See procedure SOS client contact for action that must be undertaken.
In the course of their work, streetwork outreach service (SOS) practitioners make contact with young people who are present within the inner city or St Kilda. Most will be current clients of child protection however; a proportion of these young people will not be current clients. The service operates from 4pm to 1am seven days per week.
The service is based on an assertive, mobile approach to outreach work in areas where young people are known to congregate and where high-risk activities are likely to occur.
SOS practitioners are in contact with young people on the street every night. They have knowledge of young people and their associates who may be unknown to divisional child protection practitioners.
SOS practitioners may report to the Secretary a significant concern for a young person's wellbeing, or a belief that a young person is in need of protection.
SOS practitioners are protective interveners
As protective interveners, SOS practitioners assess risk and act to promote the safety, development and wellbeing of their clients.
Where SOS practitioners assess that a child may be in need of protection, and that matter cannot be left until the next working day, they will exercise their statutory responsibilities as protective interveners.
Child protection clients
SOS practitioners work with existing child protection clients and with young people who are not clients at the time of initial contact. Some of those with whom they have contact will be over the age of 17 years.
SOS practitioners may, in liaison with the division, engage in some direct casework, the focus of which should be to prevent the escalation of risks to a young person. A key element of this aspect of SOS's role is to seek to reconnect a young person with their family and community. It may also be appropriate to refer a young person to a community-based service that is able to engage the young person and provide additional support.
Unless the safety and wellbeing of the young person may be compromised, SOS should seek to empower the young person's family to provide the young person with assistance and support.
Where SOS has contact with a person aged 17 years or older, who is not an existing child protection client, the contact is necessarily voluntary. (Note that a young person aged 17 years or older may be an existing client either because they are subject to a protection order or because s. 16(1)(g), of the CYFA applies.)
SOS should only work with a voluntary client for as long as is necessary to assess the young person's level of risk and to introduce resources which may assist in alleviating that risk.
The permission of a voluntary client should always be sought when any action is intended to be taken in respect of the client. Where permission is refused, careful consideration must be given to whether the intended action would constitute a breach of privacy or confidentiality and action should only be taken in the instance if legislation permits the action without the client's permission. Such decisions should be made in consultation with a supervisor and where necessary after seeking legal advice.
The focus should be on preventing the escalation of risk. The provision of ongoing support to voluntary clients is not an appropriate role for SOS practitioners.
Except where the safety and wellbeing of the voluntary client may be compromised, SOS should seek to empower the client's families to deal provide the client with assistance and support.
It may be appropriate to refer a voluntary client to a community-based service that is able to able to engage and support the client with a view, where possible, to re-establishing the client's connection with their family and community.
Planning for closure of protective involvement
Where plans are being made for a young person coming to the end of a period of statutory intervention, and it is anticipated that the young person may frequent the inner city or St Kilda in future, it may be appropriate for SOS to be involved in the planning. Consideration should be given to whether it is likely that SOS practitioners will have contact with the young person, as SOS has very limited capacity to seek out voluntary clients other than in exceptional circumstances.
When preparing closure plans, if clients are to be advised of the service, SOS should always be consulted.
What SOS can offer former clients
- SOS may be able to assist with supporting and facilitating existing linkages with non-statutory services through informal communication with clients and relevant services (for example, in relation to the young person's presentation or movements), and may offer and make further referral where appropriate.
- Where a young person is under 17 years, and SOS has contact with them, SOS will offer risk assessment and diversionary services, as stated above.
- Where a young person is 17 years of age or older, risk management will have less relevance than with younger clients, and may be limited to situations where there are existing intensive support networks (for example, the Complex Needs program) that could be informed if a risk is identified.
The allocated worker should have a discussion with the young person about the kind of support SOS may be able to provide to them following the expiry of their order or closure of protective involvement.
If the young person is interested and willing to accept the service, SOS should be involved in any meetings, especially care team meetings involving the young person, so a relationship may be developed prior to the end of protective involvement.
The involvement of SOS in planning and handover meetings is of particular relevance where other services may also be involved in supporting the young person (for example, mental health services).
The allocated worker should document a thorough summary of risk issues and challenges for the young person on CRIS.
SOS may have a role in supporting young people up to the age of 21 years to whom the leaving care provisions of the CYFA apply. SOS practitioners will liaise with any leaving care program or other involved service as required and record on CRIS any contacts regarding leaving care clients.
Considerations for good practice
SOS resources are concentrated to the provision of service after hours. There is a limited office based business hours service that provides telephone consultation with divisional child protection practitioners and limited follow up with tasks from after hours outreach shifts. There is no capacity for ongoing casework support so the focus of work with voluntary clients is on immediate assessment and support on the street, information exchange with support services and referral.