Transporting children and families

This resource provides information regarding transporting children and families.

Introduction

The role of a child protection practitioner is multifaceted.  Practitioners find themselves fulfilling a number of roles including transporting children and parents.

Policy

Manual handling

Manual handling may be an issue when transporting clients as car seats and young children may need to be lifted into and out of the vehicle. The department has a manual handling policy. Practitioners may also be placed at risk if clients and their families display aggressive or risk taking behaviours whilst in a moving vehicle, or due to working after hours.

The department is legally obliged to provide a safe and productive workplace through improving health, safety and wellbeing at work. Recognising that employees are central to effective service delivery, the department demonstrates the value it places on employees by implementing measures which actively protect and promote the health, safety and wellbeing of all staff.

The manual handling policy contributes to the department's human resources management strategy, and is consistent with the department's values, which recognise our duty of care to staff and clients. An objective of this policy is to model the department’s mission to protect and enhance health and wellbeing, to ensure organisational practice is aligned with health and wellbeing philosophy and practice promoted to the Victorian community.

Staff safety

Department of Health and Human Services health, safety and wellbeing policy includes workplace safety and information regarding the prevention and management of occupational violence for Victorian child protection and community-based youth justice staff. The areas covered include: risk management, hazard identification, risk assessment, risk control and post-incident management.

Divisions may have their own transport policies. Practitioners should speak to their supervisor about this.

General driver responsibilities and precautions

  • Drivers are to familiarise themselves with the vehicle before embarking on a journey in an unfamiliar vehicle and ensure there is enough petrol in the car to complete the trip.
  • Drivers are to drive within their capabilities and with due consideration of prevailing conditions, for example, heavy traffic, bad weather, unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Drivers are to have a good knowledge of the road traffic laws and will abide by them at all times.
  • Drivers are to respect the rights of other road users and drive with courtesy at all times.
  • Drivers are not to drive whilst affected by alcohol or drugs, including medication that has a sedative effect.
  • Drivers are to ensure that all passengers are wearing a correctly fitted restraint or seat belt.
  • Drivers are not to drive with unsecured items in the car as these items can become projectiles if the vehicle is involved in an accident.
  • Drivers are not to use hand held mobile phones unless safely parked. It is both illegal and unsafe to do so.
  • All personal belongings are to be stored in the boot.

Child restraints

The VicRoads Safety and Road Rules website provides the following advice regarding child restraints:

  • All persons travelling in a motor vehicle must travel in a restraint that is properly adjusted and fastened. 
  • The restraint will be a child restraint, booster or adult seat belt.
  • The type of restraint will depend on the person's size, but must be:
    • the right size for the child
    • properly adjusted and fastened, and
    • correctly fitted to the vehicle.

The road rules in Victoria require that:

  • A child under six months of age must travel in a rearward facing approved child restraint.
  • A child aged six months to under four years must travel in either a rearward facing OR forward facing approved child restraint.  The type of restraint will depend on the child's size.
  • A child aged four years to under seven years must travel in either a forward facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness, or an approved booster seat.  A booster seat can be used with a lap-sash or child safety harness.  A child safety harness is not recommended for use with a booster seat in a seating position with a lap-sash seatbelt. The type of restraint will depend on the child's size.
  • A child aged seven years to under 16 years must travel in either an approved booster seat or an adult seatbelt.  The type of restraint will depend on the child's size.
  • A person 16 years and over must travel in an adult seatbelt.

What about size?

To protect a child in a crash the restraint must be the right size for the child. To ensure that all children are able to travel in the right size restraint, the road rules allow a child, who is too heavy or tall for the restraint recommended for their age, to use a restraint in the next age category.

What about children with additional needs?

There are some exemptions from the child restraint road rules for children with a medical condition or physical disability. To qualify for an exemption a number of conditions must be met, such as a medical certificate. Parents and carers should seek advice from a health professional, such as an occupational therapist, who can prescribe the restraint which is best for the child.

At what age can a child travel in the front seat?

