Information Exchange

Information and resources for Out-of-Home Care non-government organisations

In 2009 legislative changes were made to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (the Care Act) to include a new chapter (Chapter 16A) to encourage a shared approach to child protection. These changes were made following the findings and recommendations of the 2007 Wood Royal Commission and the development of Keep Them Safe action plan.

The NGO Learning website contains details about how to register for the Keep Them Safe: Information Exchange webinar and how to access the KTS learning module 7 What is the point of information exchange?

Additional information about the context and reasons behind the legislative changes is available on the FACS website.

Chapter 16A allows ‘prescribed bodies’[1]to exchange information that relates to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person whether or not the child or young person is known to Community Services, and whether or not the child or young person consents to the information exchange.

Prescribed bodies can provide information to another prescribed body (with or without a request) that relates the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person (or class of children or young persons) if the provider reasonably believes that the provision of the information would assist the agency receiving the information to:

  • make any decision, assessment or plan or to initiate or conduct any investigation, or to provide any service, relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person (or class of children and young people) or
  • to manage any risk to a child or young person (or class of children and young people) that may arise in the recipient’s capacity as an employer or designated agency.

More information is available about who is a prescribed body, what information can be requested and provided and template letters and checklists for NGOs to use in requesting and responding to information requests.

In May 2016, legislative changes expanded prescribed bodies under Chapter 16A to include the following private health professionals:

  • nurses (enrolled and registered)
  • registered medical practitioners
  • registered midwives
  • registered psychologists
  • occupational therapists (other than students)
  • speech pathologists (eligible for membership of Speech Pathology Australia).
  • an unborn child (if they have been the subject of a report to the Child Protection Helpline or to a Child Wellbeing Unit).

Find out more about exchanging information and private health professionals.

Find out more about requesting information from NSW Health.

When should I consider exchanging information?

Provided the exchange of information meets the requirements of the Care Act there are no limitations to when you can request and provide information. However there are some key events that should trigger agencies to consider whether they need to exchange information including when:

  • a child or young person is beginning a relationship with a new service provider
  • a carer or child or young person is transferring from one OOHC NGO to another
  • a reportable conduct allegation has been made against a carer or employee, particularly if the agency is aware that the employee or carer is engaged or employed in other child related work
  • the agency is assessing a potential new carer
  • the agency is following the carers register process.

What if I want to request information outside NSW?

The jurisdiction of Chapter 16A is limited to New South Wales. There are various pieces of legislation that may address your particular information request. If your organisation wants to request information from an organisation outside NSW, contact your FACS Child and Family District Unit (CFDU) or the Complaints & Information Exchange Unit on 9716 3488 to discuss options and determine whether they are able make an information request on behalf of your organisation.

Good to know

  • The requesting agency needs to specify the purpose of the request and how the information is expected to assist.
  • The request can be made in writing or verbally.
  • If the request is declined, the agency must provide a rationale.
  • Prescribed bodies only have to consider providing information that already exists, that is agencies are not obliged to collect information for the purposes of information exchange.
  • Consent is not necessary for exchange of information under Chapter 16A. It is a good idea for agencies providing a service to a child, young person or their parents/carers to inform them early on that information about them may be provided to other agencies. Where appropriate, a client should be informed that information about them is being disclosed to another agency so long as this does not place the child or young person at further risk. Keeping the client informed is part of best-practice case management and helps to maximise client engagement.
  • Agencies receiving requests for information are responsible for identifying which parts of their organisation may hold relevant information.
  • Agencies may rely on Chapter 16A to share information relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of an unborn child, but only where the unborn child is the subject of a pre-natal report to Community Services.

[1] A ‘prescribed body’ is any organisation specified in section 248(6) of the Act or in clause 7 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2000 and includes government departments and NGOs.

To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111 (24 hours/7 days)