Issues impacting on the organisation's services
Once you have received information from a client, you will need to consult with your supervisor to complete an assessment of that information and decide what needs to happen next. The purpose of an assessment of such information is to decide whether there is a need for any action or not. Sometimes immediate action needs to be taken.
Assessing the information should determine the following points:
- whether the client requires immediate attention
- whether the client can be supported by your agency or needs a referral to, or information from, another agency
- the level of risk to the client.
As we have seen, assessment is about making sense of the client’s situation in order to:
- plan appropriate intervention or action
- contribute to positive change to the client’s situation
- empower the client to move towards making positive, independent choices regarding their situation.
Assessment enables you and the client to:
- Examine the client’s strengths and areas of vulnerability.
- Identify key issues and devise goals.
- Look at the client’s life situation and make decisions with the client about what fits and what doesn’t.
- Identify the conflicts that the client is experiencing. For example, What needs to change?
- Identify what is working in the client’s life. ( What doesn’t need to change?)
The purpose and methodology of assessment will be influenced by the following factors:
- the nature of the service provided by your organisation
- the method of service provision, e.g. individual, group, multidisciplinary.
- the function of the service, e.g. short-term crisis care, brief intervention, preventive support, or long-term therapeutic services
- the client’s presenting issues.
Formalised assessment encourages:
- an active, conscious, and self-reflective approach to interaction with clients
- focus in evaluating and determining an appropriate course of action
- use of established and agreed procedures to process information
- benchmarks which facilitate evaluation, planning and decision-making within established guidelines
- specific information to guide evaluation and decision-making.
Once an assessment is made, it is time to act. This is usually referred to as intervention.
What is intervention?
An intervention is any involvement an agency or worker has with a client. The involvement can be voluntary, where a client or significant other contacts an agency for assistance of their own free will. It can also be involuntary or statutory, where a client does not request involvement but workers are required to intervene anyway.
A statutory intervention occurs when a department or agency has a legal obligation to become involved. This obligation can relate to interventions that may occur:
- before court involvement
- during court involvement
- as a result of court involvement.
In Queensland the Department of Child Safety (formerly the Department of Families) is the statutory body primarily responsible for investigating issues of harm with children and young people.
Receiving information about a child or young person at risk
If a worker in a community agency is the person who receives the notification (in other words, is the first point of contact for the client to notify an authority that they, or someone else, are at risk), the worker needs to gather sufficient information to refer the client/situation to the department for a thorough investigation.
You will need to consult with your supervisor to determine the level of risk or to categorise the risk. Make sure you have all the information available to take to your supervisor, including any ideas on the course of action that the client would like to see happen.
Your role and the statutory obligations (i.e. requirements under legislation) of the agency you work for will determine the level of responsibility you will have in any intervention required.
In cases where your client or their children is involved with the Department of Child Safety, it is important for support workers to help their clients understand the Child Protection system in so far as it affects them and their families. Clients need to know that they have a right to:
- participate in the case plan of their child, through family meetings, case conferences, etc.
- know who their child’s Child Safety Officer is and how they can contact them
- understand the nature and conditions of any Assessment or Protection orders that their child is under
- understand their rights to contest any orders or court action.
They should also be aware that:
- Their child’s case plan will be monitored and evaluated to ensure the ongoing protection of their child.
- Their failure to cooperate or fulfill the responsibilities detailed in the plan will result in a further review of their child’s need for protection. It could result in the removal of their child from the family home.
In situations where a Statutory Officer believes the child/young person cannot be adequately protected in the home and agreement with the parents is not sufficient to secure protection, they will need to consider court action. However, court action is used only when there is no other option available. It is a serious action because it involves removing authority from parents.