Secure welfare services transport - advice

This advice provides additional information about the Secure Welfare Transport Service (SWTS) for transporting young people between the Melbourne Children’s Court and a secure welfare service (SWS).

Introduction

See procedure Transport between court and a secure welfare service for tasks that must be undertaken.

The purpose of the SWTS is to assist child protection practitioners safely transport and supervise young people between the Melbourne Children’s Court and SWS.

Where resources are available the service may also provide assistance to metropolitan areas transferring young people on a family reunification order, a care by Secretary order, or a long-term care order to SWS.

This service only operates in metropolitan areas between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm Monday to Friday. Access to the service is by referral and direct liaison with SWS.

Structure and target group

The service comprises two SWTS staff and a vehicle fitted with a screen that separates the driver from the back seat passengers. The vehicle can transport up to four young people at a time. An assessment will be made at the time as to how many young people can be safely transported.

Priority will be given to assisting with the supervision and safe transport of young people to be placed in SWS via a court order or who are returning to court from SWS.

Assessing the need for assistance from the SWTS

In many situations, it will be assessed that SWTS assistance is required to ensure the safety and appropriate containment of the young person because the young person may attempt to harm themselves or others or to escape from safe custody. When this is the case, the child protection practitioner should contact the SWS unit manager or team leader with as much notice as possible.

In some instances where a child protection practitioner is recommending a SWS placement to the Court, the practitioner may assess that they are able to safely transport the young person to court without the assistance of the SWTS. In these instances, areas should continue to make their own arrangements for transport and supervision.

The roles of the SWTS staff and child protection practitioners

See procedure Transport between court and a secure welfare service for tasks that must be undertaken.

Use of the secure welfare room at court

The Melbourne Children’s Court has a secure welfare room to contain young people who have been transported to court from SWS. It is appropriate to use the room when there is a concern that the young person may abscond from court. The secure welfare room door can be locked on the inside or the outside. The door will open automatically in the event of a fire. Security staff monitor the room via a video camera. The child protection practitioner and SWTS staff member are responsible for supervising the young person in the court and are not to leave a young person alone in the secure welfare room. See procedure Transport between court and a secure welfare service for tasks that must be undertaken.

Prioritising the hearing

The CPLO, the Children’s Court and Victorian Legal Aid (VLA) have all agreed to prioritise Children’s Court hearings relating to young people who are being contained. The CPLO should be advised by the child protection practitioner as early as possible of all matters to come before the Children’s Court involving children who are being contained. The CPLO will take responsibility for negotiating with VLA and the Court to ensure the prioritisation of mentions and contests involving young people being contained.

Police assistance

Police assistance should be requested where there is an unacceptable risk to the young person (in terms of the young person absconding or attempting to abscond and the possibility of harm to the young person should this occur) or worker safety issues (in terms of the threat of physical violence or verbal violence). The protocol between the Department of Health and Human Services and Victoria Police recognises that it is imperative that reasonable notice be provided to the police. See Police protocol.

The police will assess the request and advise on their capacity to respond and the timing of any such response. Initial contact should be made with the Sexual Offences Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT), Victoria Police. If SOCIT is not available then contact should be made with one of the division’s local police stations.

Section 530(7), CYFA, provides for:

‘A child being removed from a remand centre or secure welfare service to be brought before the court or to another place in compliance with an order under sub-section (4) is, during the time of removal, deemed to be in the legal custody of the member of the police force, protective services officer (this is not a reference to a child protection practitioner), or other officer having the custody of the child’.

In such cases, the child protection practitioner must accompany police whilst the young person is being transported.

Provision of assistance from the SWTS for admissions of young people, on a family reunification order, a care by Secretary order, or a long-term care order to secure welfare services

Section 173(2)(b), CYFA, provides for the Secretary (delegated to child protection operations managers and above) to place a child on a family reunification order, care by Secretary order, or a long-term care order in SWS for up to 21 days.

Administrative admissions can only be made when:

  • s. 173(2)(b) ‘…there is a substantial and immediate risk of harm to the child’.
  • s. 174(1)(c) ‘… lack of adequate accommodation is not by itself a sufficient reason for placing the child in a secure welfare service’.

The SWTS may be available to assist divisional staff to transport young people on admissions from metropolitan areas to SWS where it has capacity and is not required to assist with the safe transport and supervision of young people between the Court and SWS. Requests for assistance with transport from rural areas to SWS should be made to the manager, Young Women’s SWS. A plan for safely managing the transport should be agreed upon between the child protection practitioner, the SWS team leader and SWTS beforehand.

The division with case responsibility will be required to ensure that at least one child protection practitioner accompanies the young person and the SWTS worker to secure welfare and to provide for the return of the child protection practitioner from SWS to their office.

Dispute resolution

If there is any disagreement regarding the use of the SWTS then the child protection practitioner and the SWTS worker should attempt to resolve the disagreement. If the matter remains unresolved then the child protection team manager should attempt to resolve the issue with the SWS team leader or unit manager, dependent on availability. In cases of significant disagreement, the child protection team manager and the SWS manager should discuss and resolve the issue.

Considerations for good practice

  • Plan in advance and seek assistance as soon as it is known that assistance is required.
  • Practitioners should always consider the safety implication about transporting clients to and from SWS and always seek assistance when necessary.

Additional information

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