The After Hours Child Protection Emergency Service (AHCPES) and the rural after hours service deals with out-of-hours child protection matters. The AHCPES is a statewide service based in metropolitan areas. A rural after hours service has been established in each rural area outside metropolitan Melbourne.
The AHCPES accepts reports of child abuse and neglect that are received after hours, at weekends or on public holidays. The AHCPES also manages requests from divisions for out-of-hours tasks for children who are already subject to child protection intervention.
As well as receiving reports of harm, AHCPES will coordinate, manage and, in metropolitan areas, directly respond if necessary. The response may be to visit a child or family in urgent cases where harm or the likelihood of the child being harmed requires immediate child protection involvement. In the first instance, regardless of whether the telephone contact is from a rural or metropolitan area, the AHCPES practitioner will, where possible, provide telephone advice and negotiation to manage reports. Reports received regarding children living in rural areas which require an immediate response will be referred directly to the after hours service of the relevant division. New reports are transferred to the relevant division on the next working day.
Divisions can contact the AHCPES during business hours where a child protection practitioner assesses a crisis or significant risk for a child who is already subject to intervention that may arise overnight or during the weekend. In negotiations, divisions will need to outline the potential issues and recommend a course of action for the AHCPES should they have contact with family members or others. The AHCPES will also consider requests from divisions for tasks to be undertaken – for example, executing a warrant, or liaison with a hospital regarding a child over the weekend.
In all situations, the AHCPES collaborates with agencies, children, families and divisional offices, to achieve outcomes in the child’s best interests. Coordination and cooperation are vital to managing crisis or potential crisis situations successfully. The AHCPES refers all situations back to the allocated child protection practitioner the next working day. See procedure Possible contact to AHCPES for tasks that must be undertaken.
Rural after hours service
Each rural area has an after hours roster of divisional practitioners who are contacted by the AHCPES if an urgent response is required outside business hours. This may be for an outreach visit or contact over the phone. These divisional practitioners will be supervised by the AHCPES if they are required to conduct an outreach visit.
Children subject to new reports or existing clients in crisis, in need of protection or where significant concerns exist for their wellbeing out of business hours.
Coordination and cooperation is vital in successfully managing situations of crisis or potential crisis. As in all cases, obtaining the best outcomes for clients and families relies on the collaboration of the various relevant services working to assist them. As the AHCPES operates outside normal office hours, it is crucial that it has access to accurate and current information on CRIS about:
- any orders a child may be subject to and the associated conditions
- the current case plan
- the division’s recommended course of action (as per the possible contact)
- any other information that will assist in providing the client with the most appropriate course of action.
Comprehensive and timely reports back to the division regarding any contact that the AHCPES has had with clients will assist the division in developing a suitable response.