The following principles for outposted child protection practitioners aim to promote and maintain their connection to the Victorian child protection program. The term ‘outposted child protection practitioner (outposted practitioner)’ is a generic term used for the purpose of the principles and is inclusive of all roles where a child protection practitioner’s work function is located outside a divisional office for 60 per cent or more, of their usual working week.
Principle 1. Outposted child protection practitioners maintain their primary role as statutory intervenors.
All Victorian public servants are bound by the Code of Conduct for Victoria Public Sector Employees.
Outposted practitioners are identified as child protection practitioners and maintain their primary role as statutory intervenors with corresponding responsibilities of non-outposted practitioners. They have a legislative mandate under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 to investigate and intervene in cases in which a child or young person is at risk of significant harm of child abuse or neglect.
Outposted practitioners are subject to all rights and responsibilities of occupational health and safety, industrial relations and all other departmental requirements.
Within the external environment, outposted practitioners are to have access to a similar work environment as divisional based practitioners. This includes access to: a regular desk or hot desk, the Client Relationship Information System (CRIS), adequate information technology (IT) and IT support, resources (such as Ultrabooks, stationary and tea/coffee). Outposted practitioners will have access to an appropriate work environment to hold confidential conversations with clients or colleagues, ability to keep information/ files securely, access to meeting space and to the department's fleet cars to conduct home visits or attend meetings, printers and any other work based entitlement afforded by the department.
Within the divisional office, on days they attend to work, outposted practitioners will likewise have access to hot desk space or computers in child protection offices, feel enabled to utilise all departmental resources while in the office and be included in social activities.
Outposted practitioners are expected to be in regular contact with the divisional office and divisional based practitioners, supervisors and management have a responsibility to be in regular contact with outposted practitioners using face-to-face or electronic contact. The regularity of contact would be specified in the operational guidance (see principle 4).
Principle 2. Outposted child protection practitioners will maintain contemporary best practice and risk assessment skills required to perform their role.
Outposted practitioners are required to follow and implement all policies, procedures and guidance for statutory child protection practice in Victoria, in accordance with the child protection manual. This includes accurate case recording on CRIS of all consultations in accordance with practice advice. Supervisors will be required to conduct regular file audits to assess compliance.
Outposted practitioners will maintain current professional development plans and have access to all relevant training, reflective practice, professional development and higher duty opportunities. The professional development plan will also include how frequently contact is to be maintained with the program and by what means, and the frequency of contact with other co-located professionals. This will promote contemporary best practice and currency of forensic risk assessment skills required to perform their role.
Principle 3. Supervision of outposted child protection practitioners will be provided in accordance with program supervision guidelines.
The child protection manual specifies the requirements for staff supervision for child protection practitioners. These requirements are applicable to outposted practitioners and are inclusive of formal, informal, live and (where relevant) group supervision irrespective of the location of the practitioner supervisor. Supervision will oversee both case practice and the achievement of outcomes and key performance indicators. See Professional supervision.
All supervisors of out posted practitioners must have an appropriate level of expertise to supervise outposted practitioners and be supported by their supervisor to succeed in this environment. This includes the team manager undertaking leadership development programs approved by the department’s Talent, Capability and Learning specifically relating to supervision in child protection, within twelve weeks of commencing the role.
Where outposted practitioners receive supervision from non-outposted supervisors, effort should be made to regularly hold supervision at both work locations, this provides the supervisor and supervisee with a connection to each environment. Senior supervisory staff attending external environments promote connection for outposted practitioners and an opportunity for the supervisor to get a feel and view of the culture of the outposted practitioner’s physical environment.
The department must support the success of the collaborative activity occurring in external environments and consider the workload reasonably, factoring in the requirements of face-to-face supervision with outposted practitioners. Additional time requirements should be recognised and factored into the supervision schedule.
Principle 4. The integrity of each outposted child protection role will be maintained.
Each outposted role will be clearly articulated in terms of purpose, function and outcomes. Each role will be designed and recruited with an appropriate delegation level to undertake the mandated child protection functions within the external environment such as delegation to consult, investigate and intervene. The roles will be valued by the program and will be fully supported, resourced and governed.
Each outposted role/program will operate under an overarching governance structure reflective of agreements or protocols to establish an official cooperative relationship between child protection and the external environment, which will be reviewed on a regular basis.
The integrity of each role and function must be maintained and not viewed or used as portable or temporary resource that can be withdrawn from the external environment to meet divisional program needs.
In addition, operational guidelines and position descriptions should be developed to support outposted practitioners understand the expectations of their role and function within the external environment and their connectedness to the child protection program.
Principle 5. Outposted and divisionally based practitioners have a mutual responsibility to promote communication to maintain connection.
Outposted and divisionally based practitioners will engage in regular communication. Communication should be responded to in a timely manner. If a response has not been received within a reasonable period, the originator will follow up. This includes standard departmental communication requirements to advise the supervisor, in addition to the outpost location, of any sick, recreation or unplanned leave.
The department will include outposted practitioners in all relevant communication such as messages from the Secretary and Deputy Secretary, invitations to attend meetings, advice regarding training opportunities or if access to IT will be interrupted, as examples. In addition outposted workers will participate in a central forum twice per year to reinforce their roles and identify any barriers to achieving the role and KPIs.
Outposted practitioners must attend divisional and unit staff meetings and training opportunities in person. If outposted practitioners are unable to attend meetings in person, other tools such as Skype through Ultrabook or face-time on mobile phone, can be utilised as agreed by the supervisor.
Where outposted practitioners are located in external environments for greater than 95 per cent of their usual working week, they must attend the office at least once a month to work within the divisional office environment unless specifically agreed by the supervisor.
Additional effort will be required by supervisors to create opportunities for impromptu conversations between outposted and divisional based practitioners to cultivate a culture of connectedness across work locations, tools such as video calls and telephone links can assist with this.