In a life threatening emergency dial Triple Zero (000)

In a life threatening emergency dial Triple Zero (000)
ACT Public Hospitals

Canberra Hospital

5124 0000


Calvary Hospital

6201 6111

Mental Health

Call Mental Health Triage on

1800 629 354

(free call except from mobiles or public phones) or

6205 1065

Poisons Hotline

For a poison emergency in Australia call

131126

Drug and Alcohol Help Line

The Drug and Alcohol Help Line is available 24-hours, 7 days a week on

5124 9977

Health Protection Service

For after hours urgent public health matters including environmental health, radiation safety, food poisoning and communicable disease management phone:

(02) 6205 1700

healthdirect

24 hour health advice

1800 022 222

ACT State Emergency Service

Emergency help
during flood or storms

132 500


Legal matters

In this section: Learn about how reportable conduct and allegations of abuse in care relate to your role as a carer, and the processes and requirements of CYPS and ACT Together in these situations.

Reportable conduct

The ACT Reportable Conduct Scheme established under the Ombudsman Act 1989, is designed to ensure allegations of abuse and misconduct against children are identified, reported and acted on appropriately by an organisation. CYPS and ACT Together are ‘designated entities’ under the Scheme and as such, their staff and carers are required to operate in line with the Scheme and report misconduct matters. As a carer, it is important for you to understand the types of conduct that could result in a notification under the Scheme and how a subsequent investigation would occur.

The Scheme is allegation-based and covers a broader range of conduct compared to the types of child abuse defined in the Children and Young People Act 2008 that must be reported to CYPS. Reportable conduct relates to any allegations or convictions concerning child-related misconduct including:

  • ill-treatment of a child, including emotional abuse, hostile use of force, neglect and restrictive intervention
  • psychological harm
  • misconduct of a sexual nature including the use of sexually explicit comments and grooming behaviours
  • sexual or physical offences and convictions where a child is a victim or is present
  • inappropriate discipline or offences relating to protecting children from harm in accordance with the provisions of the Education and Care Service National Law (ACT) Act 2011 (see ‘Making meaning of behaviour’ for information on inappropriate discipline)
  • previous allegations or convictions relating to any of the above.

Under the Scheme, you must report such behaviours to your case manager. CYPS or ACT Together will then be responsible for notifying the ACT Ombudsman and potentially undertake an investigation into the conduct, depending on the nature of the allegation.

Reportable conduct does not include:

  • reasonable discipline, management or care of a child, taking into account the child’s behaviour and any relevant code of conduct or professional standard
  • actions prescribed by regulation.

Some examples of actions that are not reportable are:

  • touching a child in order to attract their attention or to guide them
  • raising your voice to attract a child’s attention to stop them from crossing a busy road or getting their attention at a shopping centre
  • conduct that is found to be accidental.

If an allegation is made against you

If an allegation is made against you, CYPS or ACT Together are required to determine if the matter is reportable under the Scheme and, if so, notify the ACT Ombudsman.

If the allegation is deemed to be reportable, an investigation into the conduct will be undertaken. The investigation will be conducted by either CYPS or ACT Together. This typically occurs in parallel to an abuse in care investigation (see below). The investigation will assess the allegation, risk to the child and seek to establish whether the alleged conduct occurred.

As part of this process you can expect:

  • adequate detail of the allegation against you, and the grounds for it
  • advice on supports available, including having a support person with you throughout the process
  • information about your rights, including how you can respond to the allegation
  • to be treated fairly and without bias
  • a transparent process
  • the investigation to be completed in a reasonable timeframe (allowing for criminal and child protection investigations).

The ACT Ombudsman has oversight of the Scheme and powers to independently monitor and report on an organisation’s investigations of allegations or convictions of reportable conduct. The ACT Ombudsman may conduct its own examination into the allegation as well as how the investigation was conducted.

During the investigation process, the ACT Ombudsman may ask for updates on progress. This may include asking for relevant documents and information. In some cases, the ACT Ombudsman may decide to attend interviews being undertaken.

At the end of the investigation, the evidence regarding the allegation will be assessed and a final report prepared. Carers will be provided a summary of the findings and an opportunity to respond within a specific timeframe. The report will include any conclusions or recommendations. When all information has been considered including your response, a specific finding for each allegation will be made. There are five possible findings:

  • sustained – finding the conduct occurred
  • not sustained – insufficient evidence to establish the alleged conduct occurred despite some evidence of weight
  • not sustained – lack of evidence where the evidence is of poor value and unweighted
  • false – finding reportable conduct did not occur
  • not reportable conduct.

Once a finding is made, the ACT Ombudsman will be provided with a written report of the results of the investigation, including statements and documents referred to, action taken and any other relevant information.