If a vehicle has two or more rows of seats, children aged under four years must not travel in the front seat.  If all rear seats are being used by children under seven years of age, children aged four years to under seven years may travel in the front seat, provided they travel in a booster seat.

The Victorian road rules allow a child aged seven years and over to travel in the front seat, however, research shows that children under 16 years of age are 40% greater risk of injury when travelling in the front seat.

For further information refer to the VicRoads Safety and Road Rules website

Practitioners who are unsure of how to correctly fit a child restraint or correctly adjust the restraint should seek advice. Restraints will only be fully effective when correctly fitted. VicRoads or RACV may conduct a demonstration for staff in how to correctly fit child restraints if approached. There may be a cost associated with this service.

Factors to keep in mind

Challenging behaviours

Before embarking on the trip where it is anticipated that clients may exhibit challenging or dangerous behaviour, practitioners and managers should undertake a client behaviour assessment and consider the safest strategies to manage these behaviours.

For example:

  • Should the child be placed in the vehicle away from the driver to reduce the likelihood of interference whilst the car is moving?
  • Have child safety locks on doors and windows been engaged?
  • Adopt a policy of stopping the vehicle unless passengers and driver are safe to continue, and so on.

Practitioners may discuss strategies with their supervisor. Where a client poses an ongoing and unacceptable risk, a decision may be made that other transport options will be utilised, such as public transport.

Parents

It is not the responsibility of staff to transport clients' parents; however in situations where the parent may require assistance with transport, consideration should be given to how assistance may be provided. For example, advice may be provided about public transport and public transport ticket provided or cab charges may be provided as appropriate and with approval.

Occupational health and safety issues

Manual handling

Manual handling refers to lifting, pushing, supporting and so on. The risks associated with manual handling include repetitive strain and injury as a result of incorrect lifting technique, prolonged posture, work lay out, and staff skill and experience. Refer to the department manual handling policy for information and management strategies.

Fatigue

The effects of fatigue can cover a broad range of mental and physical impairments including, inattention, drowsiness, distraction and in the worst case, falling asleep. Drivers who are fatigued place themselves, passengers and other road users at increased risk. Practitioners and managers need to consider and arrange alternatives to fatigued staff members driving vehicles both for staff and client safety.

Parental/guardian permission

Children not subject to any order, or subject to a family preservation order or therapeutic treatment order

The permission of a parent or guardian is required before departmental staff can transport a child who is not subject to any order, or is under a family preservation order or therapeutic treatment order .

Children in emergency care

Departmental staff may transport a child taken into emergency care under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (CYFA) without permission of a parent or guardian.

Children in court-ordered placement

Parental permission is not required to transport children in out-of-home care to contact, school or appointments, where they are placed subject to one of the following orders:

  • interim accommodation order (IAO)
  • family reunification order
  • care by Secretary order
  • long-term care order
  • therapeutic treatment placement order.

Transporting children and young people at secure welfare services

The Secure Welfare Transport Service (SWTS) was established to address the problem of unacceptable risk to children or young people or staff in transporting children or young people between secure welfare and court. The service is accessed via a referral form. The service may assist workers transporting children or young people between Court and secure welfare. See Secure welfare services transport – advice.

Considerations for good practice

  • Always exercise caution when lifting and fitting a child restraint. If a practitioner is unable to lift or fit the restraint due to a temporary physical restriction, assistance should be made available. If the restriction is ongoing, a plan must be developed to enable the practitioner to safely continue to undertake the role.
  • If practitioners are unfamiliar with the correct method for fitting a child restraint, advice and assistance must be sought. It is of the utmost importance that restraints are correctly fitted and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Where practitioners are required to undertake transport beyond their normal work hours, consideration must be given to: two workers being available to share the driving if long distances are involved; the use of taxis if a practitioner is too tired to safely drive a client; or cancellation of the trip until client and staff safety can be assured.
  • Where there are potential worker safety issues in transporting clients, the supervisor and manager should work with the practitioner to develop a safety plan that may include alternative transport arrangements or additional worker assistance.
1