Who can make a notification?
Anyone may make a notification to the Department of Child Protection. However, under section 31 of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA), certain people (mandated notifiers) must notify the Department for Child Protection if they suspect on reasonable grounds that a child or young person is, or may be, at risk and the suspicion was formed in the course of the person's employment.
Who is mandated to notify?
Mandated notifiers are [s 30(3)]:
- medical practitioners
- registered or enrolled nurses
- police officers
- social workers
- community corrections officers under the Correctional Services Act 1982 (SA)
- family day care providers
- a minister of religion a person who is an employee of, or a volunteer in, an organisation formed for religious or spiritual purposes
- any employee or volunteer in an organisation that provides health, welfare, education, sporting or recreational, child care or residential services wholly or partly for children, being a person who
- provides the services directly to children and young people, or
- holds a management position in the organisation directly responsible for the provision of the services to children and young people
An employee includes a person who is self-employed, who carries out work under a contract for services, who carries out work as a minister of religion or as part of the duties of a religious or spiritual vocation, who undertakes practical training as part of an educational or vocational course or carries out work as a volunteer [s 30(4)]. A reference to something occurring in the course of the person’s employment is to be construed accordingly.
In making a report, mandated notifiers are assured of confidentiality (subject to certain exceptions) and cannot be held, by making a report, to have breached any code of professional ethics [see sections 163 and 166(4)]. Reports can lead the Department to investigate further, see Investigation and intervention.
If the mandated notifiers listed above fail to notify the Department when they suspect on reasonable grounds that a child or young person is, or may be, at risk, and that suspicion was formed in the course of the person’s employment, they can be charged with an offence [s 31(1)]. However, a person need not report if they believe on reasonable grounds that:
- someone else has reported the same [s 31(2)(a)]
- if their suspicion arose solely from information from a police or child protection officer acting in the course of their official duties [s 31(2)(b)], or
- the Department is already aware of all of the information that forms the basis of their suspicion [Children and Young People (Safety) Regulations 2017 (SA) reg 10],
In situations where a mandated notifier possesses additional knowledge of the child’s circumstances beyond that reported to them by a previous notifier, police or child protection officer, the mandated notifier must make their own report to the Department.
How to report that a child or young person is, or may be at risk?
Anyone can make a notification verbally to a social worker via the Child Abuse Report Line (131 478). This is a 24 hour service staffed by social workers from the Department for Child Protection. Trained mandated notifiers may also report some cases online using the eCARL system. However, serious concerns must still be reported verbally via the Child Abuse Report Line.
The law does not require proof of harm, but a notification must be accompanied by the name and address (if known) of the child or young person and information setting out the grounds for the person’s suspicion.
For further information on making a notification and what information to provide see Reporting child abuse at the Department for Child Protection website.
What does the Department do when they receive a notification?
Each report made to the Department for Child Protection is assessed [s 32(1)]. The response can range from an investigation and assessment, to no action at all. No action may be taken where matters have already been dealt with or where they are trivial, vexatious or frivolous [s 32(2)]. The Department must keep a record of the action taken in relation to each report and the reasons why [s 32(4)].
If it is determined that there is no risk to the child then no further action may be taken. In most cases where some risk is determined the Department will work with the family to provide support in those areas or behaviours of concern and can refer the family to services such as family counselling, home help, budget advice and family day care. The intervention is to improve the family situation so proper care can be provided for the child. If it is more appropriate for another authority to deal with a matter, or an aspect of a matter, the Department may refer the matter to that authority [s 33].
If, after investigation and assessment, it is determined that a child or young person is at risk, the Department may intervene, see Investigation and Intervention.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.