In all situations, CYPS and ACT Together will work respectfully with you throughout the process and will maintain confidentiality. See ‘Supports and services’ for further assistance.

For more information you can contact the ACT Ombudsman by:

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Allegations of abuse in care

Abuse in care refers to any allegation of abuse or neglect of a child who is already in care. The allegation may be against any person – such as a carer, birth family member or a member of the general public.

Such allegations are taken very seriously and are investigated by CYPS in the same manner as other allegations of abuse or neglect. CYPS acknowledges this process can be distressing for carers who have committed to providing care to children, and will work respectfully without pre-judgement to understand what has happened and ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child involved.

Allegations against non-family members

If an allegation of physical or sexual abuse is made involving the child in your care, and the alleged person is not connected to the child’s birth or care family, the allegation will be investigated by ACT Policing. CYPS does not have the legal authority to investigate non-family allegations. However, CYPS will work with you to understand the situation and offer any necessary supports to you and the child.

Allegations against birth or care family members

If an allegation is made involving the child in your care, and the alleged person is a member of your family or the child’s birth family (for example the incident occurred during a contact visit), CYPS does have legal authority to investigate and will conduct an initial assessment to determine if the child may be at risk of abuse or neglect.

If CYPS determines the child is not at risk of abuse or neglect, they may still contact you to inform you that an allegation was made. CYPS is legally not allowed to tell you who made the allegation but can tell you what it was about. Depending on the circumstances, CYPS may offer you extra support or referrals to other support services if they believe this could be helpful for you or the child.

If CYPS determines the child in your care is at risk of abuse or neglect, a more thorough investigation called an appraisal will be conducted to more accurately understand what is happening for the child and the circumstances. This will involve various interviews with the child, you and relevant others.

During the appraisal process, you should make yourself available for the interview, be open and honest when asked for information and support the child. If you believe you require legal representation in regards to the allegation, you can seek representation prior to being interviewed.

It is recommended you participate in the appraisal process, regardless of whether the allegations relate to you, your family or the child’s birth family. This is because it provides you natural justice and an opportunity to tell your side of the story, or to put some context around the allegations made. If you choose not to participate, be aware CYPS will still make an assessment regarding the safety and wellbeing of the child in your care and determine what should happen. This might include developing a plan for reducing risk, providing support to you, the child and the alleged person, or in rare circumstances court action.

If the allegation is against you, is serious in nature and confirmed by CYPS through the appraisal process, CYPS may withdraw your Specific Parental Authority and remove the child from your care. This is in an extreme circumstance and any move for the child would not be taken lightly.

Detailed information about the investigation and court processes is available in the ‘Working together for kids’ parent guides. While designed specifically for birth parents, they are a valuable resource to better understand the processes and decisions involved in the ACT child protection system. You can access these guides from the Community Services Directorate website at Working Together for Kids.

Police and CARHU involvement

Where abuse in care allegations involve physical or sexual abuse, CYPS is required to make a referral to the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Team (SACAT) within ACT Policing. If SACAT agrees to the referral, a joint investigation involving both SACAT and CYPS will occur. Depending on the nature of the allegation, SACAT may commence a criminal investigation and request CYPS delay its appraisal. It is also in the child’s best interests to attend a medical examination as soon as possible following alleged physical or sexual abuse. CYPS will make a referral to the Child at Risk Health Unit (CARHU) within ACT Health to conduct the examination. This allows for the collection of forensic evidence.

All staff involved in these processes are trained to work with children who have experienced trauma and will ensure the child is supported and feels as safe and comfortable as possible. As their carer, this is likely to also be a traumatic time for you. Please speak with your case manager if you require additional support.

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Restrictive practice

The Senior Practitioner Act 2018 provides a formal framework for the reduction and elimination of restrictive practices by service providers. It aims to enable vulnerable people in the ACT to achieve quality of life free of unnecessary and unreasonable interventions that limit their human rights.

While restrictive practice does not relate specifically to you as a carer, it is important for you to be aware of what it is. This is because restrictive practice does apply to the school the child you are caring for attends, as well as any residential care facility the child may be involved with.

Restrictive practice means a method to restrict movement of a person with the primary purpose of protecting them or others from harm. It includes:

  • chemical restraint
  • environmental restraint
  • mechanical restraint
  • physical restraint
  • seclusion
  • verbal directions or gestural conduct of a coercive nature.

Restrictive practice does not include reasonable action taken to monitor and protect a child from harm.
For example:

  • holding a child’s hand while crossing a road
  • fencing around a primary school

The Senior Practitioner Act 2018 deems restrictive practices should only be used in very limited circumstances.

If you are concerned restrictive practice is being used with the child in your care at school or a residential facility, speak to the school or facility staff, and your case manager.

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