A Radically New Approach to Child Protection in NSW
“Co-design is about bringing our staff, our service partners and children, young people and their families together to develop local solutions. It represents a shift in thinking and a new way of working for the department and we’re already hearing about some of the great collaborative work taking place within our pilot districts.”
Executive Director, NSW Department of Family and Community Services
A complex and growing social issue
Family and Community Services (FACS), the department ultimately responsible for child protection in New South Wales, had seen a large increase in the number of children being reported at risk of significant harm across the state. At the same time, a culture of reporting and assessment rather than visiting and supporting meant that only 25% of children at risk of significant harm receive a face-to-face visit from a FACS Case Worker who could help.
Enlightened leadership in the department recognised that traditional approaches, including more front-line Case Workers, had failed to improve the situation. A radically new approach was required.
Co-designing radically new approaches
We are working with FACS to design and run a co-design process with specific districts across NSW, drawing together multiple stakeholders – FACS, Police, Department of Health, Department of Education, and NGOs to design new approaches to child protection. The first phase of work with each district involves strategic coherence to align stakeholders on the complexity of the local problem, agree the desired vision and design specific opportunities for radical improvement. In phase 2, we worked with multi-disciplinary project teams to co-design new solutions, from discovery through to full concept development and prototyping.
From system-centred to child-centred
To date, FACS have seen significant cultural shifts within local districts, the most notable of which is a shift from a system-centred to a child-centred focus. Stakeholders are working together in multi-disciplinary teams to co-design solutions that better serve children, families and communities. Face-to-face visits are occurring in multi-disciplinary teams where the focus is on supporting children and families, rather than reporting and assessing risk. Unique local ‘hotspots’ are receiving tailored responses designed to meet their need. Solutions are designed to meet the needs of local districts and the culturally and geographically diverse communities that they serve.