Secure welfare service placement
Follow this procedure when placing a child in secure welfare services (also known as secure care).
Document ID 1109, version 6, 17 July 2020.
Placement at a secure welfare service can only occur where there is substantial and immediate risk of harm to a child.
Children aged 10 to 17 years subject to a family reunification order, a care by Secretary order or a long-term care order may be placed in secure welfare services subject to approval of the area operations manager or director, child protection or a more senior officer. In exceptional circumstances children under the age of 10 years may be admitted to a secure welfare service subject to the approval of the area executive director in the child’s division.
Only the court can place a young person subject to an interim accommodation order (IAO) in a secure welfare services. A child taken into emergency care may be placed in a secure welfare service, if there is substantiated and immediate risk of harm to the child, until the matter is bought before the court or a bail justice. See Application by emergency care and Breach of an order or application for a new IAO by emergency care procedures for tasks that must be undertaken.
The secure welfare service is responsible for the day-to-day protection and care responsibilities for children placed there.
Placement at a secure welfare service:
- occurs only if no other less restrictive action is sufficient to protect the child
- is for the minimum period necessary within legally prescribed timeframes
- requires assertive intervention and case planning following placement to address the protection needs of the child and plan their exit
- is reviewable
See Placement in secure welfare service - advice for further information on this topic.
Case practitioner tasks
For young people subject to family reunification orders, care by Secretary orders or long-term care orders:
- Determine that placement at a secure welfare service is necessary based on assessment of the client’s immediate circumstances, available alternative protective options and relevant pattern and history. Assessment of risk may be on the basis of a single incident or cumulative risk.
- Consider the young person’s and parents’ views before making a final decision about placement.
- Consider the young person's rights under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities in making the decision. This includes: the right of the child to protection; the right to liberty and security, which includes the right not to be deprived of liberty except on grounds and procedures established by law; and the right to be informed at the time of detention the reasons for the detention. These rights must be weighed against each other – however the best interests of the child remain the paramount consideration.
- Liaise with police if required by the circumstances of the case – see Warrants. If the child's whereabouts are unknown, a warrant must not specify a secure welfare service as the return address for the client once apprehended.
- Consult ACSASS for an Aboriginal child and record the outcome in CRIS. If ACSASS does not agree with you about admission to a secure welfare service, consult your team manager.
- If case management is contracted, liaise with the community service organisation's case manager about activities and responsibilities during the child's admission.
- Contact the secure welfare service to check it has capacity.
- If there are no places available at the secure welfare service, consider alternatives to meet the client’s best interests and consult a senior manager.
- Consult CPLO and the secure welfare service manager about proposed conditions to be attached to the IAO, if seeking an IAO placing a client at a secure welfare service.
- Attend court (if seeking an IAO) and make arrangements for court transportation – see Transport between court and a secure welfare service.
- Inform parents as soon as possible.
- For young people subject to a family reunification order, a care by Secretary order or a long-term care order, complete the 'Authority to place a child in a secure welfare service' form in CRIS and seek approval for the placement, via your team manager, from the area operations manager or director, child protection.
- Complete the ‘Secure welfare placement report’ form in CRIS.
Regardless of the legal status of a child or young person, placement at a secure welfare service may be for a maximum uninterrupted period of 21 days. In exceptional circumstances a placement at a secure welfare service may be extended for a further uninterrupted period not exceeding 21 days. The legal maximum uninterrupted period that a child or young person may remain at a secure welfare service is 42 days.
- Access medical treatment or mental health services before placement at a secure welfare service if these are required immediately.
- Provide a copy of the 'Authority to place a child in a secure welfare service' form and the ‘Secure welfare placement report’ form to the secure welfare service unit manager as soon as possible and not more than one business day after admission. Advise secure welfare staff of any known or suspected medical condition, required medication or substance misuse.
- Confirm transport and admission arrangements with secure welfare staff.
- Talk to the child and explain the reason for the admission. Explain the process, what the secure welfare service is like, the exit date and the child’s right to request a review of the decision.
- Bring any medication and some clothing (no hoodies, cords in pants or tops, clothing with lots of pockets or lined jackets). No personal items are to accompany the child except for photos or books.
- Update CRIS with all decisions and rationales.
- Consult the team manager and CPLO for advice if the Court makes a different IAO or dismisses an application for an IAO to a secure welfare service should your assessment indicate the risks for the young person remain high without a continued stay in secure welfare services. An appeal to the Supreme Court is possible.
After Hours Child Protection Emergency Service practitioner tasks
- Follow tasks above for child protection practitioners where relevant.
- Seek verbal authorisation for a secure welfare placement from either an After Hours Child Protection Emergency Service (AHCPES) deputy area operations manager or area operations manager prior to placement.
- Complete the CP015 'Authority to place a child in a secure welfare service' form and seek written approval for the placement from either an AHCPES deputy area operations manager or the area operations manager.
- Provide a copy of the authority form to the secure welfare service unit manager as soon as possible and not more than one business day after admission.
Team manager tasks
- Decide whether a placement at a secure welfare service is required. In cases where ACSASS disagrees with a proposal for a secure welfare service placement, decide whether to recommend the placement.
- Seek approval to place a young person subject to a family reunification order, a care by Secretary order or a long-term care order at a secure welfare service from the area operations manager/director, child protection or more senior officer.
Area operations manager/director, child protection tasks
- Approve placement at a secure welfare service.
- Endorse extension of a placement at a secure welfare service.
- Refer any requests for review to the area executive director.
AHCPES deputy area operations manager or area operations manager task
- Approve placement at a secure welfare service after hours.
Secure welfare services unit manager task
- Arrange initial health screening within 24 hours of admission, or within 12 hours of admission for an Aboriginal young person.
Area executive director tasks
- Undertake review of decision to place at a secure welfare service. See Review of decision to place at a secure welfare service.
- Approve placement of a child aged less than 10 years at a secure welfare service following consultation with the Chief Practitioner and Executive Director, Office of Professional Practice, to establish whether there are any relevant issues to consider regarding the current client population of the secure service, and if appropriate to assist with reaching the decision, with the principal practitioner.