Case contracting - advice
This advice provides additional information regarding case contracting processes.
Document ID number 2056, version 1, 1 December 2015.
See procedure Case Contracting for tasks that must be undertaken.
A case contract is a formal arrangement in the form of a written agreement, between child protection and another agency for the provision of case management for a child subject to a protection order. Contracting arrangements are designed to enable the most appropriate agency to support implementation of the case plan.
Child protection may contract a community service to undertake total case management or specified functions only.
The objective of case contracting is to provide the most appropriate and effective case management to the child and their family by:
- minimising the number of professionals involved in the day to day life of the child and their family
- maximising the expertise and capability of the community service organisation (CSO) have developed in the provision of casework services to children and families
- maximising the effectiveness of established relationships that the child or family has with an agency or individual professionals
- preserving and strengthening a relationship that a child or family may have with an agency other than child protection
- promoting the use of community services with the capacity and competence to provide effective case management where this is consistent with the case plan, the role and function of the case management agency and where it is assessed that day to day case management by a child protection practitioner is not required to meet the best interests of the child.
When cases are contracted, child protection retains ultimate responsibility for the case.
Functions that can be contracted to a CSO or other professional during child protection involvement
No functions can be contracted in the intake phase.
The investigation and assessment of a report cannot be contracted to any other agency. Referrals may be made for services such as psychiatric assessment, paediatric examination or placement provision.
Protection order phase
Case planning can not be contracted, nor delegated statutory powers. Child protection is able to contract all case management functions. The contracted agency may also be required to provide reports to child protection and to the Children's Court as required, via the divisional case contracting team.
Functions that cannot be contracted
The following functions are the responsibility of child protection and cannot be contracted:
- case planning decisions
- investigation of a report
- receiving a conciliation counselling application and the certification of counselling
- preparation of a disposition report
- endorsement of a case plan (see s. 168, CYFA)
- significant decisions which require action outside the parameters of the case plan. Examples of these significant decisions include:
- removal of a child from their parents care
- return of a child to their parents care
- significant change to contact arrangements between the child and their family. This may involve either an increase or decrease in contact arrangements or a change to the type of contact, such as from supervised to unsupervised or from daytime to overnight. Minor changes such as nominated day of contact can be negotiated between the contract agency and family unless those arrangements are reflected in a court order. Where a court order is specific about contact arrangements the order would need to be returned to court requesting a change
- change of placement. This refers to any change in either the type of placement, such as from foster care to a residential placement or from one type of foster care placement to another (eg from emergency to short term) or a move from one placement setting to another
- placement in a secure welfare service
- Children's Court applications
- specific parental responsibility decisions (for children on care by Secretary orders or long-term care orders) for example, permission for interstate and overseas travel or consent to marriage. (Note that in some situations, CSOs are authorised to provide consent for some forms of medical treatment for a child in care and for time limited overnight visits).
Contracting case management
Child protection may contract another agency to perform all of the case management tasks and functions within an identified case plan except case plan decision making. Within a specified time frame the agency may be responsible for:
- the continuing functions of assessment and intervention
- contributing to the development of the case plan
- support and monitoring
- providing reports to child protection as required including case planning reports and reports for the Children's Court.
An out-of-home care provider may be contracted to:
- implement all or part of the case plan (case plan, s. 168, CYFA)
- organise and supervise contact consistent with the case plan
- liaise with services.
A case management service, such as an Intensive Case Management Service (ICMS) may be contracted to:
- provide an allocated worker to undertake the day to day tasks – working towards the goals of the case plan
- coordinate and liaise with the care team and service network members in achieving specified goals of the case plan.
Deciding to contract case management
The decision to contract is a case planning decision based on the circumstances and assessment of the case, including consideration of:
- the best interests of the child, which is the paramount consideration
- the anticipated length of involvement between the agency and the child and family. Generally, short term involvement would not indicate contracting case management but may involve contracting of some case tasks or functions
- the benefit to the child and family of contracting case management and any disadvantages, such as where the distance between agency and family home may make it difficult to home visit
- the level of necessary practitioner involvement due to the characteristics of the case. Generally, a high level of practitioner involvement (for example, because of a pending appeal) would not indicate contracting case management but may involve the contracting of some case tasks or functions
- the ability of the agency, including agency capacity to work with the dynamics of the case. Cases should be matched to agency to ensure case management is purposeful and works towards the achievement of the permanency objective
- the views of the child and family. If the child or their family strongly objects to contracting, the first response would be to discuss the family's concerns and attempt to resolve these. Failing resolution, the course of action undertaken should be in the best interests of the child
- agency capacity and agreement.
Agencies funded to provide alternative accommodation and support services may have negotiated levels of case contracting within their service agreements. In discussing case contracting with these agencies the expectation generally is that the agency will accept case management to the specified level. However, deciding to contract a case will depend on the individual case considerations as outlined above and, should follow the procedure outlined below.
Effective contracting of case management
Contracting of case management is most effective if child protection and the agency are willing to work in partnership to achieve a particular outcome for a child and family. Both child protection and the contracted agency must respect the negotiated contract and the respective roles described in the case plan and negotiated contract. See procedure Case Contracting for tasks that must be undertaken.
Contracted agency's decision-making roles and responsibilities
The scope of the decision making roles and responsibilities undertaken by the agency rests within the parameters of the case plan. The agency may request an unscheduled case plan review (s. 169 CYFA) where assessment or circumstances indicate that a review is required.
Where legal action is required a representative of the agency may appear in court as a witness, provide a report to the court and continue to work with the child and family.
