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Establishment of an Accreditation Scheme for Children’s Contact Services

The Law Council of Australia welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) consultation in relation to the establishment of an accreditation scheme for Children’s Contact Services (CCSs).

CCSs operate to enable children to have contact with the parent they do not live with, in the event parents (or other caregivers) are unable to manage contact arrangements. The services also provide a safe place for the changeover of children between parents, in situations where doing so in the usual way may lead to conflict.

The Law Council supports the creation of an accreditation process for both CCSs and for those staff who provide services within a CCS. However, it observes that one potential consequence of the imposition of accreditation standards may be a reduction in the number of CCSs in operation. The Law Council therefore strongly encourages the AGD to consider this unintended outcome when determining the requirements of the accreditation process. The Law Council is aware of the substantial demand for CCSs and existing long waitlists, and is conscious of the potential that an accreditation process may further reduce the number of CCSs available to families.

To be meaningful, any accreditation program must be properly maintained – a process which may require regular engagement with the regulatory body, adding an additional administrative burden that may be beyond smaller, rural or remote agencies or providers.

However, on balance, the Law Council views accreditation as an important step to promoting the safety of families engaged in the family law system. Accreditation, if implemented effectively, will strengthen the capabilities of staff to manage the challenges of working in the CCS environment and to act protectively and authoritatively in the event that a child is deemed to be at risk.

The Law Council is generally in agreement with the principles and service components as set out in the Consultation Paper, however, has provided some further suggestions and recommendations in this submission with the view to ensuring that CCSs deliver their services appropriately.

Finally, the Law Council supports a publicly available centralised register of CCSs that provides details of each service available, the extent of services they are able to provide, as well as applicable fees. In addition to identifying the services offered by the particular CCS and costs, consideration should also be given to listing the qualifications of the staff undertaking the supervision, when the CCS was most recently accredited, and wait times for both intake sessions as well as the wait time for the first supervised time session.

The Law Council would welcome the opportunity to continue to engage with the AGD on the development of an accreditation framework for CCSs, with the view to creating a scheme that will promote consistency and safety for families and children who require supervision in the community.

You can read the full submission below.
 

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