC to move or travel to another state or territory in Australia.
  • You will need approval from the Secretary of DCJ for a child or young person in OOHC to move or travel to New Zealand even if you have received an exemption from the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs.

To obtain the relevant Secretary or Deputy Secretary approvals, you will need to prepare a submission, approved by your agency’s Principal Officer and submit to the COVID-19 Support Team by email: COVID19.Support@facs.nsw.gov.au and cc your local DCJ Child Family District Unit (CFDU).

In some cases, you will need permission to enter other states and territories in Australia. Some states and territories will require that you have a Border Pass and to seek special exemptions for children and carers.

DCJ have a dedicated COVID-19 team that liaise with the required departments to determine the requirements to travel across borders during the COVID -19 pandemic. You can contact the DCJ COVID-19 team by email: COVID19.Support@facs.nsw.gov.au.

If you have received an exemption to travel overseas from the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, the Interstate Liaison team will help you to coordinate the child’s movement to another state or territory. The team can also help you organise interstate child protection services to ensure the child is supported during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interstate Liaison works with child protection practitioners in the other Australian state and territory child protection departments and New Zealand. The team is closely communicating with other jurisdictions regarding interstate child protection impacts of COVID-19.

You can contact the Interstate Liaison team by:

Use the COVID -19 checklist for children in OOHC to move or travel interstate or to New Zealand.

Currently, anyone returning from Victoria will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. For information on self-isolation, visit the NSW Health website.

The Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, each state and territory in Australia and countries overseas have different regulations for entering their jurisdiction. These regulations can change at short notice. It is important to review the rules each time you support a child or young person travelling interstate and overseas.

If a carer needs to isolate or quarantine with a child or young person, they will need to be authorised. DCJ will consider covering carer and/or agency costs for the quarantine period. Prior approval before you travel would be required for any costs to be considered. NGO’s would be responsible for any travel costs, unless extraordinary costs are approved via a complex needs application. Quarantine accommodation in a designated government facility costs are covered.

Caseworkers are able to travel to another state or territory in Australia with a child or young person. Caseworkers will also need to follow the current quarantine regulations of the state or territory they are travelling to.

The NSW Government website contains up-to-date travel and transport advice. Each state and territory in Australia, and New Zealand, has its own entry requirements and these are changing frequently. You must comply with the relevant border regulations for the state or territory you are entering or leaving.

Ethnolink Language Services has links to information from State and Australian Government websites for people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Please note that our advice may change as the situation with COVID-19 progresses.

Visit our carers Frequently Asked Questions page for the latest information for carers.

Family time during the COVID-19 pandemic

Case planning during the COVID-19 pandemic

Home visits during the COVID-19 pandemic

Talking to children and families about COVID-19

Restoration planning and assessment during the COVID-19 pandemic

Supporting children and families through the restoration process

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Last updated: 10 Jul 2020