The written case contract format provided is to be used and will identify:
- the responsibilities of the Secretary that cannot be contracted
- the responsibilities of the contracted agency
- the mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing service delivery
- the mechanisms for coordination and communication between child protection and the contracted agency, for example, how and when this will occur
- the appeal and review mechanisms for the family (using written information available)
- the date when the contract will be renewed and re-negotiated, if appropriate. The contract should be reviewed at all case plan reviews, both scheduled and unscheduled. However, contracts can be reviewed and re-negotiated more frequently if required.
A child protection contracting practitioner is assigned in each case. While regional arrangements for allocation of case contracting functions may vary, it is ordinarily the case that practitioners will oversee a cohort of contracted cases according to contracting agency, client demography or some other meaningful grouping.
The written case contract will be signed by the child protection case planning decision maker, the contracted agency representative, the child (depending on age) and a parent or guardian. Where a parent declines to consent to the case contracting arrangement, a decision is made on consideration of the best interests of the child.
A copy of the case contract is provided to the parent, child (depending on age) and the contracted agency. The original document is retained on the client file.
Case management is retained by the contracted agency until the end of the contract, the expiration of the protection order or otherwise, until a case planning decision is taken to return case management to child protection.
Complete the 'Contract between child protection and a CSO for provision of case management' located in Case contracting - Forms and secure documents.
Case plan progress reports
The purpose of case plan progress reports is to:
- support and document achievement of the case plan
- provide ongoing assessment of the case plan
- support decision making in the best interests of the child.
Reports are an essential element in the case planning process, communicating and documenting critical events and changes for the client in the reporting period, which support case assessment, review and decisions. Reports also provide an opportunity to consider whether the case plan is appropriate, or whether a review is warranted.
The reporting schedule will be specified in the contract and forms an element of the case plan. Quarterly reporting is generally a minimum. Child protection will advise contracted agencies when reports are due.
The practitioner should consider the contents of the report in relation to case plan goals and timelines. It may be necessary to:
- seek further information from the agency
- request that the report be resubmitted
- discuss case progress
- hold a meeting.
If a report is not received on time, the practitioner should request that the report be submitted. If a report is not submitted within four weeks of its due date, a written request should be sent to the agency program manager.
In instances where reports are late, missing or of inadequate quality on three consecutive occasions, child protection should liaise with the local engagement officer (LEO) with oversight responsibility for the agency, and consider an exception audit of the case management provided by the contracted agency.
See 'Quarterly report from contracted agency' located in Case contracting - Forms and secure documents.
Exception audits of contracted case management
An exception audit is a formal review of the case management provided by the contracted agency. The purpose of the exception audit is to:
- verify that the CSOs quality system continues to meet specified requirements within the framework of a contractual relationship and is being implemented
- to increase conformity with DHHS requirements
- to investigate reasons for non-conformity
- to determine barriers to quality in order to improve quality.
Exception audits are case based and comprise an assessment of: risk, health and welfare issues (using the best interests case practice model), living arrangements, progress on the case plan, work with the family, provision of specialist services. It could include interviews with the case manager, client, carers, CSO program manager and other professionals.
Exception audits may be triggered by:
- late, missing or inadequate quality case progress reports
- evidence of lack of client contact
- significant deviation from the case plan
- repeated failure to report significant reportable case events to child protection
- complaints from the child or family.
The exception audit would include recommendations to the CSO to address service quality issues.
Reviewing the contract
The case contract will be reviewed whenever the case plan is reviewed. In addition the following situations indicate when a contract should be reviewed:
- The child or family has concerns regarding service delivery by the contracted agency.
- The contracted agency has concerns regarding the possible outcome of the contract or the specific contract arrangement.
- Child protection has concerns regarding the possible outcome of the contract or the specific contract arrangement.
- The contracted agency believes that the level of risk for the child has escalated since the case plan was developed, and that the case plan is no longer appropriate.
- The placement or involvement with the contracted agency terminates unexpectedly.
- The contracted agency has a conflict of interests between the child and other clients or staff for whom the agency has responsibility.
The review of the contract will involve all those who negotiated and agreed to the initial contract, including the child and parents, representatives from child protection and the agency.
The review should occur within two weeks of the concern being expressed, or earlier if the situation requires it. The roles and responsibilities outlined in the initial contract will remain until the contract is re-negotiated.
Referring case management tasks and functions of the case plan
During the life of a case it is likely that there will be a range of case management tasks and functions for which practitioners can make a referral to another agency or professional. The agency or professional contributes in a specific way to the development or achievement of the case plan goals. It is important in these situations for the child and or family to be aware of the level of communication between the two agencies and of the respective roles and responsibilities such as child protection may require information from the agency or service to whom the referral is being made in the form of feedback, progress reports or assessment reports.
Examples of referring tasks and functions are:
A referral to family support agency to undertake specific tasks such as:
- provide parenting or budgeting training to educate parents
- assist the parents to access other relevant services, such as child care
- provide support and counselling to a family.
A referral to maternal and child health service to:
- assess and monitor an infant and provide feedback to child protection.
A referral to a drug and alcohol service to undertake:
- assessment, counselling and support to a child or a parent
- provide reports to child protection.
A referral through the Placement Coordination Unit to a foster care agency to:
- provide placement and supervise contact.
The existing or potential service network relevant to the family (both generic and specialist services) should be considered fully when developing a case plan. The issues relating to the appropriateness of referring tasks and functions should be looked at specifically in relation to each case.