Case allocation - advice
This advice provides information to assist with making case allocation decisions.
Document ID number 2254, version 2, 30 June 2022.
See procedure Monitoring and managing cases awaiting allocation for tasks that must be undertaken in relation to cases awaiting allocation.
Team managers have responsibility for case allocation, unless otherwise directed by a more senior delegated decision maker. This advice guides and supports team managers to prioritise cases for allocation.
All children involved with Child Protection are assigned to a team for which a team manager has overall responsibility. Allocation of a child’s case to a specific child protection practitioner:
- promotes comprehensive investigation and assessment of a child’s safety, well-being and development
- for substantiated cases, the preparation and implementation of a case plan to achieve the permanency objective in the child's best interests
- supports effective engagement with the child and family as well as consistent and dynamic risk assessment practice and case management
- promotes positive collaboration with services and professionals involved with the child and family, and;
- promotes timely decision making, minimises case drift, and may prevent escalation of harm.
While the objective is to allocate all open cases, this may not always be possible. Program, team and practitioner capacity varies, requiring case allocation decisions to be made. Team managers regularly review, balance and prioritise diverse and complex client needs with practitioner and team capacity.
Allocation decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, informed by the risk assessment or review risk assessment and required tasks, taking into account legislative requirements, compliance with departmental policies and the child, parent or carer’s level of engagement with other services.
An infant classified as requiring an ‘infant intensive response’ must have an allocated worker. These children have been assessed as the most at risk infants in the child protection program, where an ‘infant response’ is insufficient to reduce the risks to the child’s safety and wellbeing. See Infant risk assessment and response decision – advice for further information.
Principles for case allocation
- The level of risk to the child is the primary consideration when determining allocation priority. Children at significant or high risk of harm (such as those on high-risk youth schedule or infants) should be prioritised for allocation.
Once high-risk cases have been allocated, priority is to be given to:
- Children assessed as being at risk in their current care arrangement
(for example, infant and pre-school children living with parent/s who have problematic alcohol and other drug use, untreated mental illness or family violence concerns).
- Children whose care arrangement is vulnerable to breakdown
(for example, children who are at risk of entering out of home care, have experienced a recent placement breakdown, entered residential care or young people experiencing multiple secure welfare admissions).
- Cases where active case management is required to achieve the permanency objective.
Applying case allocation principles
To assist with applying the case allocation principles, consider the following factors:
Individual child factors
- Increased vulnerability associated with age and development (for example, infants, pre-school children, Aboriginal children and children with a disability).
- Escalating crises or incidents (increasing frequency, intensity, or seriousness).
- Changes to the probability and consequence of harm judgements.
- Child is unable to report concerns or tell a trusted adult (due to age, disability, language, culture or isolation).
- Suicidal, self-harming or other risk-taking behaviour (including where indicated by repeated warrants, secure welfare service placements, missing person reports, substance misuse, sexual exploitation, dual protection and youth justice order, including those subject to youth control orders).
- Child has experienced repeated placement breakdown or multiple carers.
- Other critical case related factors (such as adverse events or increasing critical incident reports).
Parent or caregiver
For children in parental care:
- Parents do not acknowledge the protective concerns.
- changes to the probability and consequence of harm judgements
- Parents avoiding, or not complying with, child protection or Children’s Court conditions.
- Parents disregard professional advice, disengaging from or refusing supports.
- Increased parental vulnerability (for example due to untreated mental health concerns, disability, young age).
- There are limited identified factors of safety or protection..
For children in care:
- High frequency supervised contact.
- Challenging or inappropriate parental behaviour during contact.
- Concerns regarding placement suitability, viability or carers level of engagement and compliance with child protection.
Family, community and environment
- Family is socially or physically isolated.
- Services not available or not engaged.
Service system factors
- Absence of a case plan.
- Absence of an endorsed risk assessment or review risk assessment.
- Obligations to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children.
- Children’s Court obligations.
MARAM risk assessment
- Family violence risk factors in the essential information categories.
- Consideration of serious risk factors.
- MARAM risk levels and risk management plan.
Actively monitoring and managing cases awaiting allocation
Where the principles of allocation have been applied, the number of cases in a team may exceed the team allocation capacity, meaning some cases will remain awaiting allocation. Team managers have responsibility for actively monitoring and managing cases within their team. This includes prioritising cases for allocation, making decisions about the de-allocation of cases and assigning tasks to practitioners on the cases awaiting allocation, often through a local duty system.
Strategies available to team managers to actively monitor and manage cases awaiting allocation will vary. This may be aided by the nature and availability of supports to assist the child and family and will differ by phase of intervention. At all times the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration.
Minimum expectations for monitoring and managing cases awaiting allocation are set out in the following procedure Monitoring and managing cases awaiting allocation. This procedure does not negate other relevant procedures.
Deallocation of cases
It is preferable for a child’s case to be allocated to a child protection practitioner while the protective concerns are identified, the risk assessment is completed, a case plan is established and implemented, the protective concerns addressed, and the case is closed. However, at times, competing priorities will mean de-allocation may need to be considered. The purpose is to prioritise allocation of children assessed at highest risk.
Where a case is not allocated, the child’s case is held within a team and continues to be overseen by the team manager, who prioritises and allocates key tasks. Case management tasks are undertaken by practitioners within the team or in collaboration with other professionals, under the supervision of the team manager, while the case is awaiting allocation.
Identifying cases for de-allocation
At times, it will be necessary to identify a case or cases for de-allocation that will have the least impact on the child or impact on progressing the case toward the permanency objective. Consider the current risk assessment, the case planning and review cycle, and the key principles for case allocation.
The presence of some or all of the following may assist to identify cases to be de-allocated:
- Permanency objective is clear.
- Case plan and actions table documented, endorsed and agreed with the family and professionals.
- The risk assessment or review risk assessment is endorsed, and the judgements and decision remain consistent with the case plan and permanency objective.
- The essential information categories are updated to reflect known risk to the child.
- Referrals made and parents engaged with support services, or assessed as able to seek assistance when required.
- Case plan goals and tasks are being progressed (role and task clarity).
- A care team or support network is established.
- Sufficient appropriate professionals are seeing the child between Child Protection visits (at a minimum fortnightly) and these professionals will contact Child Protection if they have concerns.
- The care arrangement is stable.
- A protection order (rather than an interim order) is in place, and the family are compliant with the order and its conditions.
- The care team is communicating well, has capacity to monitor the care arrangement, and is willing to alert the team manager if there is a significant change for the child.
- Progress towards addressing the protective concerns means it would be valid to test arrangements prior to the order lapsing at term or applying to revoke the order at Court.
- The case is prepared for, and awaiting, contracting.
- The children reside interstate on a Victorian protection order, and case tasks are being completed by interstate colleagues.
The rationale for the decision to de-allocate a case and how the work will continue while the case is awaiting allocation is to be recorded on CRIS.
Use the de-allocation checklist to assist with decision making.
Considerations for good practice
Consultation and support
Decisions regarding allocation and prioritisation can be complex and need not be made in isolation. Consultation can occur with a senior practitioner, practice leader or principal practitioner, another team manager, and in supervision with a line manager.